When it comes to MPs, I realise I’m in a minority. I don’t believe they’re all greedy, self-interested, untrustworthy and venal. I believe, perhaps quite naively, that politics can make a positive difference in people’s lives, and that the persistent denigration of MPs – to the extent that “politician” is an insult – is A Bad Thing for society.
Sometimes politicians don’t help themselves though, and when a whole load of bad apples go out and buy duck islands, and fiddle their expenses, there’s a temptation to think the whole lot of them are unscrupulous bastards.
One issue on which MPs seem to lose all political sense is the matter of their own pay. Anyone who has read Chris Mullins’ fantastic diaries will remember the way his fellow MPs reacted to his campaign against a salary rise. A large chunk of our Parliamentarians believe that they not only deserve, but NEED more. In fact, one Tory MP told Mullin that:
“what you don’t realise, Chris, is that no Tory can survive on an MP’s salary.”
Which, of course, is bollocks of the very highest order. The basic salary for an MP is currently £65,738 – almost three times the national average salary. Even in the most wealthy parts of the country that is a comfortable salary. In many of the poorer parts of the country, it makes the local MP one of his/her most wealthy constituents. MPs are well paid – wealthy, even. And it is right that they should receive a good wage, not just because they deserve it for the work they do, but also to help ensure that few succumb to bribery.
But at a time of extreme financial constraint, the absolute last thing that should happen is for MPs to receive a pay rise. Yet that appears to be exactly what IPSA are proposing this morning. Seemingly as a means of offsetting cuts to MP’s pensions, there’s the possibility of them getting a 40% pay rise. Funnily enough, no-one else in the public sector is being offered a huge pay rise for having their pension tinkered with.
There is one IPSA suggestion that is worthy of pursuing – MPs should be placed on a multiple of the national average salary (or even a multiple of the National Minimum Wage) and given the same pension offer as other public sector workers. If a pension is too “gold plated” for a dinner lady then it is certainly too gold plated for a well remunerated politician. And perhaps if the way MPs were paid (and their pensions were calculated) was based on the pay of ordinary working people, then they might be a tad more circumspect about poverty wages, and the cost of living.
But a politically toxic pay rise? That’s the last thing our MPs need. It’d damage the name of politics even further, it’s not deserved, and it’d be two fingers to everyone facing a pay freeze or a pay cut. If Ed Miliband really does want to save politics – telling IPSA, and his own MPs, that there won’t be any pay rises on the Labour side would be a good start.