In my opinion: MPs must give up a lot and should be better rewarded
By Western Morning News | Monday, February 25, 2013, 06:30
I was interested to see Simon Parker's article (WMN Feb 2). I agree with much of what he says but I speak from the position of someone with experience!
Yes, MPs should be paid more. For holding an important and very demanding public office which requires them to put all else on hold, they should be better rewarded though the initial calling to even be considered for the role is not often 'the money' but a desire to be of service to their constituents and the Country. Perhaps it would be interesting to run a diary of 'my life as an MP' and then the public would appreciate how much work has to be done. I shall declare my hand here – I stood as the Conservative candidate for North Devon in the 2010 General Election. However, I have now 'retired' from such political aspirations and perhaps look back with appreciation that I was not elected, despite working really hard to that end! However, I do not say that for the monetary aspects!
The role for a typical back-bench MP is a pretty thankless one, as we were reminded seeing our incumbent the other Thursday evening at 8.30pm at Tiverton Parkway making his way to his car and home to his young family another fifty miles further, wondering who would be appreciative of his work that week.
Naively, I had not even considered what an MP earnt before I stood and certainly not the expenses received from the State. However, have you thought of it from the other end? The car has to be 'right' and pretty new and dependable, the suits and shoes 'just so', the house 'right' and in the right place.
However, there is another reason why I suspect absolutely well-intentioned, benevolent individuals are now not offering themselves for public office. That is, the excessive intrusion into private lives and financial affairs. Why naturally 'compromised interest' is wholly inappropriate but things have gone too far. I had nothing to hide but it is of no business of anyone else what I have and earn from outside interests unconnected to my public role (had I had one).
Then there is one other aspect whereby I suspect the average candidate is naive. I was prepared for the hard work over the four years culminating in the Election and as time progressed, devoted a growing part of my every moment towards the campaign, at the cost of my own earnings as well, no doubt (and a candidate is not a paid role so fresh air doesn't go very far!). However, local political parties are not 'rolling-in-it' financially (the exact opposite!) and cannot afford big bureaucracies to aid their candidates and I recognised that for something to happen, as well as a few generous people it still cost me personally about £50,000 just to fight an effective campaign. Even then, we couldn't match the incumbent MP's spend where central funds had been allocated to his cause! Still, before the critics appear, I can stand proud that I fought a clean and honest campaign.