I love my job. Having the chance to represent my home town in Parliament is a huge honour. But there are times when I really do despair. Today is such a day.
Over the last four and a half years I have done this job to the best of my ability. I was very conscious when I got elected of the understandably low regard in which politicians were held and I’ve tried to do what I can to restore people’s faith. I publish all my expense claims and the supporting receipts so people can be confident that I’m not on the make. I don’t employ family members. I publish my diary so my constituents can see how I spend my time. And I don’t have a second job.
Most of the MPs I’ve met are decent, hard-working people. But every time there’s a story like this morning’s news about Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw, two former Foreign Secretaries, hawking their services for £5,000 a day, all that work is undone.
Sir Malcolm told the undercover reporters:
“You’d be surprised how much free time I have”.
As someone who struggles to find enough hours in the day to do the job and be a good husband and father, yes I would.
He goes on:
“Nobody pays me a salary”
which will come as a surprise to taxpayers who are paying him over £80,000 a year.
He then compounded his errors by giving a radio interview in which he implied he couldn’t be expected to live on his Parliamentary salary - far more than most of my constituents earn.
Jack Straw boasted to the undercover reporters how he “operated under the radar” and complained how it was “slightly boring” having to be transparent about his outside earnings.
Mr Straw has suspended himself from the Parliamentary Labour Party and David Cameron has withdrawn the whip from Sir Malcolm, but their remarks will no doubt revive the debate about whether MPs should be allowed second jobs.
As noted above, I find being an MP a full-time job. But there are other MPs who were lawyers or doctors or ran a family business before they got elected and don’t want to give up their old job entirely. There is an argument that Parliament benefits from this outside experience. So my view is that MPs should have to be transparent about how much they are earning from other work and who is paying them and their constituents can then decide at election time whether they are happy with this or not.
But my purpose in writing this blog is to let you know that many MPs feel just as angry about this latest scandal as you do.