The unedifying response by a man who is supposed to be running the Government, to a challenge on second jobs is yet more evidence that he sees his role to defend his colleagues and their lifestyles, and frankly is not concerned about the impact on people who depend on these men and women to represent them. When Ed Miliband proposed the ban on second jobs David Cameron responded by arguing first that the proposals did not prevent MPs from being Union Representatives, then he argued that they would prevent MPs from running family run shops and businesses. This is all bluster or flim flam as one of the worst offenders would describe it. As we already know, David Cameron argues that outside interests which is the way he describes directorships and consultancies are the way in which diverse experiences can be drawn into an otherwise anodine Parliament. Sadly we have no examples of these outside interests as volunteers in charities or in low paid roles in the service industries. The Prime Minister also raised the challenge of MPs also serving as Ministers, which is something that has changed over time. I am delighted that these men are discussing something that should shame the whole of Westminster. However they are mistaken if they believe it is their role to decide. That should be our role. My own views are simple. We don’t need a ban, we simply need accountability.
At the point of an election candidates should declare in clear terms what outside interests they have that they anticipate continuing beyond the election if they are the winning candidate. This declaration should indicate how many hours and in broad terms what level of remuneration they will receive for such roles. Bearing in mind that 5 years is a long time, it is reasonable to suggest that all MPs may change their arrangements over time. However some form of simple metric on hours and finances should be assumed in the case of all MPs. At the end of their term, sitting MPs should provide a clear statement of any changes throughout the term of their office. This will allow voters and them alone to decide if they want to be represented by full time MPs or part time MPs and what sort of outside interests they are happy for their representative to participate in.
On the issue of Cabinet level Government Posts, we as a nation do need a debate. Are we willing to have Ministers without the same level of constituency responsibilities (s0mething I would favour) or to carry on with the inevitable neglect that goes with senior posts.
Finally we should have some involvement in deciding how many MPs are needed. That is another matter which our current representatives have discussed without any reference to us. I think that is the wrong way round!