might breed a better MP. Certainly there is a need. The Commons failsdismally to hold the executive to account. This is a pity. When youmeet them, MPs are perfectly decent people. But they are demoralised– fiddling expenses is a classic displacement activity, which the privatesector recognises as a sign of trouble.So how should the pay structure be changed to restore MPs’effectiveness? This, of course, was not an issue when the job wasunpaid, the entire British Empire could be governed with a handful of new laws every year, and those MPs not already wealthy had enoughtime to earn their living. But as the government’s geographical remithas shrunk, so its activity has increased. Parliament is now deluged bynew bills. MPs are also expected to be interested in their constituents,a novel idea introduced by the Liberals in the 1960s. Being an MP hasbecome a full-time job and the electorate, having been lectured aboutworking hard for so long, now expects the same rules to apply topoliticians. This has had disastrous effects. The livelihood of an MP is,after all, not very secure. Turnover is high, security low. A highproportion gets the boot every five years and find, when they do returnto the outside world, that their previous career is in ruins. The dayswhen Conservatives slipped into directorships and Labor MPs returnedto their unions have vanished. Under the pressure of full-time MP, theirprofessional skills have withered. And nobody thinks that a namelesspolitician who cannot even stay elected is of much use. Notsurprisingly, those who do get in are desperate not to be chucked outagain. This requires slavish obedience to the party machines, leavinglittle space for the back-bench rebel and still less for the old“Commons man”. The critical mistakes of both the current Labourgovernment and the last Conservative one were at least partly due tothis. The poll tax that ruined Margaret Thatcher, and theIraq war that weakened Tony Blair, should have been stopped in theCommons but too many MPs voted against their consciences in theirown self-interest. The problem is that MPs draw a salary when they arein the Commons and lose it when they are ejected by the electorate. This applies normal conditions to a job that is very far from normal. Itgives an overwhelming incentive not to rock the boat, and thus toperform badly. In the jargon, it de-incentives, and is thus structurallydysfunctional; accordingly, that salary should be smoothed out. After acertain period, MPs should be guaranteed a full salary for 20 years,even if they lose a subsequent election; this would return them to ablessed state of financial independence from party diktat. If they aredefeated, they could serve out their term in the House of Lords, thusproviding a simple solution to the reform of that institution as well.