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Poor L’il Rich

November 8th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 1 Comment · Politics

Well who would have thought it?  Apparently ‘Dave’ Cameron’s plan to make his frontbenchers give up all their extra jobs is not proving to be popular with his frontbenchers.

The reasons for the suggestion are:

The Tory leader wants to reassure the public that his party’s leading players would not face any conflicts of interest if they form the next government. Some of his aides worry that the Tories risk looking out of touch with ordinary voters as they feel the pinch of the economic downturn.

But the frontbenchers think that appearing to have conflicts of interest and lookingout of touch is a small price to pay for having an extra income or two (or five or seven) to fall back on.  The usual self-serving justifications for such an arrangement are given again this time round:

  • Having directorships means you have MPs who are in touch with business
  • MPs who are not independently wealthy like Cameron and Osborne would have to scrape by on £61,000 a year

The first point is made in the article by an anonymous Tory shadow minister, who says:

It is a good thing to have experience of business, especially in the current economic climate. Are we really saying that we don’t want people in government who have been on a board and seen the pressures that companies are under?

No we are not.  Personally I am happy if an MP has such experience and has been a director before, but I don’t expect them to still be doing it after their election.  To be representative parliament should have members from a wide variety of backgrounds with experience representative of the population’s experience.  For example, there should be MPs who are doctors, but I don’t expect them to continue in general practice, fitting surgeries around meetings.  There should be MPs who are teachers, but I would not expect them to come home from a late session in the house and start marking homework.

We expect all these other MPs to be able to give up their old jobs but still remember enough about them to let their experience inform their debates and decisions, so why should company directors be any different?

But how many of these moonlighting MPs actually were directors before being MPs?  Surely some were, but just as surely some of them only picked up directorships after election, leading one to suspect they were chosen not for their experience and knowledge but for their contacts and influence – and that is why you get the appearance of conflicts of interest.

On the second point, the comments are quite laughable: “George has a trust fund – he doesn’t need a second job” says one frontbencher.  I earn considerably less than £61,000 and I don’t need a second job. Other ‘senior Tories’ say that they would not be able to live on £61,000 and if Cameron went through with their plans they reckon they would either give up their shadow cabinet posts or ask for handouts from Tory central office funds.

I think it stinks.  Even a basic MP’s salary is in top 10% of earnings, and that is without travel and other expenses. That anonymous tory frontbencher quoted above said “Are we really saying that we don’t want people in government who have been on a board and seen the pressures that companies are under?” but don’t the 90%+ of the population who earn less than £61K want MPs who understand the pressures they are under?

The Tory insider who says that they risk looking out of touch with ordinary people looks like being the only one in the party who knows what they are talking about.

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