Conservative former Chancellor George Osborne was in the news recently having been appointed Editor of the London Evening Standard, the country’s biggest regional newspaper.
Despite this, he is to continue as MP for Tatton, on the other side of Cheshire, and he also works part time for City fund managers Blackrock, on a rate equivalent to £13,000 a day. So much for his famous phrase, “we’re all in this together!”
When he was appointed to the Standard job (where he’ll be paid six figures), the owner, Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev said that George would be “a strong voice for London.” Which presumably comes as a disappointment to his constituents who thought he was going to be a strong voice for Tatton.
George’s argument is that he can be the newspaper editor in the morning and an MP in the afternoon. To be fair he isn’t the only MP with paid jobs outside Parliament. Or even the first MP to be a newspaper editor, although the last one was decades ago.
But aside from the financial side of this, there is a bigger point.
Being an MP is a full time job. Or should be. I’ve only one paid job, which is being MP for the City of Chester. I travel to London on Sunday night and come home on Thursday night. During the Westminster week I get into the office just after 8am and the day is full.
There are debates and questions in the Chamber, undertaking enquiries in my select committee, examining legislation in detail in bill committee, or meeting businesses and campaign groups to hear outside views and learn from their work and experience.
Back home I have constituents’ surgeries every week (I held over 100 last year), I meet local groups and businesses, I visit schools and charities – again to find out what they need from me as their MP. And then I find a few hours to sign all my letters off from that week.
And I am not alone. Most MPs, from all parties, have similar working weeks.
George Osborne’s actions risk tarnishing all MPs. Members of the public will think “they are all the same. They are all out for themselves.” Which is unfair and untrue – but we have all heard people say it.
If you do this job properly then you haven’t got time for second paid jobs. Or third or fourth jobs. Doing one job properly is enough for me.