Friday, 12 March 2010

Doing the double

THERE are regular stories carried in the media about benefit cheats – that is scoundrels who work while claiming benefits for not being able to work.

Government ministers throughout the land have tut-tutted about this, and regularly the Executive’s Information Service issue press releases outing those convicted of ‘doing the double’.

And now, double jobbing amongst the political classes looks set to end.

PUP leader Dawn Purvis’s Private Member’s Bill has progressed to its next stage at the Assembly and the House of Commons has laid down a marker about getting two pay packets.

But, for a moment, it is worthwhile considering what exactly is double jobbing?
It means that an elected representative holds more than one elected post. Leaving aside councils that means that several of our elected representatives are both a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and a Member of Parliament (MP).

MLAs attend (or should attend) plenary sessions of the Assembly and, if they are a member of an Assembly committee, attend committee meetings. MPs attend (or should attend) sittings of the House of Commons and, if they are a member of a Parliamentary committee, attend committee meetings.

They should also be available to hold constituency surgeries and attend to constituency business as necessary. In addition, they also need to attend to the commitments associated with being a member of a political party.

That amounts to a lot of work! It is a tribute to those that are ‘double jobbing’ that they are able to do so much work, retain so much information and concentrate during multiple debates, meetings, and clock up a carbon footprint equivalent to a developing country with flights back and forth to London.

Anyone audacious enough to suggest that our politicians couldn’t possibly do all this, under-estimates the intellectual capacity of such titans, deserves to be ridiculed. After all, our elected representatives can maintain a stance consistently inconsistent to what they said last month, table questions in two different legislatures, sign Early Day Motions, back debates and generally be there when needed.

Or are they… not intellectual titans! That much is… errrr… obvious. It’s just whether they can really jet back and forth, maintain focus and concentration and be there when a constituent needs help.

Either the flight to London and back is longer than we remember and they get a lot of reading done between airports, or they are not at all the meetings they should be at.

And, until the media started kicking up a fuss, no-one would have raised such scurrilous questions over whether the double jobbing politicians could cope with such strenuous lifestyles.

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