Farcical debate and party politics has blocked the potential for an extremely important development of the role of MPs
Labour’s call to ban MPs from having second jobs erupted in furious debate this week. However, as fast as it appeared the motion was slammed down in the Commons yesterday with a resounding ‘no’ vote. With Labour deeming the move paramount to ‘restoring public trust, it's certainly questionable whether MPs were right to reject the proposals so soon.
The vote on the matter which was held in the Commons Wednesday saw the government defeat the Labour motion by 287 to 219. The Conservatives raised many concerns with the proposal claiming it would decrease diversity. William Hague stated banning MP’s from having other jobs would only serve to create a commons in which MPs had either been ‘rich or professional throughout their lives.’ However, asking MPs to give up their day jobs does not mean that all that come through the doors of Parliament will be wealthy career politicians. What it would mean, however, is that they have a true, sole commitment to their role as an MP.
Whilst, yes, it is entirely profitable to have a Commons which is as diverse as possible this does not mean MPs should juggle representing their constituency with their day job. Sourcing politicians from all professions and backgrounds is essential to a truly representative government however this is not the same thing as asking MPs to maintain that job when elected into office. Whilst having a GP in Parliament with first-hand experience of how the NHS works in practise is ideal, having a doctor who juggles his time between Westminster and practising in his surgery is certainly not. The Conservatives have taken this debate out of context and stopped what could have been a really important development.
The fierce debate within the Commons was accompanied by jeers and cheers with it being a clear party division: Labour for, Conservatives against. Angela Eagle who proposed the Labour motion said it would be a ‘decisive break from the status quo’ of Parliament. She blasted the current system which is ‘riddled’ with grey areas- allowing MPs to conveniently bend the malleable rule book to suit their best interest.
The debate followed Prime Minister’s Question time in which Ed Miliband pledged that the ban would extend to include all Labour MP’s including those who are paid trade union officials. Showing their commitment to the ban Eagle added that the perception that MPs are only in it for ‘what they can get not what they can give’ cannot go on.
Allowing MPs to be half-an-MP half-something-else promotes not only a lack of commitment to their constituency but risks the danger of ulterior motives. It is questionable whether an MP can work impartially and devotedly to their constituency whilst they have vested interests elsewhere. Sole MP duty would promote a more efficient, professional and committed House of Commons. It is a shame that party politics and a farcical debate got in the way of what had the potential to be a real and encouraging development in the political landscape of this country.