Should MPs take second jobs? Majority of Lib Dem members say ‘No’.

by Stephen Tall on July 30, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

54% of Lib Dem members say ‘No’ to MPs taking second jobs

Which of the following best reflects your view?

    29% – Some MPs continuing to do second jobs (in medicine, law, business etc) keeps them in touch with working people, and is better than having a House of Commons made up of just full-time politicians

    54% – MPs should be working full-time on their main job representing their constituency, they are already well paid and MPs taking second jobs risks conflicts of interest or corruption

    14% – Neither

    2% – Don’t know

A clear (though not overwhelming) majority of our sample of Lib Dem members — 54% — disagree with MPs taking second (or third/fourth/etc) jobs in addition to their parliamentary duties. That’s getting on for double the number of members who support MPs’ rights to take on additional paid work. However, a number of those who opposed MPs taking second jobs took to the comments section to disagree with the statement that “MPs are already well paid”: many said MPs should be paid more, equivalent to professions regarded as comparable, such as head-teachers or doctors.

Of the 14% who selected ‘neither’, there were a variety of responses, many wanting to retain flexibility – for example, that MPs should be free to take on second jobs as long as they didn’t take too much time, or if it community-based work, or that there were no lobbying / conflict of interest issues.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

A question of degree, being an MP should always be the most important part of their working life but to cut off all ties would be counter productive

As long as all other employment declared voters can choose at the ballot box.

I simply don’t care as long as it’s transparent. MPs in constituencies with light case work loads clearly can and do have second jobs without any obvious harm to their ability to represent their constituents. If you did that in inner London conversely your constituents would boot you out and that is the right way to regulate this.

My MP is a shining example of one who works full time as an MP, while making the odd music album on the side. No prizes for guessing. But I don’t mind MPs having other interests. I do mind when their other interests interfere with their political duties, and we have a lot of evidence of private healthcare firms buying up support in both houses.

People complain that MPs are increasingly career politicians with no concept of life in the real world, and then complain when they take work in the real world. Can’t have it both ways. (And reducing MP wages pro-rata when outside work is taken just increases the influence of business on politicians, and would be counter-productive.)

There is a boundary to patrol. I don’t think banning other interests is the right place to put the boundary. I don’t think we have yet found the right place.

I think MPs should do the job full time but they also should have experienced working outside politics. They should have experienced the impact of politics on people’s lifes and how legislation works before becoming MPs. I think there is a problem when people have done nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with volunteering in their constituencies or with charities, thinktanks etc., but I don’t see how a directorship with a hedge fund would ‘keep them in touch with working people’.

If being a constituency MP is a full-time job, how do MPs have time to be Ministers, Secretaries of State or indeed Prime Minister?

Don’t agree that MPs doing second jobs keeps them in touch with working people, but I don’t think we can ban them from having other jobs. The people who decide whether they are happy with their MP having a second job should, in the end, be their constituents who can vote them out.

It entirely depends on the second jobs. Can they realistically carry out their job AND be an effective MP? Does it have a conflict of interest with their role as an MP?

I don’t think an MPs main job is representing their constituency – I think it’s as a legislator. One of the problems we’ve got is that many MPs do have nothing else to offer and are just glorified untrained social workers.

We should know exactly what MPs earn on outside activities, and for how many hours. Their MP salaries could be tapered accordingly.

I’ve seen the workload of an MP at close quarters. It’s horrendous and requires unnatural effort to sustain it. If any MP can afford to give even five minutes a year to a second job, then there is something seriously wrong.

It should be up to voters to decide. Voters in Norwich South decided they wanted a full time MP instead of Charles Clarke who was pocketing many £10,000s of work on top of his MPs salary. If voters disapprove of this (and I think they should) they should let it inform there decision.

I mostly agree with both statements. I would rather have a good mix of MPs than career politicians. That said some MPs clearly don’t take their responsibilities seriously.

I don’t think there should be rules about this. But MPs should be paid more.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.