SHOULD MPs have outside jobs?

This question has come to the fore because former Chancellor George Osborne has just been hired as editor of the London Evening Standard. But he does not intend to step down from being MP for Tatton (salary £74,962). What he’ll earn at the Evening Standard remains to be seen, but it will certainly be in six figures. This is on top of the £650,000 per year for giving advice (four days a month) to an American private equity investor, BlackRock. George also does a nice line in after-dinner speaking. Last month he pocketed £51,082 for addressing the Flanders Chamber of Commerce.

Before I became an MP, I was for nine years associate editor of The Scotsman. I regularly put in 10-hour days, six days a week. Quite how Mr Osborne will find the time to edit the Standard beats me. As an MP, I’m back to working 10 or 12-hour days – often seven days a week. I enjoy it and am aware of the privilege of representing East Lothian. But being both an MP and the editor of a daily newspaper is surely a stretch.

What does an MP do? It’s not just about being in the chamber, though I spoke in 70 debates last year. Most of an MP’s work is done in committees. I serve on the Treasury Select Committee, which has oversight of the Chancellor, HMRC, the Bank of England and the UK financial services industry. We meet at least twice a week and there’s lots of homework. I also chair two All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), including one that upholds the interests of small business customers of big banks. APPGs are the real engine of backbench activity. This is in addition to pursuing cases on behalf of individual East Lothian constituents with Government ministers and civil servants.

And yes, I write this column every week and one for The National. I’m writing this piece after 11pm having just intervened in a late debate on the failures of Universal Credit. As I type, I expect George Osborne is delivering another lucrative after-dinner speech somewhere.