Politics is a nice little earner – if you're a Tory

Harvard study reveals the financial benefits of winning a seat in the House of Commons

After revelations about duck houses, moats and fake mortgages, many suspected it. Now a Harvard study claims to have proof that the life of a politician really is a nice little earner.

In recent history it has been Conservatives who have managed to profit the most, according to Andy Eggers and Jens Hainmueller, who have calculated that a career gracing the benches of the Commons leaves Tory MPs almost twice as wealthy as their unfortunate colleagues who ran unsuccessfully for Parliament.

The study, published this month in the American Political Science Review, is thought to be the first to put a figure on the financial benefits of serving as an MP. It found that while the median Conservative member died with an estate worth £483,448, those who failed to win seats died with a total of £250,699, a difference of £232,749. By contrast, Labour members benefited by a mere £10,200. The two academics examined the personal fortunes of 427 recently deceased MPs who entered Parliament between 1950 and 1970 and served into the 1990s.

Their paper, MPs For Sale? Returns to Office in Postwar British politics, concludes that Conservative MPs profit from their time in office largely through lucrative second jobs gained as a result of their political connections. Winning a seat more than tripled their chances of being offered a job as a company director. Many enjoyed profitable retirements as firms bought them up. However, Labour politicians, who were more likely to take up posts with unions, enjoyed far less lucrative positions.

Sir Peter Emery, who served in Parliament from 1959 until 2001, accumulated several directorships during his career. He also attracted controversy in the 1980s over his links with a company gaining from government contracts and his indirect financial links with the South African administration. It was calculated that he died with an estate valued at close to £4m.

Sir Michael Grylls, who retired in 1997, was often criticised for involvement in lobbying work through his career, accumulating four company directorships that enabled him to build up an estate valued at £898,068. The researchers found that Sir Marcus Fox, who also retired in 1997, accumulated six directorships after he was sacked as a minister in 1981.

"The data makes us quite confident that the difference in wealth we observe between winning and losing candidates is due to serving in Parliament itself, as opposed to background differences such as schooling, family circumstances etc," said Mr Hainmueller. "Being in office was lucrative for Conservative politicians because it endowed them with political connections and knowledge that they could put to personal financial advantage."

Mr Eggers said that the parliamentary salary received by MPs, which currently stands at just under £65,000, was only part of what they gained financially from the job. "We focus on the outside employment MPs enjoy, which we are able to show directly resulted from their political roles, but liberal use of allowances of various kinds certainly could have helped make serving in Parliament pay off for some MPs," he said.

He added that regulating the financial gains of politicians was a "challenge" in every country. He pointed out that US congressmen were paid around 50 per cent more than MPs, but were subjected to much stricter rules on second jobs. "Members of Congress haven't been able to take on paid directorships since the late 1970s," he said.

Tory rich list

Sir Peter Emery was in parliament from 1959 to 2001. His estate was valued at close to £4m.

Sir Michael Grylls was an MP for 27 years, leaving in 1997. He built up most of his £898,000 fortune via four directorships.

Sir Marcus Fox was also in parliament between 1970 and 1997. On his death his estate was valued around £770,000. All amounts are at 2007 prices.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen