It may not be popular, but it needs saying: Most politicians are decent people who work ridiculous hours serving the public

So, wherever you look today, you see Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, both secretly filmed saying things that most voters will find difficult to comprehend. That includes those of us who are active in politics. By far the most bizarre thing was Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s assertion that he didn’t get a salary.  What on earth does he think the £3000 on his bank statement every month with House of Commons next to it is?

It is perfectly possible that when the investigations to which Straw and Rifkind have submitted themselves are complete, they will find that no rules were actually broken. Both men have been pretty bullish this morning. Straw says he’s mortified he fell into the trap, Rifkind says he has every right to get paid for passing on his expertise. Many people will feel instinctively uncomfortable about politicians who once held the main offices of state or still chair influential parliamentary committees claiming they could offer things like access to ambassadors, or suggest they might work for a daily rate of £5000.

I think there’s one very important thing that we need to emphasise today, though. There are currently the better part of 2000 UK parliamentarians. (As an aside, when you think that 800 of them aren’t even elected, it really shows the need for Lords reform). The number of people involved in stories like this has been pretty small over the years. Most politicians, from across the political spectrum, are decent people who put in ridiculously long hours for the benefit of their constituents or in public service if they don’t have any. Yes, they get paid for it, sufficiently well to be higher rate tax payers. If we don’t want a Parliament that’s even more full of people from affluent backgrounds than it already is, then that’s a price well worth paying in my view.

I’ve been lucky enough to see at first hand how hard these people work. The travelling to and from London, often busy from the crack of dawn till late at night and then all weekend spent at events in the constituency. It has a massive impact on your life, more so than most jobs. It’s a minimum 60 hour week and often requires much more. Yes, it’s a huge privilege, but it also requires a huge amount of personal sacrifice. There is massive satisfaction in helping constituents with their problems – getting the organs of the state to admit they made a mistake takes tenacity, but when you get those benefits paid or that visa granted and see the relief on people’s faces, it is highly rewarding. Most parliamentarians I know are busy enough with parliamentary and constituency duties. They don’t have time for lucrative sidelines in anything.

One question I wanted to ask you is whether you think MPs should be banned from doing any outside work? There’s a very strong argument that an out and out ban is illiberal and wrong. Imagine a nurse or midwife being elected to Parliament. They need to deliver so many babies a year to keep up their professional registration. Why should we stop them doing that? What about book royalties, little though they tend to be? Surely we want ideas being discussed and books are a good way of doing it.

Should we now ban lucrative advisory roles?

On the other hand, you could argue that being an MP is a full-time job and should be treated as such. Most of us would have to get permission from our employer to take on extra work – check your contract of employment. MPs don’t have such a contract, but should there be some way of vetting all offers of outside work in advance?

We probably shouldn’t get too far into the specifics of cases which are now under investigation, but what changes do you think, if any, need to be made to the rules and Code of Conduct? Do they currently strike the right balance or should they be more rigid?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

53 Comments

  • I’ve been lucky enough to see at first hand how hard these people work. The travelling to and from London, often busy from the crack of dawn till late at night and then all weekend spent at events in the constituency. It has a massive impact on your life, more so than most jobs. It’s a minimum 60 hour week and often requires much more. Yes, it’s a huge privilege, but it also requires a huge amount of personal sacrifice.

    This may be true of many, it may be true of most, but clearly there are large numbers who don’t do that much, and have ample time for lucrative jobs on the side and speaking engagements.

    The question is really how do we reward the good ones you describe while preventing the scroungers from entering parliament? I believe somebody suggested a recall bill at one point…

  • Richard Church 23rd Feb '15 - 2:38pm

    There’s one obvious answer g. We need to get rid of the concept of a safe seat. The Single Transferable Vote would ensure that voters are able to reward the hardworking MP’s, regardless of party, not the lazy ones who work for people other than their constituents.

  • I see no real reason why a politician should not be able to accept offers for consultancy outside of the role of politician £60k plus is not in my view a sum that says 168 hours a week must be spent serving the public even in the old great houses servants got time off. The hourly figure would only be in the region of £7 if they are the publics 168 hours a week not a living wage.

    Any politician looking in! Please think even those who don’t get living wage think it’s fair please consider pushing the law for living wage for all

  • I can’t see a ban as anything other than a disaster.

    Caron is right to also pick up the point about earnings from books and the like. Those who would ban outside earnings how would they deal with IP rights issues? New works, newly created works, old works changing format.

    The professional experience issue is also important, and what if some one was elected from running a local company that the constituents knew at the time of election? What happens to the profits from the family business? What counts as “advising” or “consulting” when chatting to family?

    The problem occurs when there are too many safe seats with no method of removing the MP when they do things wrong. I always feel the demands for “stricter rules” or “bans on outside earnings” are cover for people who want to avoid the real question of making representatives more accountable.

    This story has an odd sound about it, I will be very interested in what the investigations say when they are published, as for whether we should be comfortable with an MP earning £5k for a speaking engagement, I can’t see why we should object if someone is stupid enough to pay them, other people who are good at speaking get paid very well for turning up and talking for an hour.

    The dodgy activity is never going to get stopped by some new rule. Accountability to the electorate and a healthy investigative press/blogosphere are the best we will be able to do, unfortunately the LibDems support restricting the ability of the press to dig in to the affairs of the powerful.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Feb '15 - 3:49pm

    Jack Straw says he charges £5000 to make a speech. The question is – who on earth are the fools who will pay that amount of money for a speech by Straw?

    Tony

  • Rabi Martins 23rd Feb '15 - 4:06pm

    I have no problem with MPs retaining an interest in a job or a business they had before they became MPs.
    What I have an issue with is MP using their elected position to obtain a consultancy assignment or a book deal That smacks of abuse of power / position If an MP is given a consultancy by a major company when he or she has no expertise in the industry that company operates in it is fair to assume that the appointment is only made to give the company access to Ministers or influence policy.
    That is why why need to review the rules that govern MPs and second jobs
    I think it would be only fair to make any MP who takes on a new job / assignment after being elected being required to donate 50% of the earnings to a charity in his / her constituency.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Feb ’15 – 3:49pm
    Jack Straw says he charges £5000 to make a speech. The question is – who on earth are the fools who will pay that amount of money for a speech by Straw?

    Good question, Tony. Most of us might organise a collection to raise £5000 to stop Straw speaking.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 4:10pm

    Psi

    Why are MPs any different from me?¨

    My contract says I cannot take up a second employment without asking permission – are you going to ban this clause from work contracts?

    What it means in reality is that I cannot take up work that is linked to my day job – if I am a musician, a music teacher, a language teacher in my spare time I have seen these all given the nod through – some people though have set themselves up as contractors in the same field, using their contacts to get work and this is not allowed under the terms of contract

    I love this approach from people – say it won’t work doing what is proposed by putting up a few straw men and then using that as an example. Is it really beyond the wit of us to make allowances for some of the professions, or for those who have the time to write books etc. Also, using STV…come on, that is a desire most of us have but are you suggesting we wait until we have STV before checking this abuse?

    Let us look at the reality though

    MOST MPs don’t do second jobs
    MOST who do are Tories – what do you think their second jobs are?
    Those that do contain very few midwives, small shop keepers etc
    The MPs have had fair warning….now is time to act!

    The majority are using their position as MPs to line their own pockets – I suggest you look at Rifkind’s second, third, fourth and fifth jobs – he earns more from these than a midwife could hope of doing in years!

    Miliband has suggested a 15% limit on second job earnings – that is around £10K per year – seems a not too bad return for a second job when considering the median wage.

    It seems any idea coming from Labour is immediately knocked back and in the end it means you will side with the Tories who are the ones who gain from this

    I also agree with Caron that most of our MPs are hard working and most do not do these second jobs – why are you going out of your way to support those who are?

    A simple process of assessing second jobs is all that is needed, anything that smacks of abuse of position is out – but all those small shopkeepers, midwives, nurses and authors can carry on….can you name any of these nurses, midwives or shopkeepers by the way?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Feb '15 - 4:12pm

    Richard makes a very good point. I had an earlier draft that actually had that in. Let’s take two entirely random seats like Blackburn and Kensington and Chelsea. On only two occasions has Blackburn delivered a less than 50% Labour vote in the last 60 years. And, lets face it. the affluent voters of K and C are likely to keep voting Tory. The sooner we have STV the better.

    Tony Greaves made me laugh. I wouldn’t quite pay £5k to avoid having to listen to a Jack Straw speech, but you get the idea..

    Rabi – not very many MPs have massive book deals and authors earn next to nothing from their work.

    @Psi: Lib Dems support “restrictin the ability of press to dig in to affairs of the powerful?” I think not.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 4:23pm

    So Caron

    Do nothing until we get STV – when do you anticipate that being?

    What do you propose to do until then….nothing I expect!

    Making these arguments plays into the hands of only one political party in reality……but you know that don’t you?

    More and more I see the Lib Dems being the wall behind which the Tories stand

    It may not be easy, there may be some grey areas but are you saying that our Parliamentarians are too thick to work out something that is better than the abuse of position that goes on now!!!

  • I would suggest that a major problem is that people tend to have far less experience of life. If one looks at Briton over the last two hundred years many people obtained skills and worked around the UK and the Whole World. Someone my have become a craftsmen, entered a career which took them to other parts of the UK, worked overseas and served in the Armed Forces . Those becoming sailors may have travelled twice around the World by the time they were 25.

    The vast majority of those involved in politics , the media, civil service , NGOsetc, are middle class arts graduates brought up in suburbia with N)o experience of management within industry, commerce, agriculture, the Armed Forces in the UK and overseas. I would argue that two dominant forces which have shaped civilisation are technology and trade and most politcians have knowledgee of neither. Conflict over trade and the ability to master new technology has often led to war and the rise and fall of civilisations.

    Once again if politics contained more MPs with the experience of Murdo Macdonad , Liberal MP for Inverness: civil engineer with experience of the UK, Egypt and India and colonel in RE with service in Middle East in WW1, perhaps they would earn peoples respect?.

  • Julian Tisi 23rd Feb '15 - 5:21pm

    A very good article and it needed saying. There’s sadly a massive expectation gap between the public and reality here. On the one hand the public wants to see MPs coming from a variety of backgrounds and real life experience but on the other hand the public also wants MPs to be paid less, housed in dorms, unable to claim expenses, they want them to attend more votes in London and spend more time in their constituencies talking to ordinary people. So sorry if you’re constituency is in the back-end of Scotland or Cornwall – you should have thought about that before you applied.

    For my part I think the rules are about right as they are. It appears that Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind may have broken the rules by acting as paid advocates and if so, they are rightly being exposed. All outside interests need to be declared and it should be for voters to decide whether or not they’re prepared to have an MP with those interests (and yes, we need STV to make those in safe seats accountable in this way, as they are not currently). But an outright ban? No.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 5:25pm

    Julian Tisi

    Why are you saying an outright ban?

    This is what I mean by straw men…..

    I would propose anything that uses the position of an MP to earn extra income being a no…..Miliband proposed up to £10K of outside earnings

    Have you seen what Rifkind’s second, third, fourth and fifth jobs are. He is raking in over £180K but was still touting for more!

    and all we see is the PM and others wittering on about nurse, midwives and shopkeepers!

  • Stuart Moran
    Hmmm, Strawmen:
    Family Businesses – plenty of them in parliament (John Hemmings)
    Authors – plenty of people in parliament over the years have published books (Paddy, Vince Cable, Gordon Brown, Shirley Williams from the Lords, Louise Bagshaw/Mensch)
    Other owners of IP rights – I know one there was a Troy that used to write (I assume not very good) pop songs I can’t name too many other musicians. As to former film roles there will presumable have been income early in Glenda Jackson’s career. If you want to ban people earning income on patents you may have problems with a few people who have worked in the start up end of technology.

    So sorry there are examples that cause problems, those are off the top of my head without research, so there will be others.

    Rifkin should have not been taking this work as he is a committee chairman and the rules should be stricter as they are for ministers where the civil service assesses any conflict of interests. That issue should have been flagged with Tim Yeo years back, but rules are not some magic bullet. May people claim “it must be possible to design an all singing all dancing rule system” in spite of the evidence of history.

    It is not just a matter of STV (though that is important), proper recall mechanisms are required, we also should have some form of constituents summoning mechanism in the same way parliament can summon ministers for urgent questions, more “primary” type mechanisms for sitting and new candidates of more parties, there are basically too few powers for the voters. If you think the Tory MPs with questionable interests are a problem, what about the lazy ineffective ones? Do we have a rule book for them, no we need voter powers to hold them to account.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 5:46pm

    Psi

    Did you actually read my post at all?

    Nurses and midwives were in the original article – these are the straw men used by opponents of taking any action at all

    Can you point me to the part of my posts where I said that someone who has owned there own business etc would be penalised, or an author or a holder of IP? I think you will find nowhere

    The point on family businesses is one that cannot be answered other than on a case by case basis but I would assume that any MP would not, in my mind, be able to continue as an operational director of a business but it depends on the size.

    They are not that problematic really, they are only problematic because it has been suggested by, heaven forbid, a Labour leader that we try to do something to remove the stench from our political system

    The targets, as I clearly stated twice, are those who use there role as an MP to get ‘consultancy’ work for significant amounts of money based on the fact they are an MP. None of the examples you gave would fall under this!

    A job is not the same as being an author, or owning IP, or having a stake in a family business as I am sure you are capable of understanding!

    But then you Lib Dems are big on promises but actually doing anything or standing up for principles seems to be beyond you!

  • Come on Caron…the more I read LDV the more I believe we have become just an appendage of the Tory party…this is yet another knee jerk reaction to a Labour proposal….

    Do we really believe that the only ‘dodgy’ MPs are those caught by the occasional media ‘sting’…..How many of these second, third, etc. jobs are of value to the community or give the MP a wider experience of the world….I’d suggest very, very few; almost all are ‘consultancy’ or ‘directorships’ where the MP deals with those who hold the same views. These lucrative jobs don’t come without strings attached ;they are offered to gain access/influence in parliament…

    The bible refers to serving two masters and suggests one will be despised; I’ll lay odds that won’t be the one offering £4k for half a days work…

  • Caron

    “Lib Dems support “restriction the ability of press to dig in to the affairs of the powerful?” I think not.”

    Am I wrong in believing that the LibDems still support Levenson? A perfect example of a dislike of individuals trumping logic.

    Just because a party wants to think it strives to disperse power from the powerful to the powerless doesn’t mean its actions would produce that outcome (if they weren’t out played by the powerful).

  • John Barrett 23rd Feb '15 - 6:14pm

    Even if no Parliamentary rules were “broken” the entire episode will leave the public convinced that many MPs are just in it for themselves. I believe Caron is right, in that most MPs from all parties are probably there for the right reasons, however, those who are taking advantage of their position to bolster their reasonable salaries and who are clearly spending much of their time and energy on other jobs, needs to be dealt with.

    Just because Jack Straw claims people will pay £5,000 to hear him speak, should not mean that MPs should not be able to speak at outside events. The majority of MPs from all parties will regularly speak at constituency events and non party engagements and in support of causes they believe in, around the country for no fee at all. What becomes a problem is when the fees earned become a disproportionate part of their income or exceed their Parliamentary income, as this distorts what should be their priority. A cap on outside earnings of say £10,000 would deal with this.

    It would also deal with those few who have such skills that must be kept up to speed in their own field. There is nothing to stop those with such expertise giving their time for no charge and those MPs who do charitable or non-paid work in their spare time should be commended for it.

    MPs do have spare time and if they use it to write a book or play an instrument, it would be crazy to try to stop this – just because they were good at what they did. Any attempt to control what MPs do in their spare time is doomed to failure, however this is not the problem. It is also not a major problem for those entitled to royalties for previous work or the writing of memoirs and involvement with their former employers or family firms.

    The problem is when elected members (or civil servants who move on from the MOD to work for outside contractors)) use or abuse their position, or former position, to the point where their role or position becomes the means to earn large sums of money from many questionable sources.

    The coverage of Jack Straw’s possible outside earning has now become a distraction away from his shameful involvement and support of the war in Iraq which left tens of thousands of innocent civilians dead or disabled. It is also a distraction away from the record of Malcolm Rifkind and his support for many policies which most Liberal Democrats had fought for decades. It may well be that the issue of outside earnings shines a light on those other issues.

    It may be that there is no alternative but to ban outside earnings – unless they have been through a thorough test or list of checks to confirm that they are both ethical and not in conflict with the job of an MP, as understood by most of the electorate, not the Commissioner for Standards as I have no doubt he will soon confirm neither MP broke any rules. This does not mean they have acted in the proper manner the electorate expect from those they elect to Parliament.

    The safe seats issue raised by many is also part of the problem, as any MP in a marginal seat would know the risk and it is no surprise that such issues are often in “safe seats.”

    If an MP raises money and gives it to a good cause such as Red Nose Day, this should not be treated in the same way as large sums from dodgy Governments or companies which might end up in a Swiss bank account.

    Between now and the election, all MPs outside earnings will be under scrutiny. We should make sure we have a proposal to deal with this, if not in the same way as the Labour proposal, in such a way as we are not shown to be part of the problem, and we should make sure our house is in order – now.

  • Stuart Moran

    Firstly, to clarify I don’t claim to be. Lib Dem I have only described myself as a liberal on here. I, unlike others on here, believe the argument not the person making it is what matters.

    Secondly you addressed a comment to me and then stated: “I love this approach from people – saying it won’t work doing what is proposed by putting up a few Steadman”
    so I assumed that was referencing the examples I gave. So sorry if I misunderstood your argument. however I would query why you are specifically concerned with the midwife example over other health care workers there are doctors dentists etc.

  • John Roffey 23rd Feb '15 - 7:03pm

    Give the MPs a significant pay rise. Although their pay is good by most people’s standard – it simply does not compare with other equivalent public sector jobs. [pay peanuts – you get monkeys]

    This might not be popular, but if the MP’s role is considered important – as it needs to be in a democracy – then pay them what the job is worth and ban other earnings apart from those from books, journalism etc – that which is trying to widen orinfluence the public debate.

    If it is important that potential MPs do have experience of the commercial world – and I would have thought so – let this be gained before standing for election.

  • Stuart moran

    As to why I respond badly to a proposal from Ed Milliband for a few more rules is the record of the last government of which he was a member and suffered legislative incontinence . Ed Miliband was a treasury advisor to Gordon Brown a man that trippled the size of the UK tax code , the result yet more perverse incentives and increased opotunity for tax avoidance.

    Rules are the Labour responce to try and look like they are taking action, but allowing nothing to happen. Voters have very little real power and “some more rules” is an age old PR technique to try and look like you are doing something but actually avoiding giving voters any more power over you.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 7:09pm

    Psi

    The emotive use of midwives and nurses was by Caron in her original post – you supported what she wrote in your original post

    If a doctor or dentist needs to practice in order to keep their qualification then that could be worked out, but I would argue if a professional in that position would be advised to take such a career break – what is clear though they may struggle to maintain a profession at the same time. That is a personal decision

    I will repeat though there is a big difference between these questions and the consultancy and directorships so common amongst the Tories! As I said, look at Rifkind’s other jobs!!!

    I think John Barrett said it all very well

    I am astounded by the number of people who think an MPs job is part-time and it is so easy to tag on a doctors, nurses or whatever job on the side….even when the initial proposal of Miliband is to let them earn up to 10K – probably 30% of a full time midwive’s salary (and 10% of a doctors)

    Why not engage with Labour on this and try to influence…or why not just cry like the Tories…

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 7:15pm

    John Roffey

    I think that needs to be put on the table – i am not sure if I am for a big pay rise but if it makes MPs more ‘honest’ then perhaps it is the way to go

    We want to have diversity in our MPs – the main issues are not having rich middle aged white men – it is having ethnic minorities, women, manual workers etc and to them an MPs salary is not the barrier. It is the inability of the political parties to encourage them to stand (or desire them to)

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 7:18pm

    Psi

    and Cameron was an advisor to Lamont! Hasn’t stopped you being very happy about him has it?

    The FPTP system will leave a Tory or a Labour led Government. I cannot see another 5 years of this. It is a known known!

    I like Miliband and the fact the Tory press hates him so much is, for me a good thing!

    You do what you want but I agree you are not a Lib Dem, or doubt have ever been!

  • John Roffey 23rd Feb '15 - 7:34pm

    stuart moran 23rd Feb ’15 – 7:15pm

    ‘We want to have diversity in our MPs – the main issues are not having rich middle aged white men – it is having ethnic minorities, women, manual workers etc and to them an MPs salary is not the barrier. It is the inability of the political parties to encourage them to stand (or desire them to)’

    Unfortunately – if the role of MP’s is considered important – it excludes female only lists [or any other restriction] as it makes it essential that the most capable individual is available to be selected for the job.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 7:37pm

    John

    I was not getting into a debate on female only shortlists etc but the fact is they are unrepresented and it needs dealing with

    How – I am not sure but part of it is changing how our Parliament operates

    Paying more, better working conditions is part of it – reform of the political parties themselves is another matter!

  • STV won’t stop MPs behaving badly.

    I’m particularly appalled at hearing about what Jack Straw is alleged to have done. For someone who held to Office of Foreign Secretary to be claiming that if you pay him he can use his name and clout to get governments to change their laws to suit to a particular company sounds to me like legislation is effectively for sale. To hear that this is done “under the radar” just makes it even worse and even more undemocratic if such a thing were possible.

    I’m amazed that this is not already a serious criminal offence that carries a long jail sentence.

    To hear that this is “within the rules” that the MPs set for themselves makes me very angry indeed. I’m beginning to think Russel Brand might be right after all. What is the point in voting if you get this.

    As for MPs having 2nd jobs, in principle I didn’t have a problem with it, but surely it can’t involve effectively selling their power and influence that came with their position.

    But I imagine the reason most MPs don’t do this is because they have no power or influence. Most MPs views don’t matter, they are their just to vote along the party line and rubberstamp in parliament whatever their party leaders have decided the policy is, regardless of any promises or pledges made to their constituents. Jack Straw would be one of the few MPs that actually has any real influence I think.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 8:01pm

    Hmm….not many nurses and midwives mentioned on this list – and only 1 in 7 affected

    Not sure that I have much sympathy with barristers either….

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/23/labour-plan-to-curb-mps-outside-work-could-affect-90-parliamentarians

    I think it also backs up some of Caron’s comments about this being a minority and so I would not think that Miliband’s plan is going to cause the catastrophe some of the more reactionary of the posts have suggested.

  • Philip Thomas 23rd Feb '15 - 8:16pm

    Being a paralegal and harbouring ambitions for the Bar, I have a great deal of sympathy for barristers, so take this with a pinch of salt, but so long as we have law officers (the Solicitor General, the Attorney General) as sitting MPs in parliament, we’re going to need MPs who are practising lawyers.

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 8:20pm

    philip thomas

    why?

    why not ex lawyers?

    If lawyers then why not making sure we have a few scientists, engineers, cleaners, social workers, teacher etc, etc. Why are practising barristers so important that they should be allowed to earn an extra 100K but not anyone else?

    Sure we could find a few ex-barristers….if not ,suggests that they only follow the money…..

  • “My contract says I cannot take up a second employment without asking permission – are you going to ban this clause from work contracts?” stuart moran 23rd Feb ’15 – 4:10pm

    Why not?
    I’ve always deleted this clause and made amendments to several others that limit what I can do with my time and knowledge – signing and dating the revisions and sending the agreement back. The employer is always free to: sign and accept, ask and negotiate or refuse out-right. Remember many of the same arguments that were used against zero hour contracts apply to other employment contracts. namely if the contract places a restriction on my ability to work then there is a price on that restriction.

    I’ve taken my lead from business thinkers such as Charles Handy who wrote about “portfolio workers” in the late 1980’s – so it’s hardly a new concept.

  • Philip Thomas 23rd Feb '15 - 8:35pm

    Stuart Moran, because the Attorney General and the Solicitor General are practising lawyers who fight cases (the Attorney General frequently representing the government before the highest courts in the land).

    Now, you could change that- make the law officers non lawyers, just as the Lord Chancellor is now a non lawyer: but the example of Chris Grayling is not a happy one!

  • stuart moran 23rd Feb '15 - 8:44pm

    Philip Thomas

    see what you mean now

    Never believed these should be sitting MPs anyway…more of an executive role than political

    Can’t disagree with you about Grayling

  • John Roffey 23rd Feb '15 - 9:23pm

    stuart moran 23rd Feb ’15 – 7:37pm

    ‘I was not getting into a debate on female only shortlists etc but the fact is they are unrepresented and it needs dealing with’.

    Stuart – I appreciate that that is the case – however, it is difficut to compartmentalise if you are commenting on LDV – the public forum for the Liberal Democrats.

    One of the interesting observances that arose during the day [I think from an interview with Jack Straw] was that, having arrived at Westminster and settled in, an ambitious new MP of the two main parties has two choices – either they decide to improve their circumstances by supporting their leader’s every ambition [lobby fodder] with the aim of becoming a minister or shadow minister [and thereby receiving additional pay] or finding ways of performing their parliamentary duties in the most perfunctory manner – thereby leaving themselves as much time as possible to earn money outside of parliament.

    These are likely to be the outcomes if an ambitious MP’s salary is not commensurate with the the job – either that or they are not really up to the task.

    One would hope that capable individuals wishing to stand as an MP would do so as a public service – recognising that they could earn more outside of parliament – but the ‘public service’ element was more important to them than maximising their earnings.

    It did seem that, prior to joining the Coalition, this was the case for the majority of Liberal Democratic MPs who did hold onto their seats as a result of dedication to the problems of their constituents. This reputation has clearly been undermined by their support of punitive Tory policies relating to the weakest and most vulnerable in society and has placed the Party in its present predicament.

    What was not mentioned in the Dispatches program – or the discussion on C4 News tonight – was the attendance of high ranking politicians, whilst in office, who attend the ‘anything but transparent’ Bilderberg meetings who – having left office find that they can command £70,000 or £100,000 fee for a speech! This aspect makes that revealed by Dispatches seem small beer.

    Can we assume that Osborne, a regular attendee of the Bilderberg meetings even as Chancellor – must be looking forward to some very large pay cheques once his term in office is over!

  • Philip Thomas 23rd Feb '15 - 9:35pm

    Being an MP cannot be a full time job, because if it was then Cabinet Ministers would not have any time to perform their governmental functions. MPs need to be connected to the real world not the Westminster bubble. Going back to the lawyers, since Westminster is the law-making assembly, surely it is worth having a few people who understand the law- not just theory but how it works in practice?

  • Stuart Moran

    I don’t understand your comment at 7:18 are you under the impression that I am happy about Cameron (or possibly Lamont) if so I don’t know where that came from.

  • stuart moran 24th Feb '15 - 5:17am

    Psi

    You throw up a criticism of Miliband linked to a role had as a treasury adviser but I pointed out that Cameron held the same under Lamont

    Firstl,y I do not see the relevance of the Miliband comment to the point at hand – secondly I cannot remember you saying here that you do not trust anything Cameron does based on his own background – which includes skulking behind lamont during the ERM debacle

  • Richard Sangster 24th Feb '15 - 7:48am

    The real problem is that lobbying needs to be regulated.

  • Richard Sangster
    Our party did not play a heroic role in the creation of the “gagging” law recently, when what was required was a law to regulate lobbying, which, of course, the Tories opposed root and branch, and diverted anger over lobbying against charities and pressure groups, which by and large do their influence in public, in the open, and generally without the influence of big money.

  • I bet there are a lot of people who wouldn’t mind earning £67,000 a year for doing a job they love with the perks of subsidised meals and booze plus expenses.

    http://www.parliament.uk › About Parliament › About MPs & Lords › MPs
    ‘The basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2014 is £67,060. MPs also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency’.

    Straw and Rifkind’s inflated egos have tripped them up.. They may not have broken any Parlimentary rules but they certainly deserve the contempt of the public and the anger of hardworking politicians.

  • Stuart Moran

    We are at risk of taking this off topic. The reason I have criticised Miliband and not Cameron is that you specifically referenced Milliband’s proposal. I have yet to see a Cameron proposal (which in itself is telling) I would be unlikely to trust a proposal he came out with, due to the styly if his responce to the expences scandal. Which to me seemed to me to be purely opotunistic and not focused on solving something the public was concerned about.

    Your assumption that if I don’t like a Labour idea I must like the Tory option may make sense to people posting on LabourList or ConservativeHome as they see the world in monochrome on here I have found most people are happy to view that life is rainbow coloured and there are many possible providers of options.

  • Peter Reynolds 24th Feb '15 - 9:39am

    Your claim is probably accurate but only just.

    A very large minority of MPs are self-serving, out of touch and have no interest in their constituents, merely in advancing their careers.

    We should cut the House of Commons in half, at least. Double MPs’ salaries. Ban all second jobs and consultancies. Limit donations to £10,000. Make voting compulsory

    It will never happen because MPs won’t let it. Self-service is the name of the game.

    Sadly, the mother of parliamentary democracy now has advanced Alzheimer’s and isn’t going to die for many years yet.

  • Stuart

    The relevance of the fact Milliband worked for Brown at the treasury while they produced a massively more complex tax system full of holes is that the stock Labour responce is a complex rule system which doesn’t work.

    I equally could cite that the Labour responce to the expenses scandal was amother rule system overseen by a worthy. The right responce would have been transparency along with a right of recall. Comeron’s responce was to try and make political capital but with no clear push for empowering voters. When Cameron responds to the latest event we will be able to pick appart his proposal too but for now Miliband has put forward the empty stock establishment responce so he gets it in the neck for now.

    Btw I wouldn’t see Lamont as obcessed with rules so I wouldn’t use that example that is more appropriate to demonstrate Cameron’s lack of gravitas on economic issues.

  • Jane Ann Liston 24th Feb '15 - 10:15am

    A few thoughts:

    Stuart Moran – I understand that advocates/barristers earn considerably more than an MP, as Ming Campbell has observed and also the late Nicholas Fairbairn. Therefore, they are taking a drop in salary when they become an MP and can’t practise so much. Yes, that is their choice, but the alternative would be Westminster being denied their expertise.

    I agree with STV, but the UK voters democratically decided, for whatever reason, that they did not want to advance even the first step towards it (AV), by nearly 2 to 1. They must therefore have agreed that safe seats were a price worth paying to retain FPTP (or to ‘punish’ some political party or another).

    For many, perhaps most MPs, though, their seats are not safe. Their careers could therefore be just 5 years, so it would be a bit of a gamble giving up a better-paid job (such as a head-teacher, for example), for such a short time, especially if it had a bad effect upon their original career prospects. Caron makes a good point with the example of midwives having to deliver x number of babies per year, otherwise they lose their registration and presumably would have to undergo some extra training to catch up to get it back.

    I wonder whether MPs could learn from the councillors code of conduct? Declarations of interest seem to be much stricter, with a member having to withdraw from any discussion/decision should they make such a declaration. An interest can be somewhat tenuous as well, such as if you are ex officio a member of what used to be called a school board (parent council?), then should said body object to, say, a burger van being parked outside the school at break time, then you must withdraw from deciding said van’s licence, even although you took no part in the school board’s decision to object. No question of buying/selling votes and getting away with it at that level of government ! Nor are former councillors eagerly courted by business to take well-paid jobs based upon their experience once they demit office, unlike we are led to believe happens to ex-MPs.

    So, for many, becoming an MP is a career gamble. Nevertheless, a stricter code of conduct, such as mentioned above, should be able to regulate external earnings and guard against abuse.

  • There should be complete openness about MPs doing extra work, but I wouldn’t ban it. If as a result they don’t work enough on the job of being an MP, voters can chuck them out. Insisting MPs do nothing else leads to a House of Commons entirely populated by career politicians who went from further education to be a researcher or a SPAD. It’s not unreasonable that an MP who might be left unemployed at the age of 50 at the next election can keep his/her hand in at some other kind of work.

    Straw and Rifkind, though, should have been clear they would undertake no lobbying or wheel-greasing till after they ceased to be MPs. Maybe they did.

    The common and spreading belief that “they’re all the same” is profoundly undermining of democracy because it tells votes nothing can be done and there is no point voting for someone honest against someone dishonest. There are commercial interests which deliberately spread this attitude to weaken the ability of the democratic state to rein them in.

  • “Between now and the election, all MPs outside earnings will be under scrutiny. We should make sure we have a proposal to deal with this, if not in the same way as the Labour proposal, in such a way as we are not shown to be part of the problem, and we should make sure our house is in order – now.” John Barratt

    Having read the BBC articles and the Dispatches news release (Linked to from the BBC article), it is obvious that with so many MP’s either stepping down or actively investigating Plan-B: “what will I do if I don’t get re-elected in May”, it is obvious that we are likely to see more stories like this in the coming weeks. To me therefore this is largely a non-story as no agreement was reached and no transaction occurred.

  • I have no problem in ‘principle’ with MP’s earning from other jobs – However, what I am concerned with is the issue of public money – ie expenses, staff costs being used.

    If an MP is carrying out work outside of ‘Parliamentary/Constituency’ boundaries, but for example members of his/her office staff are dealing with enquiries/negotiations etc, then how is this declared, ensuring that the proportion of staff time is not claimed for from public money? I am a little cynical that ‘expenses creep’ could start to enter the equation. If an MP has a speaking engagement in London, travels to Westminster first then goes onto an engagement and travels home, the main ‘proportion’ of travel could be claimed from public money as he/she had travelled to/from Westminster, or indeed if living expenses are being claimed, what is the issue of using their rented accommodation to undertake other work while they are there?

    I am not saying that this occurs on a regular basis, but given the history there is with MP’s rightly or wrongly claiming expenses, I think that from a ‘Public’ perspective it could be perceived that they are benefiting by being able to to carry out other work at the public expense.

  • Some good points in this – which I think shows how difficult it would be to have an outright ban, however desirable it might be. Jane Ann Liston makes a good point, though – certainly in Scotland the Councillors’ Code of Conduct is stricter than anything MPs have to abide by, so if we expect a certain level of behaviour from Councillors why not MPs too?

    For those like doctors, nurses, teachers, etc who need to keep up a certain number of hours to keep their professions – essential if you are not in a safe Tory or Labour seat – then there could be an exception provided they are doing essentially the same job as prior to their election. You do also have to consider those who do things like write books – as John Barrett points out, why shouldn’t they complete this in their spare time? People like William Hague, Vince Cable and Simon Danczuk are three examples of MPs who have written books on different things, but all of which have contributed to a debate on the topics covered.

  • John Barrett 24th Feb '15 - 2:52pm

    It may be that after May the thought of a second job will probably not be the big issue for many of those who are elected, as the risks have been clearly exposed. As with the expenses issue, being within the Parliamentary rules is simply not good enough.

    For the many good Liberal Democrat MPs at Westminster, let us hope they still have a first job.

  • It seems to be the accepted practice among Executive Directors of large companies to take on non-executive directorships of other large companies. As long as this is accepted practice, it is difficult to object to MPs doing the same. This is another example of one rule for one group of people, and another for the rest of us.

    My solution would be to ban Executive Directors of large companies from taking outside directorships, or limit the number, time or remuneration. It would then become less politically acceptable for MPs to take on more than a small amount of extra work .

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Feb '15 - 9:40am

    David

    I’m particularly appalled at hearing about what Jack Straw is alleged to have done.

    So, if you live in his constituency, don’t vote for him. Don ‘t vote to re-elect any MP who you think isn’t doing the job due to spending too much time on other things. Don’t vote for any candidate who isn’t absolutely clear that she or he will stick to the one job if elected and will not take any further money for doing anything.

    Fine, but what if this means not voting for the candidate of the party whose general principles you support more than other parties? Vote for an independent candidate who say she or he stands for the same principles but will not make money in the way Jack Straw wanted to make it. Make it clear in advance that is what you will do, in the hope of encouraging such a candidate to stand. Ah, but now the problem – probably most voters are not informed enough to be aware of such issues, most will just go to the polling station and put their cross against the party symbol without thinking of individual candidates, an independent candidate is unlikely to be able to raise enough support and get enough campaigning activity done to seriously challenge the main party candidate. Well, you might still want to do so s a gesture and see how many other people join you, but then comes that big thing, in doing so you might “split the vote” and so “let in” the candidate of the party whose principles you least like.

    We had a solution to that problem, had we had adopted it we could have had independent challengers like this. It is called the Alternative Vote system, and the British people when given a chance to have it turned it down, by two-to-one. Who do I blame for that – the two big parties and their supporters in the press who pushed the “No” side (well actually one of the big parties was supposedly on the “Yes” side, but kept so quiet about it you would not know, and let those of its members who wanted to prop up both big parties and so argued for “No” do all the talking)?

    No, I blame the “Yes” side and the incompetents running it, who seemed unable to make a clear argument for it using examples such as the one I give above. These people are useless. Who are they?

  • Stuart Moran

    I have just noticed I forgot to include a specific responce to:

    “Why are MPs any different from me?¨
    My contract says I cannot take up a second employment without asking permission – are you going to ban this clause from work contracts?”

    The Miliband rules overseen by a worthy proposal is not the equivolent of you employment situation. In your employment you are accountable to your employer. MPs are not and should not be accountable to officials they should be accountable to their constituents, they used to use this argument to avoid accountability. however as MPs have utilised the argument we should now enforce that

  • Sorry posted too soon:

    … Enforce that and implement many more measures as I mentioned above that empower voters.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPaul Tyler 26th Feb - 1:15pm
    These very welcome new ideas for reforming the second half of our legislature need renewed attention. Just because the 2012 Reform Bill - introduced by...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:11pm
    Yousuf Farah: been considering that balance, particularly given in the discussion it’s clear we are likely to need to engage in a “fight” sooner or...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:04pm
    David Raw makes good points on structure. Interesting discussion starting on the Lords on a new post on LDV today. Agreed with TCO - we...
  • User AvatarJohnny McDermott 26th Feb - 1:03pm
    Peter - good point on oil. Their economic model relied on it, whatever else they said. The crash in prices immediately after the referendum was...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 26th Feb - 1:03pm
    Here is an alternative way to bring in expertise, one which avoids the problems of democratic legitimacy identified by posters. The replacement for the HoL...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 26th Feb - 1:01pm
    Equally interesting here the thoughtful, original thinking of Michael Kitching and the quite different take from deep experience of Paul Holmes. So what DO you...