Writing in The Independent on Sunday 15th February, Alastair Campbell (former spin doctor to Tony Blair) said “every politician in Britain should be seeking the help of mental health professionals”. Many people are probably nodding along with him, thinking all politicians are mad. I’m not going to take a satirical swipe at them, because despite their reputation, I actually don’t think most of them are mad. I don’t think politicians are normal; but, I certainly do not think they are mad.
To be a politician, you have to be a certain type of person. For instance, you need tribal mentality toward your Party. In other words, you must LOVE Your Party, and HATE The Other Party.
However, to say that politicians aren't normal because they have particular traits that make them suitable to be politicians, is not the same as saying they are mad. Every profession requires particular traits, but would you call an accountant mad because they are good with detail and obsessive with numbers? Probably not!
Anyway, Campbell (you’ll be sad to realise) wasn’t trying to say politicians are mad. Actually, what he seems to want, are politicians to be “coached” by a psychologist. Campbell argues that “psychologists are routinely employed to improve performance”; for example elite sports people have psychological support.
On face value, if psychologists are used to “improve the performance” of elite sports people, why not have psychologists working to “improve the performance” of politicians. To accept this proposition, though, you have to think that mental health professionals are actually helpful. The jury is still out about the value of psychology.
However, Campbell’s piece does make one wry but pertinent observation…
The piece ends by saying, politicians don’t use psychologists, because they risk “seeing headlines such as “Cameron has a shrink””. This certainly seems to the most likely headline in such a case. And, it wouldn’t even just be the hostile press that would run those kinds of headlines. Most of the tabloids and Tory-supporting press, such as The Daily Mail would see having a psychologist as a weakness in a PM, whichever Party the PM belonged to.