So, this time last week, the career of Owen Paterson was being ground up between the gears of the government spin machine, the administration was considering plans to convert the entire national grid to gaslight (think about it), and we were wondering if this rather delightfully retro-Nineties sleaze scandal could get any worse.
Our wonderings were soon interrupted and indeed answered when Sir Geoffrey Cox cried: “Hold my beer!“ Or, seeing as the cry came from the British Virgin Islands, perhaps “hold my planter’s punch!” would be more appropriate.
Sir Geoff, as I’m sure literally nobody has ever called him, had, it transpired, been receiving £200,000 a year to advise companies in the Virgin Islands how best to avoid paying British tax. In layman’s terms, he was getting paid five times as much as his MP’s “salary” to help overseas organisations stiff the British government. All this, while apparently benefiting from a special provision to allow him to cast parliamentary votes from the Caribbean at a time when, you will recall, Jacob Rees-Mogg was bodily herding coughing and wheezing MPs into the chamber of the House.
This latest “revelation” (I know, right, who would think that a party whose entire raison d’être is the preservation of wealth and privilege would resort to exploiting its privilege to acquire wealth?) has raised anew the topic of whether MPs should be permitted to hold down second jobs at all.
But if it is indeed the case, as a (wisely) unnamed MP told the New Statesman last week, that £82,000 a year is nothing like enough to live on, what sort of ETHICAL side gigs might it be acceptable for a Member of the House to pursue…?
I know not many MPs have what you’d call easy charm or an engagingly cheerful demeanour, but they are highly skilled in the art of talking to their audience as if they’re all four years old.
Have we missed the end of the harvest? Are our orchards still withering unattended since we sent all the foreigners home – sorry, I mean, since we took back control and reclaimed our sovereignty? Well, now would be the ideal moment for our staunchly pro-Brexit MPs to put their expensively tailored behinds where their overactive mouths have been all this time. Get your buckets and get picking, members of the House!
Of course, they will need supervising; as we all know, MPs have no talent whatsoever for sorting out bad apples.
Members of Parliament seem to relish bizarre and archaic rituals and terminology – if you’ve had to revise Thomas Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage Of Parliament, 1844 edition, then getting your head round a triple shot pumpkin spiced mochaccino skinny soy latte should be plain sailing. Besides, lots of MPs trained as BARRISTERS so it shouldn’t be hard to convince them that this is more or less the same thing.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking; there is no WAY you’d ever get a self-respecting MP – OR Matt Hancock – to get his hands dirty collecting household refuse. But hear me out, OK… two words: WILLY WONKA.
If we “leak” the information that somewhere out there in Britain there is a secret “Golden Bin Bag” full of cash-stuffed brown envelopes, our right honourable pals will descend upon the nation’s rubbish like… like… well, like MPs looking for cash-stuffed brown envelopes (my metaphor skills have deserted me upon realising there’s literally nothing more voracious than MPs on the make).
I’m sure, like me, you’ve watched some of the testier Commons debates, or indeed just an averagely fraught PMQs, and wondered if there might not be a better use for all the pent-up aggression and pinstripe-bottled testosterone on display. Well, the octagon awaits…
There’s just one major difference, of course, one adjustment the MPs would have to make… UFC cage-fighting has RULES.
POEM OF THE WEEK
Eighty-two thousand a year
Simply doesn’t get anywhere near
To the remuneration
Befitting the station
Of honourable members, I fear
You plebs simply don’t understand
That a measly eighty-two grand
Won’t pay for my wife
Let alone for my life
With my mistresses all through the land
The economy’s off down the drain
On the altar of Brexit it’s slain
But listen, you yobs
Though we’ve trashed all your jobs
We don’t want to hear you complain
Just because on the take I’ve been caught
There’s no need to be so overwrought
We’ll have less of your cheek
Eighty one quid a week
Is more than enough for your sort
So naff off and eat fish and chips
While with governance I get to grips
Our perhaps I’ll resign
To spend some more time
With all of my directorships