Second jobs and sleaze: what do Britons make of a murky week in Westminster?  

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 12, 2021, 5:30 PM GMT+0

A third of Conservative voters think their own party gives the impression of being sleazy

Boris Johnson was probably expecting to spend the last few days reaping the political rewards of the COP-26 climate conference. Instead, his government is embroiled in scandal, including a controversial vote on rules around MPs’ conduct, undeclared second jobs, and a Conservative MP working thousands of miles away from their constituency.

Despite this fallout, the public is still generally in favour of allowing MPs to hold second jobs (48%). However, this is mostly formed of people who think such jobs should be allowed only under certain circumstances (39%), with just 9% who think they should allowed without restriction.

Two fifths of the public (40%) think second jobs should not be allowed at all. While opposition is higher among Labour supporters (42%) than Conservatives (31%), at least half of each voting group (52% of Labour voters and 63% of Conservatives) say second jobs should be allowed to some extent.

It has also been suggested that MPs should be banned from second jobs, with the caveat that their basic salary would be upped to make up the difference.

Some six in ten Britons (62%) would oppose such a move, however, including over half of Conservative voters (55%) and nearly seven in ten Labour (69%) voters. A quarter of Conservative voters (27%) would be in favour, as would 18% of Labour supporters.

A separate YouGov survey earlier this week also found 63% of Britons opposed to MPs taking on work outside of parliamentary duties regardless of pay changes.

Nor do Britons seem to see a need to increase MPs’ pay whether or not second jobs are involved. Half of Britons (50%) think the standard MP salary of £81,932 is already too high, while around a third (34%) think it is about right. Only 7% of the public think it is too low.

Conservative voters are divided on the issue: 39% say the current MP salary is too high while 40% think it is right. Among Labour voters, 49% think MPs are paid too much, compared to 41% who think the current pay packet is about right.

Is the current government really any more corrupt than those that came before?

Boris Johnson has fought back against the cries of sleaze and corruption by claiming the UK is "not remotely a corrupt country".

According to a separate YouGov survey from earlier this week, four in five Britons (80%), including 74% of Conservative voters, disagree, saying that there is a “a lot” or “a fair amount” of corruption in British politics.

When it comes to Johnson himself, nearly two fifths (39%) think he is more corrupt than his predecessors – including one in ten Conservative voters (10%).

Another 44% of the public, and 71% of his own voters, say that Johnson is not better nor worse than earlier prime ministers. Only 6% of the public and 12% of Conservative voters see Johnson as being less corrupt than those who came before him.

Britons feel similarly about corruption within the government more generally: 39% of people see it as more corrupt than previous governments, 46% say it's no better or worse than those before it, and just 4% think it is less corrupt. Again, Conservative voters see the current government as no better nor worse (78%) than those earlier, with only 11% thinking it to be more honest.

When it comes to all Conservative MPs - rather than just those in government - some 35% of the public say they are more corrupt than politicians from other parties, while 48% say they are no different from the rest.

Six in ten Britons say the Conservative party gives off a sleazy impression

While the public tends to think Tory MPs are no more or less corrupt than other politicians, they do consider them sleazier. Six in ten people (60%) think that the Conservatives give the impression of being sleazy and disreputable – including one in three (33%) of their own voters.

When asked the same of the Labour party, the public are split 33% to 36%.

Unlike Conservative voters, only one in ten Labour voters say their party is sleazy, with three-quarters disagreeing that Labour gives off a disreputable impression.

Following their difficult week dealing with their U-turn on standards and dealing with the fallout from Paterson’s resignation, Rishi Sunak says the government will need to “do better” on standards.

The public certainly agrees, with few Britons (8%) thinking Boris Johnson has handled the allegations well, regardless of their political allegiances. Two-thirds of the public (66%) think he has handled them badly – including 39% saying he has performed “very badly”.

Even among his party's voters, 54% think the prime minister has handled the issue badly, compared to 23% who think he has handled it well.

See full results here