Sunday, January 16, 2022

I applied for the election of MPs – the job is a privilege, not a burden

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Too many Tory MPs pretend it’s a tedious, uncomfortable part-time job

It’s as if being an MP is the tiresome, uncomfortable side job, or the window-window lossleader that’s the gateway to all these lucrative goodies.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sir David Amess. Just a few weeks ago we were having warm conversations about how to value our MPs and how to sack them after his tragic assassination. Now we are understandably angered by the endless revelations about MPs wasting money on second, third and fourth jobs.

One of the most noticeable things about Amess was that he was not a minister and that he was okay with that. In fact, he seemed perfectly satisfied with being “just” a good constituency MP. The word “only” should not be used ruefully or regretfully in this context. It is a privilege to make it into parliament – not a terrible burden. These two magical letters after your name are a golden ticket to one of the most interesting worlds you can imagine.

You’ll get a nice salary, lots of support, and the opportunity to make a name for yourself on TV and radio, to delve into subjects that matter to you, to meet insanely interesting people, and to make history. And if you don’t mind any of that, you can just have a really good time zipping around a beautiful building with subsidized food, alcohol, and non-stop lunches, receptions, and parties.

This is not a hardship. And most MPs who leave or lose their seat miss it desperately, knowing that nothing they ever do will be anywhere near as fascinating or funny. That is why the competition is so tough – I should know, I tried three times to be selected as a Labor candidate and I failed.

I lost to great women, but I soaked it up and made my peace with it. I know so many people from across the political spectrum who have spent so much money, time and energy becoming MPs, many of them women, blacks or Asians, and from the working class. Don’t pretend that being “just” an MP is a bit of a nuisance. For many from underrepresented groups, it would be a dream come true and we would devote every waking hour to the job.

And as Sir David has shown, if you are not a minister you are not a failure. You can set the agenda of select committees and you can have great success from the backbenches like Carolyn Harris, who has done great work on problem gambling, helped grieving parents get help with funeral expenses and only a few weeks ago persuaded the government to cut the cost of HRT for women in England. I can’t imagine she could do that if she had three counseling centers along the way. Imagine what good Sir Geoffrey Cox QC could have done to help insolvent legal aid services instead of being busy raking in millions of pounds.

It is important to say that these are not just MEPs, as one politician texted me today. It’s a small group of arrogant, complacent and greedy individuals, mostly from the ruling party. My message to them is that if get-rich-quick is your heart’s desire, go after your dreams – and let someone who really “just” wants to be an MP try it.

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