Politicians and commentators argue that it is positive that our elected representatives have contact with the “real world” by pursuing other careers when they are supposed to be working for their constituents.
How many MPs maintain other work as cleaners, factory workers, trade union officials, nurses or teachers? None, of course. There are however, particularly among the Conservatives, many who retain major interests, including directorships, in businesses, as Steve Richards (24 February) reminded us. It is inevitable that such people are reluctant to seriously root out tax avoidance but are happy to see austerity being inflicted on the poorest.
Not only is an MP’s salary good compared with most people’s, but MPs can become “cabs for hire” and command huge sums as a result of “what they have done, what they know and who they know” when they leave.
With more people in Parliament from a background in the real world of tough, daily, useful work, we would have a democracy that better serves the majority rather than the rich and powerful.
I agree with those who say that parliamentary duties should occupy MPs full-time. However, I can also see that it can be useful for MPs to have had some outside experience to help them remain connected to the “real world”.
Maybe the answer is for anybody standing for election to Parliament to be of at least a minimum age, say 30. In this way maybe we could have MPs who can empathise with the rest of us.
Perhaps an alternative solution to the issue of MPs with second jobs would be to allow outside employment, but only on zero-hours contracts and paid at the rate of the minimum wage.
This would give our politicians excellent opportunities both to escape the Westminster bubble and to get in touch with their constituents.
Mrs Shane Malhotra
Would anyone mind if my second job were to be as an MP?
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
A fat cat leaves the Commons
Thank you, Independent, for your graphic illustration of the gross inequalities in British society (26 February).
The front page photograph of Douglas Flint, Chairman of HSBC, leaving the House of Commons after being questioned by the Treasury Select Committee had the perfect counterpoint in your front page article on the growth in zero-hours contracts, particularly among young workers.
When are we going to wake up and say enough is enough, and then demand real action to correct the imbalance?
Douglas Flint can be criticised for many things, but not for being literally fat. Today’s front page picture is unworthy of you.
NHS Manchester plan has pitfalls
The proposal to merge NHS and local care services under the auspices of Manchester has a great deal to commend it.
But beware! As we have found with local authority cutbacks, a large degree of financial control is still held at the centre. Inevitably, the passing of funding to places like Manchester will be squeezed back over time to “encourage” efficiency, and the blame for local cutbacks will be squarely with the local authority, just as today.
A very clever piece of subterfuge for “rolling back the state” further (and for avoiding blame).
In his opposition to the proposal for the devolution to Greater Manchester of health services, Andy Burnham betrays an alarming ignorance of Labour history.
When the NHS was in the process of formulation, there was a lively disagreement between the statists (led by Aneurin Bevan), who wanted a national system, and the localists (led by Herbert Morrison) who wanted it run by local councils, with the potential for integration with social services. Sadly, Bevan won; and it is only now, 70 years later, that common sense and localism have reasserted themselves.
If London isn’t good enough for Rattle
I completely agree with Rosie Millard’s comments regarding the building of a new concert hall for Sir Simon Rattle (23 February).
I have always considered myself to have a reasonable ear for music, even if not at the higher level of Sir Simon. I have been enjoying concerts at the Barbican since it was built, and have heard great orchestras with splendid conductors for all those years without complaints from members of the audience.
If Sir Simon wishes to conduct in a better concert hall than those in London he should stay abroad, because we have wonderful conductors in the UK and great conductors travelling here as guests with their wonderful orchestras.
Peter R Owen
If Sir Simon Rattle condescends to return to London only on condition that he has a shiny new venue to ply his art, he may acquire the sobriquet Sir Spoilt Brattle.
Here’s to a drink on the train
There are no restaurant cars left on the railways of Great Britain, but at least you may make yourself a reasonable cold meal and take it onto the train together with a bottle of wine and a couple of proper glasses.
Don’t get me started on “complimentary” food in first class. That’s served at the operator’s convenience, not yours; it’s not free, and lukewarm at best.
Banning alcohol on trains isn’t intended to protect a handful of drunks, it’s another stage in the not very subtle management of passengers’ expectations down to a railway of such banality that it can safely be concreted over.
Anyway, this correspondence reminds me of the joke about the drunk who, when the train of old slam-door stock came to a halt in the middle of nowhere, got out on the left-hand side and fell on to the ballast.
Drunks tend to fall in a relaxed manner and, this one being not much injured, the other passengers helped him (or her) back into the carriage. He or she then, muttering profuse thanks and saying “What a silly idiot you must think me,” got out on the right-hand side.
Light-hearted speech after dinner
Your report “Architects are branded ‘arrogant and egotistical’ – by one of their own” (25 February) is a serious misrepresentation of my intention. The reporting is at odds with the message delivered to the audience present at the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers awards gala dinner on 10 February.
I did not “launch a blistering attack on my profession” nor have I ever “attacked” such individuals as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid. I am astounded that my tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted, 10-minute address to a gathering of building services engineers could be taken so badly out of context.
The intention was to engage the 700-strong audience with an impassioned plea for the engineers present to lead the charge against climate change and to challenge all architects, myself included. The context of the evening, an awards dinner celebrating the wonderful, innovative work of the building services industry, has been overshadowed by a sensational misrepresentation of the sentiment. I am hoping this letter will rectify that and put the matter to rest.
Dr Ken Shuttleworth
Jihadi girls will remain dangerous
I couldn’t disagree more with Brian Mitchell and Rachel Schaufeld (letters, 26 February), who think the three jihadi girls shouldn’t be accountable for their actions.
It’s naïve to think that if they realised their folly, and returned to the UK, everything would be hunky-dory. They have chosen violent repression over western liberal democracy.Grace Dent was perfectly right to say the thought of their return makes her uneasy, as, should they come back, there’s no reason to assume they will suddenly be cheerleaders for Britain, and renounce their previous views.
Taking over the universe
They already have the Head of the Church, Head of the Government and a shoo-in for the Head of State. Now, they’ve got an Oscar! How did they do that ? Perhaps we should send only Old Etonians to Mars to establish a colony.