Parliament could be poorer if politicians can’t reach out beyond their day jobs – Daniel Johnson
The Tory sleaze scandal has unearthed a deep-rooted issue in our politics that should have been addressed a long time ago. The days of the old guard happy to make huge sums in outside earnings have no place in 2021.
The lobbying allegations against Owen Paterson have sparked a debate over second jobs and what it means to be a politician, with some claiming that it is not right for an elected official to do any sort of work beyond the remit of representing constituents. Though I would agree that working for constituents absolutely must be our top priority, I do not think the argument is as black and white as some would have it.
Whilst the sleaze scandal poses a real threat to our democracy, it runs the risk of making it difficult for those politicians with an outside interest to engage in worthwhile non-parliamentary work. Take my position at the ADHD Foundation for example – I do not take a salary for my work with the foundation but volunteer my time to engage on an issue very close to my heart.
Without allowing a legitimate cross over in instances like this, we run the risk of making parliament poorer with a lack of outside knowledge and expertise, with politicians who have never had a job outside politics and that benefits no one.
We must clamp down hard on any individuals using their elected office to earn money. That needs tough new rules. What makes me angry
is that this will inevitably run the risk of also making it difficult for MPs and MSPs to have outside roles that have genuine public interests and enhance their positions as elected politicians, like being involved with charities or maintaining professional qualifications such as doctors and nurses.
But this has to be done in a way that does not stifle the ability to do legitimate work where appropriate, thus enriching our politics and engaging with our communities. Failure to make this distinction will only harm our democracy even further.
Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern