Monday, 12 May 2008

MPs want a bigger trough

MPs ought to be awarded a 23% pay rise, taking their salaries to £76,000, a committee of senior members chaired by Michael Martin, the Speaker, is set to recommend this week.

The MPs believe they are underpaid compared with managers in the public sector.

They are ready to put off their pay rise, however, until after the next election to avoid provoking voters at a time when other public sector workers are seeing increases capped at about 2.5%.


The consultants concluded that MPs’ salary of £61,820 does not adequately reward them in comparison with public-sector employees in middle to senior ranks, such as a police superintendent.

They earn more than £70,000, while private sector managers with equivalent responsibility are paid six-figure salaries. However, MPs also claim generous allowances.

Yes, there is that. If you factor in such perks as the £23,000 MPs can claim for a second home, or the £10,000 of taxpayers' money they can use to buy themselves a new kitchen, then I would imagine that the average police superintendent is left looking distinctly impoverished by comparison. Plus, being a police superintendent is a full-time job; if the officer doesn't turn up, he'll be fired. MPs, by contrast, can do as little work as they like, and face no sanctions. They can also easily augment their income with a second job, an option not available to the majority of workers, in either the public or the private sector. Most public sector managers don't get to set their own salary and perks either, do they?

And it's not as though the nation's MPs are actually scrounging a bare subsistence on the bread line. Consider this quote from another Sunday Times article, about John "Two Jags" Prescott:

The Prescotts reside – I use the word advisedly – in a grand former Salvation Army home on the outskirts of Hull, where he has been MP since 1970. Here, he is not a banana-skin politician or a working-class hero but an Englishman in his castle, complete with turrets, eight bedrooms, servants’ staircase and electric gates (needs must); which is not bad going for the son of a maid who failed his 11-plus.
It might not be Dorneywood, but, as the journalist says, it isn't bad. In how many professions other than politics could a cretinous thug like John Prescott get anywhere close to being able to afford such a house?

The fact is that being an MP is extremely lucrative. Perhaps there are some people who are better paid, but these people are, in theory at least, highly qualified and highly skilled. MPs, by contrast, need, and sometimes have, no qualifications and no skills whatsoever. They may feel that they are equivalent to senior managers, but I'd wager that if they all set out to climb a conventional career ladder, a great many of them would remain stuck on the bottom rung, because they are essentially talentless people.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they are all polymaths, who would thrive in any environment. But if that is the case, then no one is forcing them to stay in politics. They are at liberty to resign their seats and seek a more profitable career whenever they want. That would be for the benefit of all, since it would mean that only those (very few) MPs who actually have public service at heart would be left. But of course, MPs know which side their bread is buttered on, they know that they're on to a damn good thing, and they wouldn't give up their seats on the gravy train for anything.


JuliaM said...

"In how many professions other than politics could a cretinous thug like John Prescott get anywhere close to being able to afford such a house?"

Footballer? In fact, pretty much any kind of 'entertainment profession'.

But that's it.

Gary Monro said...

I understand the sentiments expressed but not sure I agree with the conclusions. My view is that MPs potentially can shirk their duties but actually in many cases work punishing hours.

I'm a local councillor and add council duties to my full-time job. It's pretty tough and, although I do a pretty reasonable job, I do a fraction of what some others do. Retired people who are elected councillors find the job can be full-time - some work more hours now as councillors than they did as full-time employees.

The point is that there is always work to do and causes to represent and for an MP I imagine the workload can be quite a bit more than it is even for a councillor. A moderately conscientious MP could easily do a 60-hour week if he just worked on what was unavoidable, that was put in front of him. If he was a campaigning or go-ahead type that workload could increase dramatically.

By all means rant against real corruption but maybe be careful about suggesting that minor executive pay for the people who run the country is in itself corrupt.


Umbongo said...


To be fair, at least footballers have to be good at something and are paid (more or less) accordingly. As to excessively rewarded entertainers, Madonna, for instance, receives huge amounts of dosh because there are people out there who - of their own free will - are happy to buy what she creates. To me (and you?) it's ludicrous that such enormous amounts should accrue to Madonna but who am I to criticise somebody for liking (and paying for out of their own pockets) what she offers to the world. Nobody taxes me to pay for Madonna's lifestyle.

Prescott's gifts on the other hand, such as they are (and which include a tendency to gluttony with respect to both food and sex) would - in the real world - not attract a salary much in excess of that of the bar steward he was. It's instructive that Prescott's efforts to get on in the world were aimed at making his way in union and party politics rather than getting another and better job in the (non-political) marketplace.

gary monro

It seems to me that the basic role of MPs is to control the executive: if they can't do that then there's no point in continuing with Parliament except as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, because of the way UK politics has developed, there are two enormous barriers to MPs effectively controlling the executive; first party politics and second the EU. Party politics, although ensuring that, broadly speaking, the electorate's choice of a political agenda is carried through, has the downside that the MP (almost) invariably depends on his party to become and remain an MP: and by "his party" I mean the leaders of his party. Couple this with the facts that around 80% of legislation affecting the UK is created in Brussels and that Parliament is unable to challenge that legislation (although there is a spurious partly-secret "review" process) and you have Parliament - ie MPs - acting as a transmission belt between the EU and UK citizens rather than as a critical (in both senses) stage in the legislative process

So what do we pay MPs for? Coming closer to home, my MP is very assiduous in local politics (planning disputes, council shortcomings, bumpy roads etc) for which we supposedly elect councillors but when it comes to the real thing (state finance, referendums, NHS, defence etc) she - as a LibDem - is ignored by the administration. So, for purposes of controlling the executive (both locally - it's a Labout council - and nationally) she is effectively useless. It seems to me all that paying MPs a fairly generous salary results in is creating lobby-fodder. (Who, after all, would walk out of a grand ego-massage of a job in order to find one where you have to demonstrate your worth every single day to the guy who's paying your wages?). In any event, even if paying more got you a clutch of first class MPs, because they have no real power (individually or collectively), it would be a monumental waste of talent. It's better to pay MPs as the part-timers and powerless functionaries they really are. Maybe in time you'd get rid of the time-servers and parasitic barnacles on the body politic. However, this wouldn't, of itself, cure the sickness of our politics but, there again, paying them more would only make that sickness worse.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for a satisfactory conclusion to the 10p fiasco. I was £200pa. down now will be given £120 to compensate yet others up to the tune of £40,000pa. who lost nothing will get a windfall of £120.

But then, who am I other than a pensioner among the lowest income group. What's £80pa. they might say, but my eyes have been well and truly opened to a Labour Party stuffing the poorest.