One of my photos

Job-sharing MPs

September 12th, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

Another story from the Argus, and some more attention-seeking from Caroline Lucas who thinks that MPs should be allowed to job share.   The principle seems to be that other jobs can be filled by two people job-sharing, so why not MPs, which is fine but MPs never tire of telling us that it is not a normal job.Leaving aside the principle, I don’t see any way it would work in practice.   Would they have a rota for who goes to PMQs or votes?  You can’t have one doing the Westminster stuff and the other doing constituency stuff, so that would mean two houses in the constituency and two in London – unless Ms Lucas would intend for job-sharing MPs to hot-bunk like submariners do.

And what if a job-sharer decided to resign?  Would you have a by-election for the other half of the job or have the other one go full-time?

I would hazard a guess that the sort of people who want to be in parliament generally want to do it on their own terms and not as a semi-MP.  Even if job-sharing was allowed anybody who wanted to do it would find it really difficult to find somebody else of the same mind, and then find a constituency party who wanted a joint MP and who wanted both those candidates.

In fact I can’t think of a good reason why anybody would want to be a part-time MP, though I can think of a lot of bad reasons:

  • They want the title, but don’t want the work that comes with it or are not capable.
  • They want an opportunity to dodge difficult decisions or votes by always claiming it is the other half’s turn.
  • They want to be an MP but don’t want to give up their day job

Normally I am all in favour of shaking up Parliament, and dragging it into the 21st Century, but this is just nonsense.  If you really want to make the place friendlier to women then revise the hours.  Scrap the late-night sessions for a start and maybe sit 9 to 5.  This would also be friendlier to a lot of blokes.  MPs from a lot further away would then find it feasible to commute, thus solving another problem.  Banning outside employment would remove a lot of the motivation for having such odd hours, and be a good thing anyway.

Very strange poll in the Argus story though  It asks readers: should MPs be able to job share?

  • Yes it would get more women into parliament
  • No, being an MP is a full-time job

It leaves no option for anybody who might think it is a good idea but wouldn;t get more women into parliament, or who thinks being an MP isn’t a full-time job but still thinks job-sharing shouldn’t be allowed for other reasons, but the uselessness of over-prescriptive and/or polls is a whole other topic.

What I would disagree with much more is the caption for the photo with that story.  It says “INCREDIBLY SENSIBLE: Caroline Lucas”.   I suspect that any support the idea does have is from Brighton citizens who think it would at least give them a chance of a sensible MP half the time.

Tags: ·

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Natalie Bennett

    Declaration: I was the proposer of this motion passed today by Green Party conference.

    How might it work: simple – the law regards the job-sharing individuals as a single candidate – call them candidate A for easy of reference.

    They stand for election and the voters have the same chance as they have to scrutinise any other candidacy – you’d expect voters and the media to ask them how they plan to divide the work, how they’d settle differences, who’d be doing what etc.

    Assuming voters are satisfied with the answers, they elect Candidate A.

    Should at any time one of the job-sharers get into resigning type difficulties, then Candidate A as a whole resigns.

    What you’d get, as well as the opportunity for many people with caring responsibilities, or professions difficult to entirely abandon for a parliamentary term (e.g. brain surgeon), or disabilities that force them to limit their working hours, would be a Candidate A that in total would probably offer a broader range of skills and abilities than a single undivided candidate does. (Many people will know jobshare arrangements in which 0.5 plus 0.5 equals rather more than 1.)

    But ultimately it comes down to the voters – do you trust them to make a judgement if the offer is likely to work?

  • Skuds

    That only addresses one aspect – and would be tough on the remaining semi-MP if the other one got ill, resigned, died or whatever as they would suddenly be out of a job.

    In practice it is just twice the opportunity for an electorate to find something they disliked about a candidate, although in the majority of constituencies it wouldn’t really matter – somewhere like Horsham will vote Tory whoever is standing.

    But it still does not answer the practicilities of the division of labour (and multiplication of costs) and on votes of conscience where the pair could easily have a different opinion.

    I’ll bet more women would be tempted into parliament by a full-time job with sensible hours than a part-time job which virtually amounts to shift work.

    Even if this was a good idea, there would be many higher priorities.

    Why do we expect MPs to have a 24/7 job anyway? The senior civil servants who out-earn them but enjoy security and weekends off must be laughing as they watch their supposed bosses burn themselves out,

    Surely a better form of job share would be multi-member constituencies with PR, which would address several other inequalities at the same time.

    A very minor, and non-constitutional afterthought… I don’t know how Green party internal democracy works, but would such pairs of MPS get votes within the party or group, take turns voting, get half a vote each?

    The whole idea raises more quetions than it answers, and it is debatable whether it actuall y answers any questions.