SERVICE and politician are words rarely seen in the same sentence. Boris Johnson’s first few weeks in Downing Street are reminiscent of the scene in the Wizard of Oz in which Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal what lies behind. Perhaps Larry, the Downing Street cat, can perform a similar service in the near future. It won’t be a pretty sight. Prime Minister Johnson demonstrates conclusively that the modern political dynamic is not “serving” but “self-serving”.

That’s not to say there was ever a golden age of politics. Lloyd George, for example, was as seriously flawed as any of those currently occupying the green benches at Westminster. The 19th century House of Commons threw up its buffoons who would have given Mark Francois a run for his money. Yet the impression remains that a loss of trust in both politicians and the political process has accelerated in recent years. Why should that be?

Partly, it’s due to the concept of service becoming unfashionable, replaced instead by cynicism and self-absorption. Both were embodied during the race to the bottom that was the Tory leadership contest. In that company those genuinely wishing to serve would be considered naïve and to be pitied. Sure, people still enter politics to make a difference, but it’s usually to themselves. Those pushing hardest for Brexit for example, are those best placed to reap personal advantage for themselves and those like them.

The opportunism and cynicism of some of Brexit’s strongest supporters, including the new prime minister, has been breath-taking. Some have continued to castigate Brussels while sleekitly flitting their assets to countries remaining in the EU. In the post- Brexit meltdown rich pickings are in prospect for the fat cats short-selling UK business, industry, jobs and currency.

Lose their shirts? Aye, right. Employers and shareholders can expect increased profits following removal of nanny-state regulation of wages, hours and safety at work. In the sunlit uplands, you see, we need to let the world, and especially President Trump, know we’re open for business.

The root of the problem is how politicians find their way into Westminster and Holyrood. In the not too distant past, many of those entering representative politics had lives and experiences beyond the bubble. As late as 1979, 16 per cent of MPs were described as having experience of “manual work”. In 2015 the figure was three per cent.

Equally significant, between 1979 and 2015 the percentage of MPs whose backgrounds were described as “previous political experience” rose from three per cent to 17 per cent. By 2017, the category that included former councillors, policy researchers and lobbyists constituted around 40 per cent of the entire Commons.

On top of that, there has been a proliferation of former bankers, fund managers, accountants and lawyers. Consequently, there is little room for those with experience of more useful employment or of serving the wider community.

In the last General Election, I was faced with Hobson’s choice of two candidates both in their early twenties who followed almost identical career pathways. School and university followed by “experience” as councillors and aides to politicians.

Therein lies the problem. Politics has become an end in itself. The route into parliamentary representation is no longer through experience or service to the community.

Too many at Westminster and Holyrood have progressed from university degrees of questionable value to become advisers and assistants to politicians. Nomination as a candidate is only a matter of time. Then the whole incestuous process starts again.

While welcoming the greater number of women MPs and MSPs, it is still legitimate to question their routes into parliament. The backgrounds and experience of those recently elevated to cabinet rank appear to prove the point.

How one longs for the reincarnation of “Battling” Bessie Braddock, who drew on her experience of Liverpudlian poverty and factory work to fight in the Commons for social reform. Bessie Braddock, Betty Boothroyd and Barbara Castle, where are you when we need you?

Hubris and arrogance are too often the defining characteristics of our political masters. The PM must have struggled to suppress a snigger when declaring himself and his peers to be “servants of the people”.

On the contrary, the limo and lavish corporate hospitality are considered entitlements of having made it to the upper reaches of the greasy pole. In a bygone age, Clement Attlee travelled by Tube and Jim Callaghan commuted with the hoi polloi on the train.

Young people wishing to embark on university medical courses are usually interviewed prior to admission. Their CVs include details of experience and service provided to others. Our democracy would be much healthier if prospective MPs and MSPs were required to similarly demonstrate personal experience of the real world together with commitment and service to others.