Why we shouldn’t ban MPs from having second jobs

by Stephen Tall on July 9, 2013

Ed Miliband, attempting to turn the row over alleged candidate fixing by Unite to his advantage, has proposed ending the right of MPs to have second jobs:

“The question of MPs’ second outside jobs has been discussed but not properly addressed for a generation. The British people expect their MPs to represent them and the country and not anyone else. Can it be right that rules allow MPs to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds form private legal practice while they are supposed to be an MP?”

As I wrote last month:

I don’t have problems with MPs continuing to keep up their pre-parliament professional interests. After all, politics is an insecure career and it’s only reasonable individuals can return to gainful employment if their constituents decide they should. Nor do I have a problem with MPs earning money from writing and broadcasting: politics is, after all, about communicating ideas.

Where I have more problems is when MPs gain experience in their role as an MP and then make money from it while serving as an MP. I’m not sure a ban is the answer (I rarely think a ban achieves anything more than shut up a Radio 4 Today presenter’s inquisition for 10 seconds). But it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

I’m not at all convinced that raising MPs’ pay will increase the quality of our elected representatives. But I’m pretty sure expecting those elected to cut themselves off from their careers is a sure-fire way of limiting still further the type of person who’s prepared to put their head above the parapet and stand for Parliament.