Controversial headline followed by a contradictory introduction. Please forgive me – politics makes me nervous and when I’m nervous I fall back on tried and tested methods of producing clickbait and encouraging readers’ outrage.
‘You don’t see an underfed MP’
Although MPs aren’t allowed to pay for duck islands on expenses any more, they still have a very, very, very cushy time.
Their free or heavily subsidised bars, restaurants, first class rail travel, accommodation and embossed writing paper are just the tip of an iceberg of freebies. MPs could spend their entire lives at receptions, dinners, parties, dinner parties, conferences, openings and meetings where nice food and good drink is always in generous, complimentary supply. You never see a knowingly underfed MP.
MPs are also allowed to do other jobs on top of their £74,000 (they’re getting a much-needed 10% rise, you know.) And by ‘other jobs’ I don’t mean stacking shelves at Aldi. I mean ‘consultancy’ jobs that pay £200+ an hour.
You don’t see an underfed MP. And you rarely come across an MP who isn’t financially ‘comfortable’. If they’re not minted, it’s usually because they’re being blackmailed, have a gambling problem, a drug addiction or particularly expensive tastes in prostitutes. Unsurprisingly, the MPs with all four of these attributes are particularly keen on ‘consultancy’ work.
Many ex-MPs are given a seat in the House of Lords – as long as they haven’t done something dreadful like having sex with children. Actually, some of its members have had sex with children, and continue to hold the ‘Noble Lord’ title. As Jim Royle would say: ‘Noble Lord my Arse.’
The Lords get £300 a day just for clocking in – they don’t actually have to do anything except turn up. Not a bad post-career gig, especially when you’ve got your gold-plated MP’s pension to live on as well.
An MP’s lot is not a happy one
But despite all this – if you look closely at the face of any experienced British MP – you’ll see they’re deeply troubled.
True, in many cases this is because the police are investigating unspeakable sex crimes, being rude to officers on the beat or perverting the course of justice (the three most popular crimes among our elected representatives).
But they are also deeply sad because of the very nature of the modern MP’s job.
An Oxford connection
I know – I worked for two MPs during a misspent youth thinking politics was a worthwhile thing to do.
I even went to a posh university to study the subject for two years.
My tutor – the improbably named and inveterately angry Vernon Bogdanor – also taught politics to David Cameron.
‘Nothing to brag about there then,’ you may say.
‘I wasn’t bragging. Just name-dropping – a subtle but important distinction in Oxford,’ I could respond.
Reasons to be miserable 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
So, here are seven reasons why being an MP in 2015 is a recipe for making you sad – and why despite despising our MPs, we should grant them their 10%. Good luck to them. They need it.
1. You have to knock on strangers’ doors during elections – and are usually greeted with less enthusiasm than a Jehovah’s Witness double glazing salesman who’s trodden dog shit up the householder’s path. On one occasion during my dabble in the political world, one of my fellow canvassers had his hand badly bitten by a dog called Vince – obviously brought up to loathe anyone who wasn’t BNP/UKIP.
2. You have to deal with the tediously obsessed, the lonely, the bored and the frankly insane. And it’s not just your fellow MPs and members of your party who cause you pain. An MP’s office is to obsessive mad people what a freshly laid lump of dog shit is to flies. And even if you spend most of the week in Westminster you still have to come back during the recesses and at weekends. And remember – these obsessives don’t have anything else to do apart from obsessing about their obsessions. Whether that’s the ‘injustice’ of their convictions, the ‘injustice’ of the judge revoking custody of their children or the ‘injustice’ of their next door neighbours owning a pet cat. Once they think you can help them (you can’t) they remain a deep and permanent pain in the arse for the entire span of your parliamentary career.
3. You have to argue all the time. You’re actually paid to be argumentative, obstructive and obnoxious – and you spend your time rehearsing the same tired arguments with people you instinctively hate from the other political parties – in TV and radio studios, at literary festivals and sometimes even on the floor of the House of Commons. Arguing – as anyone who has lived in a house where people hate each other – is intrinsically stressful. An MP is a professional arguer and therefore professionally and constantly stressed out.
4. Even though it’s your job to argue and make important political points, you’re not allowed to use your own lines of argument. Rather, party central command provides the slogans, phrases and statistics you must use if you are to be considered ‘loyal’. Staying ‘on message’ is far more important in modern politics than the ability to think or to have independent opinions. And the slogans must be intelligible to the average Sun reader.
- We have a long-term economic plan.
- A better plan for a better future.
- Hard-working families deserve better.
- We will govern for the many, not the few.
Are you asleep yet? I admit to nodding off after the first ‘plan’.
5. The modern MP has to tweet, update Facebook and keep the Instagram feed going. These updates must include a rubbish pictures of the MP with the most annoying obsessives in the constituency – with falsely positive captions like:
“Humbled by Arthur Pervis’ 46 years campaigning to get an oak tree planted on the roundabout near Tescos. Keep up the pressure, Art!”
No wonder MPs inadvertently post images of their naked genitalia on their parliamentary Twitter feed rather than on their personal Grindr page.
6. And even if you’re really good at your job – toeing the party line, keeping your constituency nutters happy, not posting pictures of your bell end on the internet and not stealing public money or having sex with children, you may still languish on the backbenches with no prospect of advancement.
Because promotion in politics is all about whether you can do seven-second soundbites.
People who enjoy talking in soundbites cluster in certain professions – marketing, sales, PR, the law and the media – silver-tongues crooks.
If you’re not one of them, you don’t stand a chance.
7. And finally. If you’re really successful as an MP and become Prime Minister, you end up on several Hit Lists. And it’s not just harmless lunatics who fantasise about killing you – it’s actual sadistic lunatics in ISIS and other terrorist organisations who may well actually kill you. And they’ll want to kill you even after you’ve retired or been thrown out of office. So you spend the rest of your life surrounded by secret service agents, wondering if a sniper is going to put a bullet through your head.
MPs – they’re vain, self-satisfied and sitting in First Class. But they’re not happy. Let them have their 10% – and breathe a sigh of relief you’re not one of them.
If this has depressed you, why not try my short jokes lists: