Liberal Democrat MPs with the best real-life experience

The Express has an interesting article listing the MPs who have, it says, the best real life experience.

Two Liberal Democrat MP appear on the list.

They are:

JOHN HEMMING, Lib Dem

THE MP for Birmingham Yardley is the only current politician who can claim to have launched his own record company.

The former drummer in a rock band started Birmingham based Music Mercia International in 2005. Mr Hemming’s business interests away from Westminster have made him a multi-millionaire.

The 54-year-old made most of his fortune through JHC, a company he founded in his 20s which provides IT systems to the financial services industry.

TESSA MUNT, Lib Dem

THE MP for Wells can boast one of the most varied CVs in Westminster.

She started out in banking but lasted barely a year before joining a firm of solicitors, then worked in a hotel.

The 55-year-old also had a spell as a college administrator and lecturer in Southend.

The mother of two has also been a teacher and social worker, not to mention her time as a PA to former England cricketer Phil Edmonds.

Before entering the Commons in 2010 her career went full circle and she found herself back at a firm of solicitors.

Newspuppy is disappointed that Mike Thornton wasn’t on the list, as he seems to be the ultimate “been there, done that” sort of chap.

* Newshound in training. I'm sweet and full of mischief, just like my stories.

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23 Comments

  • Interesting, but I confess I’ve never quite understood why ‘real-life experience’ is put at such a high premium by some; it seems to suggest that running the country is a job best left to amateurs to do as a hobby rather than experts in the field.

  • Jane Ann Liston 4th Feb '15 - 5:36pm

    I agree. Amateurs are vulnerable to being run rings round by Sir Humphrey Appleby, though this seems to be ignored by journalists etc. Anyway, with the stories MPs, MSPs, AMs and even lowly councillors hear regularly from their constituents, they probably know more about ‘real life’ than many of their detractors.

    Clearly, we want the widest possible range of experience amongst our politicians. However, it is wrong to dismiss people whose only paid experience is in politics/trade unionism, and smacks of Chairman Mao’s policy of sending urban dwellers into the country to learn from the peasants, which was the only experience he deemed valid. It didn’t exactly work.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Feb '15 - 6:21pm

    I agree with Greg and Jane that there is nothing wrong with so called career politicians. There is also nothing wrong with people who have had previous careers.

    I also don’t think it is fair that working outside of politics and having politics as a hobby is deemed to be fine, but working inside politics and having a hobby outside is deemed to be a distraction. We see manifestations of this belief with Labour wanting to ban second jobs for MPs, or something along those lines.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Feb '15 - 7:59pm

    At this rate, I’m going to be in a minority of one but in my humble opinion, parliament does not sufficiently reflect the British people.

    It may come as surprise to the overly deferential but British society is not exclusively made up people groomed to lead be they career politicians, lawyers, ‘captains of industry’, former full-time Union officials etc. Yes, each of these groups has particular fields of experience to offer but ordinary people from ordinary backgrounds and occupations are massively under-represented. And the higher you go, the less represented ‘ordinary’ people are.

    I have little doubt the parliamentary civil service is similarly (or probably more distinctly) stratified.

    I have no idea why people are increasingly cynical about this state of affairs!!!

    I am in full agreement with anyone wishing to ensure that all members of parliament do the job they are elected and paid to do. We are about to witness the victors and the vanquished announcing in equal measure ‘the honour’ of being or having been an MP.

    My employment contract prevents me from consultancy and other commercial work. Perhaps someone could explain why some of the best rewarded people need more than one job?

  • Greg, Jane & Eddie

    I would say that the reason most of the public want politicians who have “real world experience” is that it makes for a better government. People can be intelligent but if all they have known is the insular world of politics they can lack wisdom which is important.

    Personally I think some life long politicians in the mix as well are usefully (Gladstone’s comment about being a ballet dancer and all that) but they been to be a minority.

    Having had a career as something else does not make you an amateurs, many people change career several times that doesn’t make their jobs in the later careers an amateur adventure.

  • Stephen Hesketh

    On second jobs surely that is for the constituents to decide, if they don’t like it they need to kick them out.

    We should expect and empower voters to keep representatives in line.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Feb '15 - 8:48pm

    Exhibit A M’Lud. I found this reference in an online rag named Lib Dem Voice:

    “In yesterday’s House of Commons debate on DNA, it was a great opportunity for one of our small number of scientist MPs to bring forth their knowledge.
    As the Independent reports, our very own Julian Huppert obliged”

    Just how many MP’s have been scientists and engineers for example? Might this for example have anything to do with why Britain’s leaders decided to stack our economy in favour of ‘the city’ rather than manufacturing industry ?

  • Don’t forget that NC was a ski-instructor and a bit of a banker for a while before becoming a Lobbyist for the Libya of Colonel Gaddafi before he went into full-time politics
    OK not quite as impressive as John Hemming but I think it important to point out that he has had experience outside of Westminster.
    OK he went to school in Westminster but he did take time out to go to Germany and commit arson.
    How many MPs have arson on their CV ?
    He was drunk at the time so it is entirely understandable, it could have happened to any of us and we should not hold it against him. It was just “horse play”. OK I have never seen a horse playing with matches either but the experience of being involved with the German police was probably ‘character building’.
    If you go to a posh school they call it ‘character building’.
    If you go to an ordinary school they call in a crime or “Anti- Social Behaviour”, it is with you for the rest of your life.

    But you have to give credit where it is due. NC has had experiences outside of Westminster. Did I mention going to parties in the USA wearing a frock?

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Feb '15 - 9:11pm

    Psi 4th Feb ’15 – 8:42pm

    I am all for empowering voters but the problem is somewhat endemic and is the source of a number of conflicts of interest and public cynicism.

    A quick Google revealed:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/23/twenty-mps-declare-over-100000-from-second-jobs
    “Twenty MPs declare more than £100,000 from second jobs … Former ministers among those saying that they received combined £7.1m in income from outside parliament”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mps-making-millions-from-second-jobs-9815153.html
    “Andrew Mitchell, the Tory MP at the centre of the Plebgate affair, reportedly made £6,000 a day by consulting for firms including banking groups”

    http://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/news-and-analysis/politics/moonlighting-mps-the-politicians-with-second-jobs-in-financial-services/2001692.article

    “The revolving door of former FCA regulators joining banks and accountancy firms has created understandable hostlilty from advisers but it is also worth taking a look at the MPs with commercial interests associated with financial services.
    Every MP working in financial services is a Conservative with some working up to nine hours a week and earning hundreds of thousands of pounds in outside income.”

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/contents1314.htm
    “House of Commons Publications – Session 2013-14 The Register of Members’ Financial Interests ”

    Psi – Would you think me cynical for making a link between tax receipts from certain prosperous businesses and individuals and the number of Tory MP’s working as ‘second-job consultants’ in the financial sector?

  • Stehen Hesketh
    ” Just how many MP’s have been scientists and engineers for example? ”

    David Penhaligon was a qualified engineer with experience of real work in the real world before being elected as MP for Truro.

    He used to say that he only got elected as an MP because head not realised that for someone with his background it was obviously mpossible. 🙂

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Feb '15 - 10:07pm

    Hi John
    Oh yes, the brilliant and warm David Penhaligon … a significant factor in me joining the Liberals. And, close to our hearts, a strong opponent of nuclear power. I was later introduced to him by Iain BB after surprising David by answering a question concerning Cornwall, exports and china clay at a constituency dinner.

    A great loss to the party and his beloved Cornwall.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Feb ’15 – 10:07pm

    Yes indeed. Penhaligon was just brilliant. In addition to engineering he had also helped out on the caravan site run by his parents. He and his wife had run a local Post Office. How different from the background of our own dear leader?

    Penhaligon did not have a particularly strong Cornish accent but it was quite clear when he spoke that he came from well outside the Westminster Bubble.

    It was not just how he said it — it was what he said !

    His attitude on how to get the best out of the Lib-Lab Pact should have been the basic law of the Coalition from 2010.
    Penhaligon ‘s policy of “a new row every day” to demonstrate Liberal independence and push Liberal identity was the polar opposite of Clegg’s Rose Garden Love-in and The Quad.
    Penhaligon was popular with ordinary people inside and outside the party.
    Clegg is unpopular with people inside and outside the party.
    Penhaligon helped Liberals win elections and was a regular at parliamentary by-elections.
    Clegg no longer even turns up at parliamentary by-elections as if they are nothing to do with him; Clegg pretends that the collapse in support and the eleven lost deposits in parliamentary by-elections are nothing to do with his ever rightward shifting of the party into a closet Conservative cul-de-sac.

  • Harry Hayfield 4th Feb '15 - 11:29pm

    Mark Williams (Lib Dem, Ceredigion) was a teacher before he became an MP. Is that’s not considered “real life experience” then what is?

  • Tony Dawson 5th Feb '15 - 7:19am

    @Stephen Hesketh:

    “Just how many MP’s have been scientists and engineers for example? ”

    Speaking as a scientist, I often wonder how people lump us together with engineers. Scientists study and explain things; engineers make things happen, sometimes great things, sometimes terrible things.

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th Feb '15 - 7:23am

    Harry Hayfield 4th Feb ’15 – 11:29pm
    Mark Williams (Lib Dem, Ceredigion) was a teacher before he became an MP. Is that’s not considered “real life experience” then what is?

    Harry, there can be no doubt that teaching belongs to the broader ‘real life experience’ category. I wonder how many former-teacher MP’s advise companies ‘financial services’ ?

    My key belief is that parliamentarians should come from more diverse social, educational and employment backgrounds and that during their time as representatives of the electorate they should dedicate themselves to that role.

    Should they have particular skills and a wish to work outside parliament then any monies earned could be vested in a parliamentary body dedicated to passing on these earnings to a genuinely philanthropic charity. One wonders if outside earnings would at that point continue at such a rate!

  • Peter Watson 5th Feb '15 - 8:18am

    @Tony Dawson “Speaking as a scientist, I often wonder how people lump us together with engineers. Scientists study and explain things; engineers make things happen, sometimes great things, sometimes terrible things.”
    Nooooooooooo!!
    Having said that, my initial reaction (as a chemical engineer) was eased a little by the second sentence (and on behalf of all engineers I am happy to accept the “make things happen” compliment!), though scientists are responsible for their own share of great and terrible things. I feared you were going to pander to the notion that engineers wear overalls and fix broken machines.
    I cringe when politicians give the impression that scientists are produced by universities and engineers are produced by apprenticeship schemes. I have worked with graduate engineers who have carried out research in some pretty fundamental areas of mathematics and science (as well as wearing overalls occasionally!).

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th Feb ’15 – 7:23am. “..,parliamentarians should come from more diverse social, educational and employment backgrounds …”

    Stephen, I agree. But according to Radio 4 this morning nothing will change in the 2015 General Election.
    They report that of the candidates of all parties in winnable seats – more than 30% will be privately educated.
    This compares to just 7% of the population as a whole.

    To put it another way 93% of us go to state schools but very, very few of us will get into Parliament because it is a club for the rich and well connected.
    In Michael Cockerell’s TV documentary on Parliament Cameron describes the building as “half school”.
    Is it not interesting that he says Parliament is like a school?

    It is not at all like any school I attended. It is not like any school my children attended.
    It is not like any school that 93% of the population of the UK attended.

  • A Social Liberal 5th Feb '15 - 10:11am

    I agree with Stephen Hesketh and John Tilley.

    Parliament is made up of (mainly) wealthy, middle class men. Until the Commons (and eventually, hopefully, an elected upper house) is representative of society then it will not truly understand the complexities, and indeed the vagaries, of that society.

    Marie Antionette did not say, ‘let them eat cake’, because she was uncaring of the suffering of French society but because neither she nor anyone around her could imagine that suffering. When MPs were placed with families on housing estates their eyes were opened to how the impoverished lived – even though one left their placement early. Sometimes I feel that, like the French court, Parliament doesn’t truly understand some of the people they serve.

  • Julian Tisi 5th Feb '15 - 11:09am

    I agree that “real life experience” gives you a better perspective on things and we should hope that parliament would include a wide range of experience and talents. The trouble is that there are some big barriers to many people with “real life” experience getting into parliament at all. Probably the main one is time. Particularly if you care for children and/or have a demanding job leaving little time for a hobby such as politics. And we know how hard prospective MPs have to work just to give them a chance to get elected (I remember Martin Todd describing how he had given up his job a few years before the election – before he lost narrowly in Winchester in 2010). Few people are mad enough to sacrifice this much – or are in a financial position to do so.

    It’s different if you’re a Labour or Tory in a safe seat though – sometimes all you need is a pulse and the support of the local party to get elected.

    It’s yet another reason why the current electoral system needs changing – as does the system of party funding. Until these are fixed we can complain all we like about the fact that our politicians lack real world experience, but it’s not their fault. Most people, unless they effectively work in politics already (lobbying, trade union etc) simply can’t afford the time and money to stand a chance of getting elected.

  • Stephen Hesketh

    “Would you think me cynical for making a link between tax receipts from certain prosperous businesses and individuals and the number of Tory MP’s working as ‘second-job consultants’ in the financial sector?”

    I find many people cynical, and I often believe that is the correct approach to many things in life.

    I said empowered for a reason as voters can’t really hold their representatives to account with the current arrangement. I notice recall has become bogged down in establishment opposition.

    JohnTilley

    “he did take time out to go to Germany and commit arson”

    I believe on a CV that would be described as “experienced pyrotechnician”

    A Social Liberal

    Your point is right but the historical example is a myth:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

  • Stephen Hesketh 5th Feb '15 - 9:57pm

    Peter Watson 5th Feb ’15 – 8:18am
    “my initial reaction (as a chemical engineer) was eased a little by the second sentence (and on behalf of all engineers I am happy to accept the “make things happen” compliment!), though scientists are responsible for their own share of great and terrible things.”

    Absolutely Peter, the science of atomic weaponry couldn’t have got off the drawing board without engineers 😉

    Before swiftly withdrawing, I should own up to being an industrial chemist!

  • John Tilley, while no fan of Nick Clegg he was elected by party’s members and if the alternative (whom I voted for) had won – where would the party be now.?

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th Feb '15 - 7:19am

    Mike, you ask an interesting question but I think the time of your writing the post might not be irrelevant.

    OK, very embarrassing and disruptive to the party but I am far from convinced the impact could have been worse. The fact that NC had already crashed our support clearly hides any dip in support but there would have been no rose garden moment, no slapping of Osborne on the back, a reasonable chance of us red-lining tuition fees, a likely rejection of many of the worst Tory excesses, a much more business like approach to the coalition the list could go on and on … but crucially there would have been no attempt the change the very DNA of the party.

    I would contend that although very damaging, the party would still be in a much better place both internally amongst our members and externally with our core vote to successfully fight the forthcoming G.E.

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