A backbench Government TD asks his not very bright 10-year-old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up. I want to be a politician like you, I want to be Taoiseach some day, she says. Her father was delighted. Political life had been good to him. Most especially so considering he had failed in everything else he had tried his hand at. He knew that it paid people disproportionately to their abilities. Where else could an absolute oaf get such a salary and associated benefits? To be elected would secure his daughter’s future and that of all belonging to her. Oh yes, becoming a politician was a very good idea indeed. After all, it’s not as if you need any qualifications or ability.
So he asks his daughter what would be the first thing she would do as taoiseach. I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people and would develop policies to ensure that all people had an equal share of all the money there is, she replied. By now her father was a little concerned about her political philosophy and from where she got such lofty altruistic ambition. She did not get such radical ideas from him.
I think with that philosophy you could be a socialist, you could join the Labour party but I really would not advise it says the politician. I don’t really know what a socialist is and I do not really have any philosophy. I just make things up as I go along, said the girl. I just try to impress people by telling them what they want to hear she added. You would fit right in with the Labour party, said her father. Although I myself also tell people what they want to hear. It is the only way to get elected, he said.
You don't have to be taoiseach to help people, he told his daughter. You can do it now. You can come home and mow the lawn, pull weeds, wash the dishes, and I'll pay you €20. Then we can go over to where the homeless guy begs, and you can give him the €20 to use toward food or somewhere to sleep. Just remember to get a receipt for the money from someone. I can claim it back in expenses said the backbencher.
The little girl thinks that over for a few seconds. She may not be very bright but she is cunning for one so young. She is after all the daughter of a politician. She realises that this type of selfless dedication is not in her personal best interest. After all what is the point of doing something for someone if you do not get some benefit for yourself? What is the point of being in politics if you do not personally gain? In her opinion doing things for others without personal gain was not really politics; it was more like charity. She wasn’t really that interested in charitable work. That was for the little people. She was quickly learning what political idealism and public service really meant in Ireland.
There had to be a better way, one that would allow everyone to benefit including herself. She had a plan. How about I give the homeless guy €5, spend €5 organising a committee, pay myself €5 and keep €5 for expenses, she said to her father with a twinkle in her eye. Ah, that is a different type of ideology, said her father. Maybe you should consider joining Fine Gael.
By now the little girl understood the political process very well. Now she could see elected office providing unlimited opportunity for personal self- advancement. She could see no reason why she couldn’t become very rich out of this exercise. Suddenly she had a wonderful idea. Why not pay me the €20 directly as a consultancy fee, I will pay the homeless guy a few pence to go and do the work, she said. We all win, you get the work done, the homeless guy gets a few pence, I make money, and everybody thinks we are both wonderful caring people? We could do really well out of this homeless guy, she said excitedly.
Ah my beautiful daughter, you have come of age, said the backbench TD. Welcome to the Fianna Fáil party my dear you will fit right in. I knew you would find your way eventually. Now let’s go and enjoy our three months holidays. We can deal with the homeless chap sometime after we get back if we have time!
Pearce Flannery, founder of acclaimed business advisors Pragmatica is widely regarded as Ireland's premier business consultant, business coach and motivational speaker. He is a board member of Autopolis, leading international automotive consultants. His blog www.grabbingtheoyster.com is hugely popular having a reputation for straight talking and innovative thinking on socio-economic and political matters.
Contact Pearce: [email protected].