How To Become A Politician

Politicians occupy a very special place in our society. As voters, we choose them to make the rules that we all have to live by, and as taxpayers, we trust them to take some of our money and spend it in a way that benefits us all. It’s perhaps unsurprising then, that being a politician is not like any other job.

If you’re reading this it’s because you want to become a politician. Great! But unfortunately, you don’t choose to be a politician. Instead, you are chosen to be a politician. At the end of the day, you have to win an election to become a politician, and that’s not something you can totally control.

What is a politician?

Good question! We all know a politician when we see one, but what’s the formal definition?

The word ‘politician’ comes from the Greek polis, which refers to both a city-state and to a body of citizens. Other English words including policy, polity, police and politics all come from the Greek root poli as well.

These days, a politician is someone who is either:

1) A member of the legislative branch of government. The legislative branch of government is the assembly (or assemblies) of people who have the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. That assembly (or those assemblies) are collectively known as the legislature. In the United Kingdom, the legislature is all the members in both Houses of Parliament.

2) A member of the executive branch of government. The executive branch is the people who have the authority and the responsibility for the daily administration of the state. When we talk about ‘the government’ in the United Kingdom as opposed to ‘the opposition,’ we’re talking about the executive branch.

3) A member of the office of the head of state. This part of the definition doesn’t apply in the United Kingdom, as our head of state (currently Queen Elizabeth) is a nominal head of state who doesn’t make decisions. In the United States, for example, the President has an unelected Cabinet of advisors, and they are quite definitely politicians.

The pros and cons of a life in politics

Every job or profession comes with its own set of pros and cons. Being a chef is satisfying, but the pay is bad and the hours are terrible. Being a firefighter will make you popular with the ladies, but every time you run into a burning building you risk getting killed. So how does being a politician stack up? Pros:

1) Prestige. Being a politician confers status, attention and prestige. You’ll be invited to parties and wined and dined. People will seek you out, court your favour and listen to what you have to say.

2) The ability to ‘make a difference.’ If you have a genuine desire to change society for the better, then entering politics is one (though definitely not the only) way to attempt to do so. Most of us just complain about things we don’t like; as a politician you’ll have the opportunity to actually take action.

3) The pay is well above average. At the time of writing, the annual salary of a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons was £65,738, and for Cabinet Ministers, £134,565. These amounts are significantly above the national average annual wage for full-time employees of £25,800. In addition, MPs can claim allowances to cover things such as staff costs, travel expenses and the cost of running an office.


1) Your personal life will be affected. Politicians are public figures, with everything that entails. Your privacy will be affected, people who don’t even know you will attack and criticise you, and you’ll be held to much higher standards of behaviour, even in your private affairs, than anyone else.

2) The hours are long and irregular. Standing for election can mean months of 14+ hr hour days. Once you’re elected things aren’t quite so bad, but 70 hour weeks won’t be uncommon and late nights are normal when bills are being pushed through Parliament. Basically, you’ll envy people with 9-to-5 jobs.

3) You’ll need to spend a significant amount of time away from home. It is of course necessary for MPs to attend Parliament in London when the House of Commons sits. Commons typically sits for around 60-70 days in an election year (MPs need time off to campaign in election years), 130-140 days normally, and 200+ days in the year following a general election. If you don’t live in London, that’s a lot of weeks you’ll be travelling back and forth between London and your constituency.

4) Job security is nil. In politics, your employers (voters) are given the opportunity to get rid of you at regular intervals, and if they choose to do so then your political career might very well be over for good. Politicians in safe seats have much more job security, but safe seats are of course very hard to come by (we’ll return to this topic in much more detail later).

5) With the same skills and ability you might be able to make more money in private enterprise. While MPs get paid well above the national average for full-time work, that’s not the whole story. It’s entirely possible, indeed likely, that someone who (for example) has a Law degree and the skills to succeed in politics would also be able to do very well financially working as a solicitor or in business. While the national average annual wage is £25,800, the figure for Legal Professionals (for example) is much higher, at £47,411 – and that’s just an average.

You should take some time to think about these positive and negative aspects of life as a politician and about how they apply specifically to you. We all have different personalities, so for some people the positives will be magnified and the negatives neutralised. For others, the reverse will be the case. Be honest about the sort of person you are, and you’ll be able to determine whether a life in politics is the right option for you.