Politics, an alien concept

Most people would happily agree with the assertion that the professions do well when it comes to winning elections. Whatever the colour of the banner or rosette, their confidence, acumen and pervading ambition to serve as an MP is assumed to bestow an innate advantage over the opposition.

But surprisingly accountants and those with some sort of accountancy background don’t appear to figure too highly in the ranks of the nation’s Members of Parliament. Why is it that fate, while bestowing unconfined success for accountants in the business world, deals them a fickle hand in the political arena? Is it that the electorate has the ability to detect a beancounter a mile away? Probably not.

Lawyers crack the code
It seems particularly odd because it’s well known that lawyers have successfully cracked the code for electoral success. The current cabinet alone includes four lawyers among its number. Odd also because many would confide that they think the nation is full of accountants, found in all walks of life and in every organisation.

Could it be that accountants simply aren’t minded to become MPs and prefer the influence that high office within business and industry affords? On a rough estimate, accountants made up only around a dozen seats in the last parliament, while among the current 2,868 prospective parliamentary candidates those who list accountancy on their CVs number about 40.

This is in comparison to around 170 candidates with legal backgrounds.

Looking at the background of those candidates there seems to be little explanation of why accountants are so poorly represented in the House of Commons. Of the current PPCs some have worked for large accountancy firms, a number have run their own practices, some have worked in the public sector and others as management accountants in industry. That is a pretty comprehensive cross-section of the business world.

Labour is lacking in accountants
An approximate breakdown suggests surprisingly there aren’t many New Labour candidates with accountancy backgrounds. Only six appear to do so. Even the UK Independence Party has two, as does the SNP. The Liberal Democrats do best with around 17, while the Conservatives have 13 PPCs with accountancy backgrounds.

So will the number of MPs with accountancy backgrounds swell after 7 June? Not all the PPCs can expect to win their seats. Naturally national percentage swing is an important factor in terms of what it takes for a candidate to keep or overturn an majority.

As it stands at the moment, the psephologists won’t be pinned down on what the likely swing could be but many are suggesting that a low turnout could skew results. If the latest polls are to be believed, Labour could increase their majority but one should never underestimate the ability of the voting public to prove the experts wrong.

  • Ninah Shahin, Steve Wakelin and Ralph Jackson work for the Jackson Consultancy, a political and PR consultancy specialising in the professional service firm sector.

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