“I’m ‘oot” – What now for Scotland’s ousted MPs?
If yesterday’s polls are to be believed, the SNP are about to reclaim Scotland, predicted to win every one of the 59 Scottish seats. Big political statement, a potential Tsunami over British Politics,….and a worrying invasion over English politics and political power if Ed Miliband [or his union backers] happen to a) win the largest share of votes, and b) unwittingly leave the back door into Westminster wide open.
However worrying it would be for the Sovereign nation, it’s potentially an even bigger issue for the 53 non-SNP MPs that stand to lose their jobs on May 7th.
For most, an MP’s career is similar to a 2nd division footballer – Great while it lasts, pseudo-fame, good lifestyle, membership of an exclusive club (and the power-trip that comes with it) and heavily funded expense account. But very quickly it can be over and they’re left to join the other 59,999,400 of us that have to exist in the real world, and earn a living in it.
Increasingly, like most 2nd division footballers, few MPs have existed (and have ever had to fund a life) in the real world. The over-proliferation of the career politician may be a bad thing for the UK and it’s politics….but it’s certainly a bad thing for the onward careers of unceremoniously dumped back-bench MPs.
What next for the MPs? Most aspire to a Tony Blair-esque life of £multi-million consultancy contracts, speaking engagements and book deals. Most though are faced with trying to get a proper job.
It’s not an easy task. Aside from the £67,000 plus expenses(!), an MP is used to fairly favourable hours, with minimal set requirements to turn up to work, very long holidays and the ability to sit down, say little and even fall asleep when “working”….only then to seemingly awaken from hibernation in the months running up to an election.
Labour MPs are set to be by far the biggest losers. The LibDems stand to lose 11, but Labour are set to potentially lose 41 MPs next week.
Labour’s loses are arguably their own doing. Their 1980s move towards the ‘Claim of Right”, questioning the legitimacy of non-Scottish endorsed Westminster rule over Scottish affairs, led by the pugnacious Labour MP George Foulkes, after the SNP win in Glasgow Goven in 1988, set the stage for the SNP surge, and the (short-term?) eradication of the Labour party in the Scottish Parliament.
Most people questioned about MPs losing their jobs showed little sympathy. MPs have done little to endear themselves over the last two parliaments with often hypocritical behaviour coupled with a sanctimonious stance. But anyone faced with sudden job loss will need help and guidance.
It is worth bearing in mind that anyone that has served as an MP will likely have dedicated well over a decade, if not two or three to that career aim. The headline career might only be one or two 4/5 years terms, but all but very few will have had a long slog to get to a seat with even a remote chance of success.
Cruel perhaps, but the LibDem loses are unlikely to come as much of a surprise given polls for the last few years…..But for the Labour MPs, in former strongholds, the surprise may well be greater.
So what of the options for these upto 41 Labour MPs about to find the halls of Westminster swapped for the halls of the Job Centre?
Flippant options include:
- Working directly for a Trade Union (rather than indirectly?)
- Go into a Utility or Financial Services organisation…..ideally in Customer Services so they can continue to pretend to be working on the public/customers’ interest, but actually looking after themselves?
- Traffic Warden? Similar levels of trust and respect?
- Go into education so they can see the damage they have done from a position of ignorance….before teaching the next generation?
Or they could go and get a job in a private business and experience what the real-world actually looks like.
Even better…..they could set up a business themselves and become the entrepreneurs and ‘rich’ business owners they have berated for years and seen as easy cash-cows. They could see what it’s like to really work 60/80+ hours per week, with no real holidays, and see what the words “accountability” and “responsibility” actually mean…..Get an understanding of what the people that drive and pay for this country really go through, or went through to get there.
More seriously, their approach to seeking a new job…or a new career is no different to anyone else.
My standard advice for anyone facing sudden unemployment is to understand their primary strengths and play to them. For MPs, their understanding how parliamentary processes work and the contact-base that being an MP brings is invaluable for many corporate organisations – if political allegiances permit such boundary crossing.
However, MPs need to understand, being a former MP does not automatically open doors, let alone pave the way to the executive washroom. All C-level execs have had to toil to ascend to the highest levels.
For career politicians, the lack of a primary career to fall back on will be a huge issue for them. Understanding their worth and value in an open market is a tough ask….but not an insurmountable one. They, like anyone facing a career shift, voluntary of enforced, needs to work out just two things:
1) What have I achieved.
2) Which of those achievements is (realistically) marketable?
I get job-seekers of all background approaching me for advice – the above 2 steps, sometimes with the intermediary step of only including projects/achievements they actually enjoyed doing, gives a fairly succinct list of marketable skills to take to market….and to work out which markets to market to.
This is where people get tempted to pull the Transferable Skills card. Don’t. Any one who feels the need to highlight transferable skills get ignored. If you have to explain why skills are transferable, they aren’t. A bit like the joke that needs explaining.
For the Labour MPs in particular, obvious areas of exploration would be the Public and 3rd Sectors. Local Government, quangos and other publically funded organisations could benefit from Central Government intelligence just as much as Private sector business.
Any organisation who has a major interaction and trade relationship with central government is also a valid target, but as mentioned above, there is a line of ethics, party rules and the avoidance of ‘brown envelopes’ that needs to be understood.
Media relations and commentary, especially within relevant home/constituency media outlets, is another obvious avenue – but unlikely to be any more than a complimentary stream.
As with many people losing their job, an MPs first task will be to gain humility and be comfortable in exploring their own network of contacts. It is an overused analogy, but it really is WHO you know, not what you know that will help MPs facing a sudden loss of employment….but as with mortal Man, you will have to ask.
MPs have the benefit of their unemployed status being easily blamed on political party favouritism/fashion as well as the failures of party leadership – but my advice is always to shy away from blame passing. Acknowledging personal failures, accepting accountability and learning from the experience has been the backbone for just about all global business leaders.
Future plans, and honesty about them, is critical. If an ousted MP ultimately seeks a return to the House at the next earliest opportunity; employers may be warned off for fear of losing their new employee when the true vocation arises.
I have dealt with, and advised several former MPs in their quest for a new role. The only one that had any real success in doing so was the one that showed real humility and real understanding on how his skillset was unique and of marginal (commercial) interest to businesses outside of politics. He was also the only one that had a career prior to his political career, and ironically, the one who served longer as an MP, and rose highest in political ranks having been in shadow government and various select committees in the late 90s/early 00s.
Finally, much like the volume of 2nd Division Footballers all without contracts at the end of a season…or the one-of-several-hundred people being made redundant at the same time; the higher than normal number of former politicians all coming to the job market at the same time will heighten the need to stand out from your contemporaries….. Attitude and approach will likely be the biggest differentiator.
The real issue over the new wave of SNP MPs, however, is perhaps not the job losses of the 50 MPs, but the tens/hundreds of thousands of jobs that risk being lost if the SNP DO win the seats and DO take residence in the House of Commons.