Proper job

April 3, 2012

Yesterday there was a letter in the Daily Express (which I read only because my mother takes it, she hastened to add) asking for a law to be passed saying that MPs have to have 10 years in a proper job before they become eligible for election.  I tweeted that I thought this was a good idea and wondered how many of the current crop of MPs would pass.  Various other people suggested “being special assistant to the MP for provincialshire”, being “part of a flow chart drawing club” at party HQ, or “‘directorships’ they were in no way qualified for” wouldn’t count.  In other words, not something pink and fluffy connected with politics, but a proper job.

Wouldn’t that make all MPs over 40?  Not at all!  I started work at school with a Saturday job at a bakers and then at Boots.  It’s still legal for someone to start work as a paperboy or girl at 13, and to help with a milk round at 14 (and often hard to fill that kind of early morning job).  So I’d have no problem with a 23 year old MP who had started her paper round at 13, progressed to a Saturday job in her sixth form and done a bit of bar work at Uni, provided she did a few months full time shelf stacking or something first.

I wondered how the present intake of MPs would stack up against the Proper Job test.  Not well, I have to tell you.

Let’s start with the Quad.  David Cameron comes the closest, with his seven years at Carlton Communications.  Only seven, but an actual paid job, however fluffy.  Close, Dave, but no cigar.

Nick Clegg doesn’t even come close I’m afraid.  His official biography gives him “a brief spell in journalism” and some unspecified period as “a business consultant and part-time university lecturer” but it’s pretty clear that, at his age (45) he didn’t have ten years of space between his education, European experience and entry into domestic politics to fit the “proper job” criteria.  Sorry and all that.

George Osborne’s bio doesn’t seem to suggest a day’s work outside of politics in his life, so, no, George.

And the final member of the Quad, Danny Alexander?  All his work experience is, I would argue, outside of the “proper job” criteria on the grounds of being for political organisations – apart from his two years as press officer for the Caingorms National Park.  So, again, a fail.

What does it mean for the country that the four people who make the decisions on the Budget haven’t had a proper job between them?

(Twitter: @Tiintax – for the conversation about politics, tax and regulation, or @wendybradley for the same conversation but with added wittering about science fiction, train journeys, and Benedict Cumberbatch)

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