For example, they may own a business or have a career that allows them to reduce their hours so they can keep their hand in while also doing their constituency work.
There is often little job security for those in politics and general elections can happen out of the blue, with the 2019 vote held just two-and-a-half years after the previous one.
There is also the argument that it is important for politicians to remain connected to the real world through work, rather than becoming professional politicians or, heaven forbid, members of the ‘Westminster elite’, aloof from the everyday realities of ordinary people.
However, it has now been revealed by Scotsman stablemate NationalWorld that MPs received a grand total of at least £9,446,000 between January 2020 and August 2021 in payments over and above their salaries. The highest earner was Theresa May, who made £1,299,000, mostly for speaking engagements, which she says help her to “maintain ongoing involvement in public life”.
MPs – or at least the 43 per cent who registered income from other work – spent a total of 56,487 hours on their second jobs, earning an average of more than £167 an hour.
All this suggests that the arguments usually deployed to defend such sources of income do not actually work for at least some MPs.
Some MPs are highly paid lawyers, financiers and company executives, and there is nothing wrong with that, providing they spend enough time on their constituents.
But, while lobbying itself is an important part of democracy, the buying up of MPs goes too far, whatever pretence is made about the real reasons for the payments.
As we said last week following the Owen Paterson affair, our elected representatives are supposed to represent our interests, not those of corporations that pay them large amounts of money, potentially to the detriment of rival firms.
All this cries out for root-and-branch reform and a system that ensures MPs’ second jobs are for understandable, legitimate reasons. Without such measures, the cynical perception will grow that some are trading on their status as lawmakers and doing little but profiteering from democracy.