Wednesday, 1 July 2009

How to raise the esteem of MPs

If an MP earns £64 000 per year should this stop them working elsewhere and receiving an extra salary? At first glance the answer is yes. How dare they become a part-time MP for what is a very demanding job. However there is a defence that a career in politics is not a stable occupation and the MP may be unemployed at the next election. If they continued to spend a little time carrying out their second career then no harm will come of it and the constituents will continue to receive a good, if not excellent service from their MPs. An even stronger argument is why shouldn't an MP do what they want in their own time?

An MP must do enough to keep the nomination of the party to which they belong and then they must work hard enough to convince the electorate that they deserve another chance to represent them. The problem is that many MPs don't have to do much to overcome both hurdles and so can perform poorly as an MP and get very rich in the process. This doesn't do much for the esteem of our politicians.

So here is my answer. Let us expect our MPs to work a full working week, say 40 hours. Don't count travelling time because that's what they signed up to do when they stood for election and if they don't like travelling then they have a second home to make life easier for them. Of course they can count time on a train if they are working at the same time as travelling. When I go to work my employers have always known how many hours that I have worked. Let the same principle apply to MPs. Make them publish their hours as well as their expenses.

MPs may do a full working week but I would expect the ones that are really interested in doing a good job to do a lot more than this. You can count working at Westminster, working in the constituency office, knocking on doors, holding surgeries, going to public meetings and even sitting on the back benches. There is a lot that they can put down as official work. I expect we would find many of them would be doing 80 hours per week and we may start to appreciate our MPs more.

Once we have this information and the MPs are full-time, then they can start to think about doubling their salary or multiplying it by ten by working elsewhere, but their Westminster work has to come first.

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