How MPs in safe seats pile up outside earnings

I’ve commented before on the huge number of seats that are safe for life (murdering your local party chair or buying a duck house excepted) – in fact nearly half the seats in Parliament have never changed hands between political parties even once in the last forty years.

That leads to all sorts of problems – complacent MPs who get out of touch and don’t have to work hard. It also means, as the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign has highlighted, more scope to spending your time earning money from other jobs:

“First Past the Post is a moonlighter’s charter. An MP in a safe seat, enjoying its benefits, can leave constituency cares behind and seek employment elsewhere. An MP who faces the threat of unemployment at the next election will be less tempted to graze in the pastures of lucrative consultancy.”

That’s the conclusion of former MP for Tatton and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell after the publication of research from the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign which shows that MPs in safe seats earn twice as much in outside earnings than MPs in marginal constituencies.

The Alternative Vote reduces the number of safe seats, making all MPs work harder to reach out to 50% of voters. The Yes campaign is launching a national advertising campaign and published names of the ‘hard working’ second jobbers in parliament who stand opposed to reform.

There is a clear link between safer seats (those where one party can be confident of victory) and higher earnings for MPs in those seats:

  • the average MP in a ‘safe’ seat earned an extra £11,000 last year
  • the average MP in a ‘marginal’ seat earned an extra £6,500 last year.

Outside earnings totalled £5.6 million last year, with the highest individual earner taking £785,000. Research defined 382 seats as ‘safe’ at the 2010 General Election, factoring in boundary changes. The figure was presented as a highly conservative estimate.

Meanwhile the Yes2AV campaign has released its latest campaign video, fronted by Eddie Izzard:

And a reminder of one of the most popular videos supporting the alternative vote doing the rounds at the moment – the one with the cats:

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