Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Westminster’s gravy train may have slowed to an ignominious crawl but it hasn't stopped yet – at least some honourable members have made sure their pockets are well-lined, with directorships and outside legal work bringing in up to £18,000 a month.

Now, on the face of it, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t seek extra employment elsewhere – though their constituents might beg to differ. The problem is that they are earning extra income in time that could, perhaps be better spent on constituency and parliamentary matters. I, for one, would like to think my elected representative is concentrating fully on the job I pay him to do.

There is much to be said, however, for doing as one Tory MP has done and declaring £100 for ten hours of agricultural work. In fact, if MPs have so much time on their hands that they can afford to do outside work, why not make them do it in their constituency, among the people they represent?

It’s not a bad idea – make each MP do a few weeks of ‘work experience’ every year in local industries – really getting their hands dirty; not just a morning’s photo-shoot in white wellies and a hairnet - to get an idea of how the other 90% live.

Or instead of dishing out legal advice for hundreds of pounds an hour, why shouldn’t they put in a few shifts in the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or a Jobcentre? It might make them more appreciative of the issues facing local employers and workers in the areas they represent.

That, at least, would be some improvement on having a vested interest in the dealings of big business – if you’ve got a seat on the board, it’s a fair bet you’ll be working for the success of the corporation. And that brings us to another question.

These multi-nationals aren’t paying out vast amounts just for the decorative value of having an MP on board – they must feel they will benefit – now or later – from the deal. What exactly do they expect to gain that’s worth that sort of outlay?

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

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