A former Deutsche Bank board member has joined JP Morgan as part of the US bank’s EMEA advisory council.
Hardly front-page news, you would imagine — notices in brief in a financial publication, at best.
Except that the DB alumnus is Sajid Javid, former chancellor of the exchequer and currently MP for Bromsgrove.
The reaction has been predictable. Although the move has been approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), cries of double-jobbing have gone up and questions have been asked as to how Javid can possibly be a “part-time member of parliament”. He will neglect his constituents and serve the House of Commons poorly, it is alleged.
These arguments are, to a large extent, rubbish.
First, we already accept “double-jobbing” as part of our political system. Javid remained MP for Bromsgrove when he was a senior cabinet minister, and no one has so far suggested that being home secretary or chancellor are part-time roles. A few days a month on a board at a big global bank is a far cry from even the lowliest of ministerial positions.
Second, we are happy enough for MPs to have outside interests when they fit into a positive and acceptable narrative. Dr Dan Poulter, the Conservative MP for Central Suffolk, used to work 28 hours a week as a doctor at Guy’s Hospital, to very little objection. Several MPs are members of the armed forces reserves, which can take them away from parliament altogether for long stretches of time.
And at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, MPs were lauded for volunteering to serve professionally in the NHS and other services — this was welcomed as giving them front-line experience and insight which would enhance their ability to carry out their parliamentary duties.
George Osborne, of course, was the master of parliamentary multi-tasking. In the time between him leaving the Treasury in 2016 and stepping down as an MP the following summer, he amassed a bouquet of outside interests including a part-time adviser to BlackRock and editor of the Evening Standard. The tension proved untenable: although he had indicated his intention to stay on in parliament, he didn’t contest the 2017 General Election. But, as his overzealous example shows, MP second jobs are hardly uncommon.
The real problem now is that Javid is working for a bank, and banks (often with good reason) are in bad odour since the 2008 financial crash. The ex-chancellor’s advisory role is rather nebulous to the casual observer — really, what value is he adding to JP Morgan in return for that undisclosed salary? — so it is dismissed as a distraction and a grubby money-making enterprise.
But we should be clear: being an MP is not a “job” in the normal sense, and outside interests enhance parliamentarians’ abilities much more often than not. The role of a member will expand to fill all the time they have and more if you let it — don’t believe anyone who tells you most MPs are lazy. Carving out a few hours a week to immerse themselves in something else, whether it be healthcare, the armed forces, finance, education or the law, is no bad thing.
To borrow from Peter Mandelson, we should be intensely relaxed about MPs earning a little more money (or even a lot) if the result is wider and deeper experience. Doctors in a health debate speaking with up-to-date insights, global finance advisers sitting on the Treasury Committee, serving officers quizzing military experts on defence — it’s all good.
And if the trend continues, who knows? With apologies to the House of Lords, we might even end up with a “house of expertise”.
Main image credit: Getty