Lembit Opik gets cheeky cheeky

June 10, 2010 11:10 AM


HoHoHopik Pity those ex-MPs who lost their seats or stood down at the General Election. After years spent in near-Dickensian poverty scraping by on a mere £60k+, with the stress of managing a free second home thrown in and often having to spend time with their families in the workplace as well as at home, they are now being thrown on the scrapheap with only a £47,706 lump sum each and a generous pension to console them.

That, at least, seems to be the theme of their defence against our report that exposed the sheer scale of their generous payoffs.

Here's Shona Isaac, ex-MP for Cleethorpes:

"I think what people have to bear in mind is that MPs get absolutely
no redundancy money, unlike any other job...As soon as we stopped being MPs back in April the money stops but
you still have outgoings, then if you've lost your seat you're not
entitled to any redundancy money."

That's a fascinating misunderstanding of the concept of redundancy. For a start, MPs are not being made unexpectedly redundant in the middle of a job - they are failing to get their contracts renewed at the end of a work period that was always clearly limited. Also, what does she mean by the idea that they get nothing, given that she's entitled to over £36,000?

Amusingly, she also goes on to make a remarkable confession:

"A backbench MP who loses their seat as a member of a party that's been
booted out of office is also one of the most unemployable people
in the country."

Pardon? I thought that when it came to arguing for pay rises, MPs were hugely expert individuals who could easily earn a fortune elsewhere? How convenient that when they're in the job they claim to be so employable and sought-after that we should pay them more, but as soon as they lose it they transmogrify into untouchables who are so unemployable that they should be, erm, paid more money!

Here's cheeky-cheeky Lembit Opik (who, tellingly, "declined to say" whether he had claimed his full £32,383 entitlement) on this same subject:

“What the Taxpayers’ Alliance seems to ignore is the enormous lack of
job security involved in being an MP. I didn’t have a Plan B – most
redundancies are a bit more predictable than that.”

I knew Lembit was planning a career in comedy, but I'd heard it was going to be in dubious stand-up rather than subtle and satirical self-parody in the newspaper.

Being an MP should never be about "job security", a job for life or all the stuff like redundancy money that come with those things. If you want to draw a comparison with a role in the real economy, the closest one would be a contractor with a 5-year maximum limit on the contract and an optional break clause.

If you take a job like that, then it is your responsibility to have a "Plan B". Arrogantly assuming your contract will be renewed is foolish, and the financial consequences for you of doing that are your problem, not the concern of the people who used to pay you. In this case it was a very generous contract, too, and you should have set money aside for the possibility of it not being renewed.

How many private contractors have people like Opik or Isaac ever expressed sympathy for? If anything they have stood by while red tape and taxation for them have gone through the roof. This is a classic instance of the principles which have defined the MPs' expenses issue throughout: One rule for me, another for you. Heads I win, tails you lose.


HoHoHopik Pity those ex-MPs who lost their seats or stood down at the General Election. After years spent in near-Dickensian poverty scraping by on a mere £60k+, with the stress of managing a free second home thrown in and often having to spend time with their families in the workplace as well as at home, they are now being thrown on the scrapheap with only a £47,706 lump sum each and a generous pension to console them.

That, at least, seems to be the theme of their defence against our report that exposed the sheer scale of their generous payoffs.

Here's Shona Isaac, ex-MP for Cleethorpes:

"I think what people have to bear in mind is that MPs get absolutely
no redundancy money, unlike any other job...As soon as we stopped being MPs back in April the money stops but
you still have outgoings, then if you've lost your seat you're not
entitled to any redundancy money."

That's a fascinating misunderstanding of the concept of redundancy. For a start, MPs are not being made unexpectedly redundant in the middle of a job - they are failing to get their contracts renewed at the end of a work period that was always clearly limited. Also, what does she mean by the idea that they get nothing, given that she's entitled to over £36,000?

Amusingly, she also goes on to make a remarkable confession:

"A backbench MP who loses their seat as a member of a party that's been
booted out of office is also one of the most unemployable people
in the country."

Pardon? I thought that when it came to arguing for pay rises, MPs were hugely expert individuals who could easily earn a fortune elsewhere? How convenient that when they're in the job they claim to be so employable and sought-after that we should pay them more, but as soon as they lose it they transmogrify into untouchables who are so unemployable that they should be, erm, paid more money!

Here's cheeky-cheeky Lembit Opik (who, tellingly, "declined to say" whether he had claimed his full £32,383 entitlement) on this same subject:

“What the Taxpayers’ Alliance seems to ignore is the enormous lack of
job security involved in being an MP. I didn’t have a Plan B – most
redundancies are a bit more predictable than that.”

I knew Lembit was planning a career in comedy, but I'd heard it was going to be in dubious stand-up rather than subtle and satirical self-parody in the newspaper.

Being an MP should never be about "job security", a job for life or all the stuff like redundancy money that come with those things. If you want to draw a comparison with a role in the real economy, the closest one would be a contractor with a 5-year maximum limit on the contract and an optional break clause.

If you take a job like that, then it is your responsibility to have a "Plan B". Arrogantly assuming your contract will be renewed is foolish, and the financial consequences for you of doing that are your problem, not the concern of the people who used to pay you. In this case it was a very generous contract, too, and you should have set money aside for the possibility of it not being renewed.

How many private contractors have people like Opik or Isaac ever expressed sympathy for? If anything they have stood by while red tape and taxation for them have gone through the roof. This is a classic instance of the principles which have defined the MPs' expenses issue throughout: One rule for me, another for you. Heads I win, tails you lose.

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