MPs should be banned from having second jobs – but it’s not about the money…

28th May, 2013 11:54 am

Imagine you had a job where you were paid nearly three times the UK’s national average full-time salary. Imagine that job came with additional allowances for certain aspects of the job, and expenses for travel and other costs. Imagine there were no fixed hours for that job, so that while most of your peers were extraordinarily diligent, working six and seven days a week for most of the year, you could slack off a bit. Now imagine that you were allowed to take on another job – or maybe several jobs – that could occupy you for as much as 20 hours a week (or longer – there is no limit). Would you still be giving yourself wholeheartedly to the first job – the one that pays nearly three times the average national salary? Chances are, the answer would be no.

Welcome to the world of MPs and their second jobs. The level of moonlighting is quite remarkable – as the Guardian explains:

“Analysis by the Guardian reveals 20 MPs made more money from their outside jobs than they did from their Parliamentary salary, with some spending more than 1,000 hours engaging in outside employment. Of those, 17 declared more than £100,000 in income …

In total, Conservative MPs declared more than £4.3m in earnings from outside directorships or jobs, versus £2.4m (including Gordon Brown’s £1.36m) for Labour. More than 50 MPs had directorships of at least one company, while 295 declared at least some kind of minimal earnings from outside work.”

Now my experience of MPs is that they are on the whole an extraordinarily dedicated sort, devoted to public service and their constituents, and quite often working hours that are above and beyond the call of duty. So if someone is working 1000 hours a year at the same time, we should conclude that either a) they have discovered a way to avoid sleep or b) they aren’t giving their all to their role as an MP. For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think it’s a). Some of you are being severely short changed by a handful of greedy MPs. So I’m afraid there’s no choice – we need to ban MPs from having second jobs. Their main job is one of the most important and time consuming available. We should expect them to give it their full attention.

But don’t expect certain MPs to accept such changes quietly. Some MPs take on other jobs because they think they are paid appallingly and that its impossible to live on salaries their constituents would give their right arm for. So here are a few of the more common excuses, debunked:

It doesn’t take up much of my time – this one is a classic. An MP will claim that they only spend one day a month in return for their £20k per year, and that it doesn’t interfere with their work. Oh sure. Presumably they haven’t considered why McEvil Corp would want to pay them so much for so little of their time. It’s vote and influence purchasing by any other name. And are they honestly arguing that if those extra days were spent in their constituents or in the chamber they couldn’t add something to society? Improve something? Change something? If so, they shouldn’t be wasting a space on the green benches in the first place.

It’s only an occasional newspaper article – if you’re writing in your capacity as an MP, then surely writing a newspaper article is part if your role representing your constituents and campaigning on the key issues of the day, and if it’s just the occasional article you won’t miss the money. And funnily enough newspapers don’t have much money, so I don’t think they’d be upset if you handed your fee back.

I need the extra money to maintain my standard of living – cry me a river…and you knew what the salary was when you stood for election.

If you’re doing a second job, then you’re not giving your full attention to your first one. And all MPs have a duty of care to their constituency, their voters and their party to give their full time to their work as MPs. I’m afraid that means you too, Gordon Brown, regardless of whether or not the money goes to charity.

After all this isn’t about the money – it’s about focussing the job you were elected to do.

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