BBC Question Time: Audience member slams out of touch MPs over topping up on second jobs

Tory sleaze row: Alistair Campbell clashes with Camilla Tominey

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A Question Time audience member in Hartlepool highlighted just how out of touch MPs are with the public when it comes to their annual salary. After raising his hand to contribute to the debate on MPs and second jobs, the audience member made a shock admission about Alistair Campbell, 64.

The former Labour spin doctor spent his opening intervention in Brexit-backing Hartlepool taking aim at Boris Johnson, 57, over the Owen Paterson debacle and the Prime Minister’s “chicken-feed” comments from 2009.

The Remainer-in-Chief said: “The process took its course and then your Prime Minister, your Chief Whip and your Leader of the House got together and decided because they didn’t like the judgement against one of their Brexit-friends, Owen Paterson, they should change the whole damn system.”

Mr Campbell, who was expelled from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party after voting for the Liberal Democrats in the 2019 EU Election, went on to say he did not think there was anything wrong with MPs having interests outside of Parliament.

But he added: “I would love it, just every now and again, if they said their second job was in a food bank, or their second job was working in a charity, which I know some of them do but not the ones that we hear about.”

The Question Time audience member responded by saying: “I can’t believe I’m saying this but I 100 percent agree with Alistair.”

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He went on to explain Mr Campbell was not a natural ally of his because “some of the things he’s said in the past, I’m telling you I disagree with him quite profoundly.”

Despite his differences with Mr Campbell, the audience member added: “But I think many MPs genuinely believe £82,000-a-year is simply not enough money and that it needs to be topped up by outside work but of course you can never say that to the electorate, the majority of which do not earn £82,000-a-year.”

The comments come just a month after the Father of the House Peter Bottomley, 77, described MPs £81,932-a-year salary as “really grim”.

More recently, the ex-MP for North Shropshire Owen Paterson earned over £100,000 in consultancy work for two private companies.

Following the former Northern Ireland Secretary’s resignation, it has been revealed MPs from across the political spectrum have undertaken paid consultancy work.

This includes Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, 59, who Times Radio’s Tom Newton-Dunn, 47, pointed out worked as a legal consultant after he was elected to Parliament in 2015.

Responding to Mr Campbell, the ex-Sun journalist said: “A tiny bit of context on this, despite Alistair’s excellent soap-box attack on Boris Johnson, which I predicted he’d do on the train and he’s done it.”

He added: “Fine, the music has stopped and the Tories watch as Boris Johnson made an astronomical mess of it last week but this is a cross-party problem.”

Alongside their basic salary, MPs benefit from an expenses system and are eligible for subsidised meals in Portcullis House.

Before the audience member’s intervention, Mr Campbell had accused the Prime Minister of having “no moral compass”.

After reeling off the seven Nolan principles, Mr Campbell said: “The problem is Boris Johnson drives a horse and coach through those day after day after day after day.

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“He’s an MP, and a Prime Minister by the way, who when he was an MP earned even more than Geoffrey Cox has been earning but thought that £250,000 for his column in the Telegraph was ‘chicken feed’.”

Campbell added: “If you have somebody like Johnson, who to my mind has zero moral compass, zero honesty, zero integrity, zero accountability, MPs will take the mick, they’re taking the mick, and these guys have to go along with it because he is the boss.”

The Question Time panel also spent last night’s episode in Hartlepool discussing the state of the NHS and whether the UN’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow had been a success.

Mr Campbell, Mr Newton-Dunn and BBC host Fiona Bruce, 57, were joined by the Conservatives’ Lord Commissioner of the Treasury Lee Rowley, 41, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell, 47, and the CEO of Energy UK Emma Pinchbeck.

Next week Ms Bruce will make the trip back down to London to host the broadcaster’s flagship current affairs programme in Beckenham.

Question Time will air at 10.35pm on Thursday next week.

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