The politics of wealth-building: Should lawmakers be allowed to generate extra income?

South Africans are used to seeing public figures who have succeeded on the political stage also making money in private deals and by taking up extra sinecures. Some, like presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa, left politics to build a business career; others quietly feather their own nests while they remain in public office. In the UK, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has created waves by accepting several extra roles. He has made the headlines for accepting, among other appointments, a well-paid advisory position at BlackRock, generating huge sums for what looks like a monthly guest appearance. More recently he has accepted the job of newspaper editor, which he plans to carry out while also continuing with his public duties – also a paid position. Aside from the question about whether he can dedicate sufficient time to his political job, with all these extra activities built into his schedule, there are issues of conflict of interest. The media is believed to influence public opinion, so is it right for example if a politician so blatantly selects content and angles for audiences? Conservative MPs who were fired when the Brexit referendum backfired on former UK Prime Minister David Cameron certainly think so. – Jackie Cameron

By Flavia Krause-Jackson

Bloomberg – Former U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s appointment as editor of London’s Evening Standard is drawing scrutiny from Parliament on whether lawmakers are able to serve their constituents by holding two jobs.

In the case of Osborne, he has more than one paying post, including an advisory role at BlackRock Inc. that brings in 650,000 pounds ($800,000) a year for four days of work a month. He plans to edit the Standard four days a week while representing Tatton in northwest England in the House of Commons for which he is paid about 75,000 pounds.

Former U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

His latest gig has spurred a range of responses. Some members of the opposition Labour Party want him to stand down, with Stephen Kinnock saying on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” show that he choked on his corn flakes when he heard the announcement on Friday and thought it was fake news. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Labour leader, took a different line, telling BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” it would make politics “more interesting.”

The backlash may prompt action by Parliament’s Committee on Standards, including a review of the rules, according to Tommy Sheppard, who sits on the committee and is a senior member of the Scottish National Party. That could lead to a ban on lawmakers taking on more work or a cap on the hours they can spend away from their official duties, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing Sheppard.

A Sunday Times front-page story said the privileges committee is drawing up a report that would prevent Osborne from holding his newest job. Separately, Paul Bew, chairman of the U.K. advisory Committee on Standards in Public Life, said he was “uncomfortable” with Osborne’s professional arrangement and that it was the right time to “discuss whether our rules on second jobs need to be changed in light of this,” according to the newspaper. His committee plans to meet Thursday, the Times said.

The ex-chancellor was dumped by Theresa May last July after being accused by Brexit supporters of waging a fear campaign to keep Britain in the European Union, has his share of defenders and detractors in the Conservative Party.

“When you’re fired as we all were last summer, what did they expect, the government? That we were all just going to disappear?” Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, said on ITV. “No, we are going to make our voices heard, whether it’s me writing articles, whether it’s George being editor of the Evening Standard.”

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish branch of May’s Conservative Party, came to a different conclusion based on her decade as a journalist and her six years as a politician.

“I’m not sure you can combine them both because, you know, I work a pretty busy week as it is and this week in particular, so I’m not sure you can do both at the same time, if I’m honest,” she said on the BBC.

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