Today the Guardian is running with a story about Grant Shapps having had a second job as a “multimillion-dollar web marketer” overlapping with his time as a Member of Parliament. It’s obvious why the newspaper is running this hard given we’re weeks away from a general election, but I want to talk seriously about this incident, its implications and the type of political system we’d ideally like to have.
First of all, there is no rule saying that MPs cannot have a second job while serving in the House of Commons, and nor do I think there should be. So Shapps having a second job while being an MP is not in itself, according to the rules on the matter, a breach of anything. There is some confusion over whether the job counts as a second job or simply as an outside business interest, and some confusion over whether or not Shapps had to or didn’t have to declare it and when and how he did so. But that’s not what the real interest in the story is, the technicalities of the matter. It’s about the idea that MPs shouldn’t have second jobs or outside interests in the first place.
In a democracy, this should be a simple matter: the people of Welwyn Hatfield, Shapps’ constituency, should be left to decide whether Shapps running around calling himself a marketing guru named Michael Green is a sackable offence by either voting to retain him as an MP or voting for someone else to be their representative in Westminster. If you don’t think this is a stern enough test, argue for a different voting system that holds MPs to a greater standard of culpability for their actions. Otherwise, you have little in the way of a coherent intellectual argument on the matter.
I suppose you could alternatively say that it should be set in the rules that MPs cannot not be allowed to have second jobs or any outside business interests whatsoever. Again, I don’t agree with that idea, but nevertheless you could make that case. The same people who argue for this to happen tend to think MPs are paid too much already and we should actually cut their pay. Or even better have them not paid anything at all.
Those who tend to make a case for this stuff are ironically the very same people who would be least happy with the changes this would make to parliament. Because essentially the House of Commons would become the preserve of very wealthy individuals who had no interest in outside business activities because they would see their time in office as a sort of way to combine retirement with doing something for the public good. So if you want all MPs to become rich pensioners, by all means keeping shouting for MP’s wage to be withdrawn altogether.
In the meantime, what should happen to Grant Shapps? I say let the people of Welwyn Hatfield be the jury.
Karin Robinson says
Hang on a second – this seems extremely disingenuous to me. On the one hand, you say, “let his constituents decide!” And I say, fair enough. Personally, I don’t have a problem with an MP having a second job while in office, provided that he represents his constituents well. So sure, let all the information be known and let the voters judge.
But Grant Shapps went to some extreme lengths to ensure his constituents WOULD NOT HAVE this information. He repeatedly denied that he had a second role, as I understand it, and used an alias in his work. So clearly he either does think that there is something wrong with him having these 2 positions or he thinks his constituents would think so.
It’s a bit silly for you to pretend the whole issue is “should have a second job” when the biggest part of the story is “he lied about and concealed the fact that he had a second job.”
This is so obvious it seems weird that you didn’t address this point, even if only to dismiss it, in your article?!
Katie Barron says
Also, I guess the worry is that all MPs and candidates might start having second jobs, in which case there is no real choice for the constituents who don’t like that.
Or you might not like him having a second job, but other issues bother you more, like you just want to vote Conservative. So then you just have to lump the second job.
Don’t think Democracy sorts everything out any better than The Market.
James Graham says
I agree with Karin. You can’t say the constituents should decide whilst also saying the media shouldn’t help them to make an informed decision about it.
Geoffrey Payne says
I also agree with Karin. He actually lied to cover up what he did. He should pay a price for that.
Toby Fenwick says
Nick, leaving aside the question of MP’s outside interests, and the question of undue influence in pursuit of future gain (see Straw, J), the issue here is not “Michael Green” at all: it is that Shapps lied, and lied again in order to cover up his actions. It is precisely this spin and falsehood (combined with convenient amnesia) that is corrosive of confidence in the body politic.
On that basis alone, Cameron should’ve sacked him from Tory Chairmanship. After all, Shapps is the “marketing genius” who 12 months ago amused us all so much at budget time with his “Bingo!” ad: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/19/grant-shapps-bingo-and-beer-joke-causes-twitter-storm
Jason Langford says
Agree absolutely with Karin’s analysis. Your point, Nick, that MPs are accountable to their constituents, only holds true if those constituents have the facts about their MP’s other interests, roles etc. Grant Shapps tried to deny them this information. As to the wider point, i personally would like to see MPs paid well enough that they don’t need to seek other employment. Not a very palatable idea with the tax-paying public, I know, but it’s hard to see how one can argue that “Our politicians are not good enough!” and at the same time argue that they should be paid less!
Web Page says
ไปภายในห้วงน้ำแคริบเบียดเบียน Web Page โน่นรวมความว่าเครื่องที่ดินไวรัสในตรวจทานเจอะเจอเมื่อเบื้องต้นเขตคู่แฝดปีแถวลอดลงมา Web Page และครั้งนี้กำลังกายแพร่ขยายฟรานซิสรามิเรซ https://TH-TH.FACEBOOK.COM/MOSSIGUARD ตรวจดูหน้าตาอาคารบ้านเรือนแม่สิ่งของเขาข้างในแมคกาต้มน้ำแลดูน Web Page คลำหาแม่น้ำลำคลองยืนไหน พื้นที่สามารถเย้ายวนใจยุง เขาย้ำเตือนตำหนิติเตียนอาณาเขตเคหสถาน