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Scarlett Nation » Politics » Part-Time Politicians and the Law

Part-Time Politicians and the Law

My attention was drawn by the usual Monday chatter of Twitter to a website attacking London Mayor Boris Johnson and his second job (or arguably, his first job, as he is paid more for his column by the Telegraph than his mayoral salary). Highlighting Johnson’s referral to a £250,000 salary as “chicken feed”, ChickenFeed.org.uk goes on to argue that the Mayor of London should have no other salary and includes Ken Livingstone’s pledge that if elected Mayor, he  will have no other jobs or salary during his term in office.

It is after this that I, as a fairly liberal person, become concerned. ChickenFeed.org.uk includes a letter from Ken Livingstone to the Prime Minister, proposing a change to the GLA Act that will limit the Mayor to a single salary.

Why should we impose by law how much work a person may do? With the right to withhold labour should come the right to provide labour. If Boris Johnson wishes to earn more than his Mayoral salary, then his situation should be no different to anyone who chooses to take on a second job. Providing that there is no conflict of interest, any individual should be allowed to work for as many employers as they wish. And even that proviso would be unnecessary in a world with complete transparency of lobbyists and interests.

The problem with Boris Johnson (one of many!) is not that he earns money as a columnist, but that by calling that £250,000 “chicken feed”, he has demonstrated how far removed he is from the lives and concerns of most Londoners. However, this is a political point to be made not a legal one. Candidates should legally be allowed to be as out of touch as they want.

There are problems when we rush to use legislation where it should be an issue of personal choice. However much I feel that it is a bad decision to be both Mayor and a Telegraph columnist, it is not a decision to be made by law but instead by the electorate. If a person feels they can hold public office whilst being a writer, a board chairman or even a school governor, they should be able to do so. It is then the responsibility of the voters to decide if they want someone who is holding more than one job.

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Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation

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