August 6, 2013 13 Comments
My view has largely remained unchanged through the various crises that have buffeted politicians over the years. I am largely relaxed about MPs and second jobs, but only provided they are open and honest about it.
You see, I think that provided an employer, in this case the electorate, is content with their employee having another means of employment then who am I to object? Yet there are those, including comrades in my local Labour party, who think that Members of Parliament should not be allowed a second job.
It strikes me that very often there is envy involved, and a lack of pragmatism, but let’s look at some of the issues.
- £60K plus is enough for anyone – Perhaps true, but MPs earn a pittance compared to footballers, pop stars, bankers, etc.
- MPs should be concentrating on their constituents. Difficult to fault this argument either, except that many MPs already have the distraction of ministries, chairmanship of committees, etc.
- MPs gain from the experience of having outside interests – this will depend on what this is (I cannot believe that working for a hedge fund will deliver as much benefit to constituents as volunteering at a food bank, but I could be convinced). One big criticism of our current crop of politicians is the somewhat narrow sphere they mostly seem to come from, and their lack of real world experience.
- Having a second job will influence their decision making – not necessarily a bad thing if it is a poverty or health charity. Probably less than ideal if it is a financial planning firm.
- Being an MP should be a full-time job – it may sound reasonable, but would does it actually mean? MPs do not clock in (and their attendance at Parliament and in their constituency is largely at their own discretion) and the workload will vary considerably.
- What is a second job? – This is a less straightforward question than you may first imagine. I was paid a match fee for most of the games I refereed, and yet I think refereeing added to my life skills. Is refereeing a job? Is volunteering a job, albeit an unpaid one, and if not are interns employed or not?
- I wonder what Sinn Fein MPs think of this (they never step inside the Palace of Westminster). I presume they have other jobs in Northern Ireland.
- What of MPs who have a second elected position? Some MPs start out as councillors and hold onto to both roles for a while.
- Should aspirant MPs give up work? I do not think so (if for no other reason than it would exclude all but the independently wealthy from applying) but the case for commitment to the role could equally apply.
- Should MPs give up all roles in external organisations? This could include trade unions, pressure groups, political organisations, even internal party roles. Can you be an MP and sit on the party NEC?
- Is it just about the money?
Whilst it is very easy to make statements about second jobs and MPs, the issue is a tad more complex than you might at first think.