I thought it would be quite useful to publicly keep track of the earnings that I have made as a political candidate, including a source of any of those earnings.
Right now, it’s easy, in that I have not taken any money from anyone for doing what I’m doing. I intend to keep it that way. If elected, I will take a salary and make use of the expenses system for things like hiring staff, but I absolutely will not take donations from outside interests, as that could impact my impartiality when it comes to being an effective representative.
This doesn’t include donations to the Hillingdon Liberal Democrats who fund my campaign. Donations to them are ultimately their business, not mine. They have a separately constituted committee responsible for reporting donations and deciding on spending, and although I sit on the executive committee as a candidate, I make sure to abstain from votes on spending on my own campaign.
Part of the reason for this stems from the fact that certain high profile MPs have called for a doubling of MP salaries, which would mean that all MPs would be paid some £170,000 a year. To my mind, this isn’t entirely unjustified compared with politicians from other countries, but it ignores a major problem with the political process.
In terms of supporting this idea, the aim is to make it entirely unnecessary for MPs to take second jobs during their period in office. I can sympathise with this, as everything is extremely expensive these days (though the fact that the Conservatives are at least partly responsible for the crisis is not lost on me, nor is the absurdity of asking for a 100% pay rise while claiming that a 6% pay rise for the public sector would be too much).
This does not address a major problem though. It is fair to say that MPs are quite well looked after in terms of remuneration. The salary is well over the national average, the pension scheme is good, there are relocation and winding up allowances, plus a very generous expenses policy. On the flip side, candidates earn absolutely nothing. My campaign has so far been conducted entirely at my own expense, and that is possible because of a fortunate combination of background and timing for making property purchases and investments. Many people who would make excellent candidates do not have that luxury, they are entirely dependent on their earnings as an employee.
As a result, the time as a candidate is one that only people with a certain level of privilege can commit to. How many potential candidates are out there who would do amazing jobs as representatives of the people, but can’t commit to a years-long application and interview process with no guarantee of an income at the end of that period?
We are definitely worse off than we would otherwise be as a direct result of this policy. It would make more sense to me to take the proposed increase and put it into a candidate fund which could then provide income of, say, half of the MP salary for 6 months of campaigning for up to 10 candidates (I picked these numbers because 6 lots of 10 comes to 60 months, or 5 years, the usual term for an MP).
It’s likely that this wouldn’t fix all the issues of under-representation that we currently see, but it would be a far better use of public funds than giving MPs a pay rise when the ones already in post really don’t need any additional help.