Friday 15 October 2010

The unhappiness of a new MP

What if all you have ever wanted, all you have worked for over many years, turns out to be a huge disappointment? That's what the new breed of MPs have been finding out since getting elected in May. For some it is a huge letdown.

You don't have to go far to hear horror stories of MPs sharing flats as if back at university, others drifting deep into their overdrafts through fear of claiming anything at all on expenses, or working crazy hours seven days a week as they accept every single invitation to every lunch, dinner, fete or opening.

The Telegraph's exposure of the expenses scandal, and the subsequent villification of MPs by the public, may have made the job of MP one of the least attractive in the country. The fear is: if you treat people badly, what you get in return is poor performance.

Many had no idea what to expect from their new life and have received little support in introducing them to even the most basic fundamentals of Parliamentary procedure. Most didn't have a computer for days, an office for weeks, but were expected to start serving their constituents immediately.

Then there is the remoteness of the job. One new MP commented at Conservative conference, 'we don't know what is going on, I find out what the Government is doing from the papers. There is no communication from the top. It's amazing, once you get into the Palace [of Westminster] you feel completely cut off.'

The realities of a coalition government mean that some MPs who may have expected to become Ministers have been disappointed. Add to this the disenchanted new breed and very soon there is quite a lot of unhappiness on the backbenches.

The vote on EU funding earlier this week has been likened by some as a return of Tory Euroskepticism. Conservative Home has a detailed rundown of the debate and the full list of rebels. For many this was an issue of real importance on which they wanted to make a stand. Others were happy to find a cause which they were able to use to communicate their general unhappiness.

One seasoned Conservative campaigner said earlier this week, 'the Whips office has a problem. The A listers want to show their independence, others just feel lost. With so many old-stagers leaving at the last election many new MPs have no one to turn to.'

It appears the Whips office has a mighty challenge on their hands.  


  1. They are on over 60K a year for god's sake.

    If that's poverty what the hell do they think they are doing in attacking benefits recipients.

  2. I never claimed that MPs were in poverty but did point out that the way they are treated is unlikely to get the very best out of them. I recognise that £60k is well beyond the average wage in society but I hope we would want to attract the very best, of whatever political colour, to Parliament. At the moment we are driving away people who could make a positive difference to the country. If things remain as they are, they will only get worse.

  3. Yes. It was interesting/depressing how many new MPs are reporting exactly what you say. For years we were helping them to achieve their life's ambition and within months they are disillusioned or frustrated.

  4. I'm with you Ed. Monkeys and peanuts come to mind. Previous generations of MP's had a seperate income to bolster their salary and not make unfair claims. The last government destroyed any good feeling towards MP's when they opened the expenses Pandoras Box and then started to subject the guardians of this box to a series of unedifying and personal vilification thereby ensuring no-one was available to stop the licensed theft that a SMALL number of MP's were carrying out. Give MP's a larger basic salary or allow them to earn money elsewhere. Treat them as adults and not mushrooms.

  5. "Many . . . received little support in introducing them to even the most basic fundamentals of Parliamentary procedure."

    I wonder who you've been talking to?

    The House Service put on wave after wave of briefing seminars in House practice and procedure, publicised endlessly to new Members. Few, if any, took up these opportunities, preferring to rely on the wisdom of their predecessors, their colleagues or the Whips (who would far rather the newbies learned the trade from them than from the impartial House of Commons staff).


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