Roy Bainton guest column: MP’s need to get in the real world

Tony Blair delivers a speech about Europe during a CBI event at the London Business School in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 2, 2014. The former prime minister warned that it would be "complacent and dangerous" to ignore the rise of Eurosceptics including Ukip, but said Britain must lead reform rather than sever ties with Brussels. See PA story POLITICS Europe. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Tony Blair delivers a speech about Europe during a CBI event at the London Business School in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 2, 2014. The former prime minister warned that it would be "complacent and dangerous" to ignore the rise of Eurosceptics including Ukip, but said Britain must lead reform rather than sever ties with Brussels. See PA story POLITICS Europe. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
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Imagine this. After being unemployed for a while, you land a new job. When you start on your first day, after an hour, you tell your boss “I’ll not be here this afternoon. I hope that’s OK. I have a second job to go to, but I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Your feet wouldn’t touch the ground. MPs with second jobs justify their position by claiming that it ‘keeps them in the real world’.

For the rest of us who live in that ‘real world’ such a comment is about as unreal as it gets.

Foreign Office Minister, Mark Simmonds, MP for Boston and Skegness resigned because he can’t get by on an income of £110,000 a year (a £90,000 ministerial salary and the £20,000-plus earned by his wife for managing his constituency office).

He says allowances of £27,875 a year would not be enough to maintain a family home in Westminster.

What ‘real world’ is that?

Of course we have many dedicated MPs who give the job their full attention. However, if planned legislation is passed after the next election, those MPs on the second job gravy train who disdain the idea of a parliament run by ‘career politicians’ - meaning politicians who do nothing more than the job we elected them to do - might have to wake up to the stark fact that their constituents come first.

Yet the second job problem cuts across all political shades. One of the biggest earners is ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, although records show his extra earnings go to charity.

Conservative MPs, especially those who moonlight as lawyers, declared more than £4.3m in earnings from outside directorships or jobs, whilst Labour’s second jobbers made a hefty £2.4 million.

Yet the real bonus of being an MP, especially if you reach ministerial level, is that once you leave the job, the world is your oyster.

The champion of post-parliament pocket-lining has to be Middle East ‘Peace Envoy’ Tony Blair, who trots around the globe in a private jet.

He’s worth £70 million with a country estate, a London townhouse, and other properties.

He’s a well-paid adviser to investment bank JP Morgan, and Zurich, the Swiss Insurance company. He’s the go-to PR man for wealthy governments and if you want him to make a speech, it can cost as much as £250,000.

So here’s a note for MPs earning a packet from a bank, law firm or PR consultancy. That is not ‘the real world’. The real world is on the streets of your constituency, where people earning less in a week than you pay for a lunch, thanks to policies borne out of your skewed ideas about income, are struggling to survive. Go and take a look, then like the rest of us, do the job you’re paid to do.

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