It has been widely reported that Alan Duncan MP believes that politicians have had to “live on rations” since the MP expenses scandal was revealed and that “No-one who’s done anything in the outside world or is capable of doing such a thing will ever come into this place ever again the way we’re going”. He has subsequently attempted to explain his comments away as being a “joke”.
It is a widely held belief in MPs circles and by many ill-informed commentators that MPs can, if they so choose, earn substantially more by taking employment outside of parliament. It is claimed that ‘restricting’ MPs pay rises and limiting their access to lucrative expenses will lead to fewer high quality people applying to become MPs.Ignoring the fact that, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, MPs remuneration already places them in the top 4% of income earners in the UK the claim that they could earn more in the private sector is simply unfounded. If it were true, surely most former MPs must have gone on to readily secure highly lucrative positions once they left parliament….
What Really Happens To Unemployed Politicians?
Published in October 2007, research by the School of Politics and International Studies at Leeds University investigated the experiences of Members of Parliament upon losing their seats (“Life after Losing or Leaving: The experience of former Members of Parliament” by Professor Kevin Theakston, Dr Ed Gouge and Dr Victoria Honeyman is based on a survey of 343 members of the cross-party Association of Former Members of Parliament in October 2006″ (* see my earlier post today 1.7.13 for the relevant links).
The findings challenged the common perception that former MPs readily find lucrative employment. About half of those who left involuntarily reported that it had taken between three and six months to find a new job and one in seven took over 12 months. Only 20 per cent said they were able to find work immediately or almost immediately. About 40 per cent of respondents experienced loss of income, with 20 per cent earning “about the same”. One third said they were financially better off after leaving Parliament. In Professor Theakston’s own words “Politics is a non-commercial career and our report shows that the idea that there are hundreds of ex-MPs walking into cushy and lucrative jobs is rubbish.”
It is about time that MPs recognised that, as they do not require the years of training of doctors, lawyers, accountants and other similar professionals they should not expect to be rewarded in the same manner. Perhaps if the current crop of party leaders paid more than lip service to the concept of public service we would have a higher quality of individual entering the parliamentary fray.