Is being an MP a rubbish job?

Nigel Morris in the i reports:

Lonely MPs are finding it almost impossible to balance their jobs with ordinary family life, according to a survey of politicians who quit Parliament at last year’s election.

It painted a picture of MPs struggling with increasing constituency workloads while facing continuing public hostility following the 2009 expenses scandal.

The report, by the Commons Administration Committee, found the most frequent reason for standing down was the impact on family life of a working week of 70 to 80 hours.

One former MP said: “I wouldn’t have done it if I had realised how hard it was to be an MP with young children in the constituency.”

Another said: “I really enjoyed being an MP but now I will get my life back.”

A third said: “It can be lonely living in two places.”

Former MPs also warned it would be difficult to attract more female MP, as well as younger people, until the workload was reduced.

This is something I have long believed. There can be a glamour attached to the MP’s role. However, an MP has no real power, she/he is a legislator with 649 others, the job is split, sometimes by hundreds of miles, involves a lot of hard grind and is virtually impossible to sustain at the same time as any semblance of a normal family life. It’s a rubbish job.

But therein lies some truth. Why would anybody do such a rubbish job? Well, the vast majority of MPs are actually extremely motivated to “change the world” and are prepared, in trying to do so, to under go enormous tedium and dislocation in their personal life.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Ruth Bright 16th Apr '16 - 9:30pm

    Being a PPC is worse. No pay, no parental leave and an eternal round of raffles and fish and chip suppers!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Apr '16 - 1:26am

    Yes to my two colleagues above , and an interesting article.

    Some of us , for example those like me who are in various aspects of the arts and creative industries,yearn for more work and pay and appreciation and better levels of every aspect of work mps and others complain of .It is about greater equality and a mindset of spreading that which is good and sharing it too .Work that one likes or loves is good to say the least !It is absurd that mps should have to quit rather than their workload be given to others to engage with them .The size of their staff is minimal .

    It is daft we cannot delegate the work of mps at some level and provide more work for support staff.If we took, for example , the admin side of many jobs out of the remit and gave it to admin assistants keen and involved and well paid , many highly sort after roles and professionals would be free to do what they do so well !Yet in other fields the only jobs are admin !

    We have turned every role into winner takes all, like the whole direction of our society .I see more admin jobs, times many, in arts organisations than for any creative industry practitioners .The National Theatre has hundreds of permanent employees in every behind the scenes aspect of the theatre and NO permanent company of actors !

    We need to stop crowing about how wonderful work is and make it more so and more related to quality of life .Only the Liberal philosophy truly gets this , understanding both the market and wider society .

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Apr '16 - 11:51am

    We shouldn’t be seen calling a £74,962 per year plus job “rubbish”. Parliament also doesn’t sit for all twelve months and if the workload was that high how do so many manage second jobs?

    However I think the job of a local MP and a minister should be split entirely. How can David Cameron be an effective local MP? There is a case for reviewing this system.

  • Parliament is in recess for an average of 140 days each year,apart from PM bills very few turn up on Fridays & as we can see on our TV screens apart from the budget & PMQ’s,debates are poorly attended.

    Yes, some MP’s are involved in committee work but 70 – 80 hours every week is clearly an exaggeration.

    Still at a salary of £ 75,000,plus free travel,subsidized food & booze & a pension the average voter can only dream about there will be no shortage of replacements

  • Laurence Cox 17th Apr '16 - 1:50pm


    £74k isn’t that big a salary in the public sector. For example, in Harrow (where I live) the Council Chief Executive’s salary is quoted as being in a band from £147,816 to £167,997 and there are 24 senior staff earning over £80k. Knowing the standard of some of the Harrow staff from having to deal with them, £74k for either of our MPs doesn’t seem too bad a deal. I can also believe the 70-80 hour work week claims; I was certainly spending 15 hours a week on top of my full-time job, just being a local councillor (not including campaigning), and being Council Leader or Portfolio holder was certainly a full-time job in itself.

    The MP whose casework is done by others is, of course, the Speaker. I don’t think that creating a two-tier system where ministers have no responsibility to their constituents is the right way forward. Even the Party’s preference for STV will not break the MP/constituency link, just make the constituencies larger and have multiple MPs per constituency.

  • Ruth Bright 17th Apr '16 - 3:16pm

    Everyone seems to agree that it is tough being a candidate. Shall we institute a “Random Act of Kindness for a Candidate Day” Paul?

  • Barry Snelson 17th Apr '16 - 4:39pm

    Notwithstanding, it’s still a plum role and a safe seat is hugely desirable . There are many duties but so have all serious jobs at that salary and it often leads to the Lords and a job for life. It has lots of interest and opportunities. The competition for the good seats shows how attractive it is.
    I agree, though, about the role of PPC in unwinnable seats. Long periods of doomed positivity must wear the soul terribly and they are the real heroes. Obliged to keep the system going with no hope of reward.

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '16 - 7:16pm

    The workload has increased mainly due to the increased expectations of the electorate. It will grow further when the number of constituencies is reduced to 600, thus increasing the number of constituents per MP.

  • Helen Dudden 18th Apr '16 - 10:44am

    An MP is only as good he chooses. Where I now live I have an excellent Connservative MP. He is often outspoken on issues.

    I would not call myself political any longer, I’m free to make comments in a polite way, often direct.

    I have been to Brussels on my own account, as written above, MPs and MEPs have little pressure with which to apply to any situation.

    I respect my MP as a person, that is how it should be.

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