Mark Thompson's Mark Reckons blog is always thoughtful, well-written and interesting. He's certainly been one of the stars of the Lib Dem blogosphere over the past year. I really must get around some time to adding him to my blogroll, as well as one or two others like the cafe owner.
But (you knew there was a but coming, didn't you?) I think his posting today about stopping MPs from having outside interests is wrong. In a battle of the Marks, Mr Bureaucracy also takes issue with Mr Reckons. I largely agree with Mark V that it's none of our business, but I also have other concerns.
I want our parliaments to be composed of as wide a range of people as possible. If MPs were banned from having second jobs, I suspect the sort of people who get elected would become even narrower than they are already.
Mark Reckons does allow some exceptions, for people who have been directors of their own businesses who might wish to keep involved in the running of their firms. But if that's OK, why should a GP not be allowed to practise at least part-time? Given the vagaries of politics, they could be out of a job in a few years and face the prospect of either getting a new profession or having to undergo retraining to update their skills. Indeed, we've already had GP Howard Stoate deciding to stand down as an MP, as he feared new rules about second jobs would not allow him to continue to practise.
Or what about a journalist? Part of the job of a politician is to debate ideas and policies, which can be done through writing articles for the media. It seems rather unfair that a journalist who becomes an MP could continue to get paid for writing articles, but a GP couldn't continue to practise.
And if being a doctor or a journalist is also OK, why not a lawyer or a forex trader or an astrophysicist? By denying those people the right to continue to have paid outside interests, you're more likely to find they'll decide that standing for Parliament just isn't worth it in terms of the career sacrifice.
We already have a problem with politicians being drawn from an increasingly narrow section of the population, with student politics being followed by a job with an MP or a think tank, followed by election as a local councillor and then on into Parliament, and so on up the greasy pole. I want people in politics who have a wider experience of life than just politics. Stopping MPs from having paid outside interests would only make that problem much worse.
A walk through Montpelier, Bristol
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