Monday, December 04, 2006


More cash for our MPs?

MPs want a pay rise, taking their salary to £100k pa. I have read lots of comments from people about this today, and almost nobody has agreed with what I’m about to say.

I think we should give it to them. £100k a year is a lot of money, sure. But it isn’t really the fantastic sum that so many people seem to be suggesting it is. These people run our country and represent us all. These are intelligent, very gifted people. They work extremely long hours, are away from home most of the week, and certainly don’t stop at weekends. And at £60k a year I'd say they are underpaid.

I know lots of people think that politicians are power-hungry and self-interested egotists in it for the fame. I challenge this strongly. On the whole, MPs aren’t fantastically wealthy, or well-known. I challenge these people to name a dozen back-benchers, or a dozen MPs who out-earn their private-sector peers. And how much power does an opposition MP have? Or even a backbench Government MP? Not much, I reckon.

Top lawyers, top people in industry and professional services all earn many times more than the average MP’s salary. The Chief Executive of the biggest Council in the UK earns more or less the same as the Prime Minister. There are people in my office earning more than an MP. And none of these people have to stand for election and risk losing it all every 4 or 5 years.

Politics should be full of good people. Honest, hard-working, brilliantly able people who do their constituents a great service and represent them to the best of their outstanding ability. They should uphold the standards of their office, and of Parliament and of the country. And the vast majority do. The vast majority.

MPs shouldn’t demand the pay-rise. But they should get it.

Salary shouldn’t be the reason for their desire for the job. But salary should not deter the best from wanting to be MPs. Salary should not mean that MPs have second jobs as non-executive directors or after-dinner speakers or anything else. We should pay them enough so that all they do is work for us. We should look after our MPs as they should look after us. And if the MPs don’t deserve the money, we should trust voters to vote them out.

So yes, I think MPs are underpaid. I also think that nurses and teachers and social carers are underpaid. But it’s the politicians who will make our country able to pay teachers and carers and nurses more. So shouldn’t we seek the best people for the job? And shouldn’t we reward them amply for their work? Theirs’ is a public service after all. It isn’t a selfish one. And they should be given their pay rise.

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