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Pollwatch: A side hustle too far?

Chris Hopkins Political Research Director 10/11/2021

Almost half UK adults oppose MPs being allowed to have a second job according to new polling by Savanta ComRes

Amid the lobbying scandal involving now-former Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, many have questioned whether MPs should be allowed to carry out work alongside their parliamentary duties, with many earning many times more than their base salary.

..the public are not overly fond of the arrangement

And, it appears the public are not overly fond of the arrangement. Just one in five UK adults support MPs being allowed to do this (21%), with almost half opposing it (46%) and a quarter not expressing an opinion either way (26%).

Opposition to MPs being allowed a second job is highest amongst those aged 55+ (62%), compared to just three in ten opposed amongst the 18-34 age group (29%). Likewise, along party lines, 2019 Labour voters (55%) are more likely than 2019 Conservative voters (49%) to oppose MPs carrying out extra work.

The scandal involving Owen Paterson has also opened a debate as to overall trust in the UK government to act ethically and with integrity. And it seems that, for many, this trust has got worse since Boris Johnson was elected as PM in 2019.

Two in five say their trust in the UK government to act ethically and with integrity has got worse under Johnson’s premiership (41%), including over a quarter of Conservative voters (27%).

Perhaps most concerning for the Conservatives is that almost half of those aged 55+ (47%), who can often be relied upon for high support for the current government, say their trust in the government to act ethically and with integrity has got worse since Johnson became PM.

Just one in five UK adults overall say their trust has got better (21%) under Johnson, rising to three in ten of those who voted for the Conservatives in 2019 (29%).

Commenting on the findings, Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta ComRes says:

“In what has arguably been the biggest misstep by this Conservative government since Boris Johnson became party leader, a review of the conduct of an individual MP has quickly turned into a wider debate on what the role of an MP should involve and whether they should be allowed to work outside of their parliamentary duties at all.

While many argue that MPs are entitled to a high salary given the complexity and importance of what they do, with some arguing that it in fact keeps any temptations of back-handers in check, perhaps rightfully others will compare it to their own salary and indeed the national average and wonder why they should need the extra income.

While this polling doesn’t show a majority in opposition to the rule allowing a second job, the two in five who oppose it and just one in five who outright support the idea will be enough to keep parliament on its toes.

And, it indicates that this could well be an issue which isn’t going away, especially if further questions emerge around the nature of the extra work carried out by MPs and the extent to which it may cause conflicts of interest.”

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