By Paul Goodman
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Sir Ian Kennedy, the head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Watchdog and the man charged with reviewing MPs' pay, says: “We must look to MPs to tell us what the job involves".
Aaarrgghh! If a man as distinguished as Sir Ian doesn't know what being an MP isn't – or shouldn't be – a job, what hope is there for the public good?
Think it through. If being an MP is a job, then it follows that he shouldn't be allowed to do a second job – any at all. That of course includes being a Minister of the Crown.
MPs would become legislators only. Members of the Executive would be appointed by the Prime Minister, who would have to be directly elected, USA-style.
Changes on this scale would require a written constitution – paving the way for an elected second chamber.
There is a persuasive case for such radical change – which requires turning all MPs into full-time, professional politicians – but an even more compelling one against it.
Namely, that MPs should be citizen legislators, free to earn and work outside the Commons, not professional politicians, who are dependent on the taxpayer.
For if you have professional politicians, you have higher costs to the taxpayer. You have more ex-special advisers and fewer business people – especially with current market experience.
In short, you have the political equivalent of welfare dependency. And, like welfare dependents, MP dependents will become lobbyists for more state spending – and thus higher taxes.
This has slowly been happening anyway over the last 25 years or so. The present Commons is a result. If you want more if it, you'll agree with Sir Ian. If you don't, you won't.
And if you don't, the best medium-term solution is to freeze MPs' pay and lift restrictions on private earnings – thus slowly returning MPs' to their original status as citizen representatives.
Romantic? Of course. But right. You can read more of how this could be done, and the status of the Commons boosted, here.