Naked Politics Blogger
In January this year, it was widely reported that George Osborne had announced a second job advising the fund managers BlackRock one day a week, with a (ridiculous?) salary of £650,000 a year. Commenters derisively pointed to his infamous catchphrase as the austerity-pushing chancellor: “we’re all in this together”. This highlights the hypocrisy between his extensive cuts to the benefits supporting the country’s most vulnerable citizens whilst he accepts a second salary beyond the wildest dreams of most of the workers in the UK. As if this wasn’t enough, it has today been revealed that he has been offered the role of editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper. This job will require him to work four days a week, from approximately 5am-12pm. One day a week he will be at BlackRock. Both of these roles are based in London. This leaves him 4 afternoons a week to dedicate to his full-time job as an MP, representing his constituents in Tatton, Cheshire both at home and in Westminster.
Without even getting into the many conflict of interests and ethical issues associated with MPs flitting between the public and private sectors (though these are extensive), this highlights a major problem with attitudes to the requirements of a Member of Parliament.
Being an MP is hard, whether you’re Chancellor, PM, a minister or a backbencher. It is a full-time job requiring full concentration and dedication; travelling around the country, contacting constituents, public relations work, policy work and so much more. MPs are voted in by the people they serve to represent their interests in national government. Their salaries are paid by the public’s taxes. They deserve a guarantee that their MP is, at the very least, dedicating all of their working hours to this role. To take on a second – or a third – job is a betrayal of these constituents.
This further begs the question, who is going to pick up the slack? It is inconceivable that Mr Osborne will be able to fulfil all the work required of an MP. It is likely that more assistants, interns, or secretaries will be hired to his Westminster and constituency offices to assist, and who will pay their salaries? Again, the taxpayer. Of course our government should be properly staffed, and those staff should be paid good salaries. However, we have to question the ethics of an MP taking his full public salary (around £74,000 a year), as well as allowances to cover a second home in central London, whilst also picking up two extra salaries that will without a doubt total over an extra £100,000 a year (and that is a conservative estimate) while these two extra salaries will both reduce his capacity as an MP and lead to extra public expense to cover the resulting work.
Of course, George Osborne is not the first or only MP to take on a second job (data for all MPs can be found here). Notable examples include Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who announced extensive extra income, as well as the infamous Respect MP George Galloway. In 2015, Labour under Ed Miliband forced debates on banning consultancy and directorship roles for MPs, policies which never came to fruition thanks to strong opposition from both the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Even this legislation would not have gone far enough however, as it would only cover a small selection of the second jobs taken on by MPs. We must remember what the role of an MP is, and what it means. MPs are public servants, there to represent their constituents. How has this vital position – the backbone of our democratic system – become so disrespected?
We must restore the role of an MP to a strictly full-time position by banning MPs from taking on second jobs. The data shows that 60% of the public are overwhelmingly against Parliamentary representatives having second jobs. We must ensure that our MPs that are fully paid are also working for us, full time, fully dedicated.