Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Second Jobs

It's not only Aditya Chakrabortty who can play the 'look over there' card.
Ed Miliband caused major ripples in Westminster, with a speech on Labour's union funding which raised the prospect of a ban on MPs having second jobs.
This is another traditional bugbear - particularly for Labour and the left. Tory MPs are more likely to retain outside interests, in the form of directorships and the like, when they enter Parliament. This is partly because their career backgrounds, predominantly in finance, business and the bar, are more compatible with a consultancy-type position than Labour-types (predominantly public sector, teachers, and solicitors).
At a time when everyone's glaring at Labour over their Union problems, it must have seemed a very bright idea to try and turn the spotlight on Tories and their second jobs. Fair enough. But I have a problem with the rhetoric on second jobs. The spiel goes like this:
Being an MP is (or should be) an all-consuming job. There can be no place for part-timers, or those whose attentions are divided and distracted by other jobs. Maintaining a job outside Parliament could also lead to conflicts between the interests of ones constituents and ones other commitments. Therefore, no second jobs.
Fine. So what about ministerial positions? How can it be incompatible with the position of a constituency MP for someone to work for, say 15-20 hours a week as a barrister (to keep ones hand in), but just fine and dandy to be Prime Minister? How does that even begin to work?
There are suggestions that Miliband might not be suggesting a ban on second jobs, but a cap on how much can be earned. This makes even less sense. It would be OK to work full time on a second job, provided you were paid less than the cap? What happens to 'unearned' income from investments? Hard to see how you can ban someone from collecting investment income while they're an MP.
I'm not quite sure that this really stacks up as a coherent policy...


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