Should UK MPs Work Just as MPs?

Last week George Osborne was announced as the new Editor of the Evening Standard. Osborne accepted a £650,000 part-time role with the investment firm BlackRock. As well as advising the financial giant, Osborne gives after-dinner speeches, chairs the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and is completing a fellowship in America, in addition to being MP for Tatton in Cheshire.

Many are saying Osborne should step down as an MP or shed the other roles. What’s Your view on MPs at Westminster? Shouldn’t they be forced to focus on the one job alone of being an MP? Or can they multi-task and accumulate roles willy-nilly?


3 thoughts on “Should UK MPs Work Just as MPs?

  1. Good Lord, don’t our MPs make enough of a hash of things as it is? Do we really want to encourage them regulating and legislating more than they already do? I stand with Thoreau when he wrote: ‘That government is best which governs least.’(*)

    (* To be exact, I heartily accept Thoreau when he wrote, ‘I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”;’. Civil Disobedience. 1849.)

    MPs only became salaried in 1911 and we had better MPs when they were sans salaries and expenses than ever since: J.S. Mill (regarded as one of the world’s greatest political philosophers), Edmund Burke (at least as highly regarded), radicals like William Cobbett, PMs such as both Pitts (Elder and Younger), Canning, Peel, Palmerston, Salisbury, etc. Other than Churchill, who have we had since that compares to such political titans?

    With few opportunities to dip one’s snout into the taxpayers’ trough, entering politics was once seen more as a public service. Being unsalaried, it required them to have actual talent: to make money (as Cobbett did, who financed himself through his writing) or to convince a patron that they were worthy of their support (as Burke convinced Lord Verney and William Hamilton), or to have made their fortune before entering politics (such as successful naval officers, rich from prizes, like Sir Edward Pellew).

    MPs once saw their job as simply steering the Ship of State safely, taking in a reef here, setting full sail there, battening down the hatches when necessary—not to be forever trying to rebuild the entire ship. Being an MP was fairly part-time, with MPs such as John Norris (1670–1749), who happily combined representing Rye with a Royal Naval career, commanding operational cruises to the Baltic; and Admiral Thomas Cochrane (the inspiration for C.S. Forester’s Hornblower and Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey) who led daring expeditions against Napoleon’s forces in the Med while representing Westminster constituency (1807–18). Now, our MPs constantly try to justify their jobs and ‘be seen to do something’, and perpetually pass new laws and regulations to nag us with.

    Here’s an idea: replace salaries and expense with internet crowd-funding. If only half an MP’s voters gave a mere £1 a month to their local MP, our highest-paid politician would be Stephen Timms (Labour, East Ham) who would be raking in £243,378 a year (and potentially considerably more, if more than half of those who voted for him donated, or donors gave more than £12 a year); while our lowest paid MP would be Angus MacNeil (SNP, Na h-Eileanan an Iar) with a still very respectable £51,972 p.a. If your local MP is any good, why would you not be willing to give them a measly quid a month—only £12 a year? (It is likely, of course, that many MPs are elected only as the lesser of evils—people will vote for them, but they’ll have to work harder to persuade a decent number of their constituents to part with even a paltry £12 a year.)

    Interesting interview here (Guardian) with Tory MP and current Minister of State for International Development, Rory Stewart. Quote: ‘[W]e pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere. … The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power. …
    ‘[T]here is nothing there. It’s like the wizard of Oz. … In the end you get behind the curtain and you finally meet the wizard—and there’s this tiny, frightened figure. … You get there and you pull the lever, and nothing happens.’

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