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How election paid off for postwar Tory MPs

March 24th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

A couple of Harvard PhD students have been studying MPs’ earnings, and seem to have come up with no great surprises.  They seem to have been using information from wills to see how much ex-MPs were worth when they died, and comparing them to will from parliamentary candidates who didn’t get elected but were in similar situations to those who did.  Something like that anyway.

Surprise, surprise, those who were elected ended up worth more than those who were not, but only if they were elected as Tory MPs.   Labour MPs appear to have ended up no better off than failed candidates.   Another one of those surveys that tells what we already knew, or suspected really.

The suggestion is that the MPs increased their wealth by “influence-peddling” for outside interests, and the authors say:

“We argue that Conservative MPs profited from office in a lax regulatory environment by using their political positions to obtain outside work as directors, consultants and lobbyists, both while in office and after retirement.”

They also say that those with outside interests also tended to vote less often at Westminster.

So far, so predictable, but I’m not sure about the next bit, which says:

Modern MPs’ outside earnings are much more heavily regulated and their pay and expenses are under permanent public scrutiny, unlike in the 50s and 60s

Its not clear whether that is the opinion of the PhD students or of the Guardian journalist, but either way it is trying to imply that all this profiteering by MPs is a thing of the past.  While it is true that MPs’ earnings are more heavily regulated and visible than before it doesn’t mean they don’t have any.  Some would argue that, despite more recent attempts to introduce transparency there is still a lax regulatory framework.

In fact the only difference I can see now is that a few Labour MPs have joined the Tories on that gravy train with people like Blair, Blunkett and some others picking up  some extra jobs along the way.

You don’t have to look too far from where I am sitting now to see that not much has changed. Nick Soames has his defence interests and below average voting record, Francis Maude has his umpteen directorships and well below average voting record, while the county’s only Labour MP has no additional jobs and a well above average voting record.  You can see why Henry Smith is so keen to get his snout into this particular trough – the Crawley parliamentary seat is a gold mine which is not being exploited at the moment.

If this study was repeated in 30 years or so, would we really expect it to show any change?  Apart from the few well-publicised examples, most Labour MPs would end up in a similar circumstances to their peers who were not elected and I am sure most Tory MPs will be seen to have done very well out of their tenure.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • skud's sister

    Interesting that they did the study of British politicians. I mean, I wonder how much the Bush’s or the Clinton’s are worth? Or if it has to be the dead ones how about comparing the worth of political and non-political Kennedys? (Hmm, Dead Kennedys – sounds familiar….)

  • Skuds

    I’m not a big expert on US politics, but aren’t most of the serious candidates for the Senate or House of Representatives, or gubernatorial elections very well-off already? If not personally wealthy they will have very wealthy supporters to raise a fighting fund.

    That’s not to say they can’t somehow manage to get even wealthier in office.

    For the talk of the US being the land of opportunity and classless, its a whole lot harder for anyone on average income to even become a party candidate there, let alone get elected.