01 April 2009

Not paid enough??

Tony Travers Local government expert

"The problem that lies beneath this very difficult position is two-fold. First, MPs are not paid enough – not as much as other people doing broadly similar jobs."
You often hear this argument - 'MPs are usually professionals (mostly lawyers) and can command vast salaries in the private sector, therefore should be paid as such...'

MPs currently get £64,766 per year (as of today in fact, it was 1,500 less til yesterday) - regardless it's 60k+ for every MP, and all ministers, shadow ministers, whips and other roles (eg speaker) get substantial supplements on top of that

So that is over £60,000 for being an MP - representing your constituency, voting in parliament and running an office - no front bench duties or anything of that type

The average salary is only £23k - but of course MPs are better than average

Are they? What exactly is an MP worth? Remember we are not talking about any politicians you probably know the name of, just those faceless people who sit behind the front bench and nod and jeer

You can never say, part of the problem is you can't really compare a politician with somebody in a real job - whether it be lawyer, doctor, teacher, police officer or cleaner

A lot are from a professional background and used to a high rate of pay - this of course makes it alright for them to get as much as possible through dodgy expenses...

Actually, no it doesn't - an MP is not really doing anything difficult, they have no government responsibilities and don't have to go on the telly, they have to deal with constituents and that's about it

They don't have to have any qualifications, they may do, but they aren't relevant - the justification that many are used to high pay is farcical when you think of the many teachers who enter politics and peform fine - just because you can earn something else outside doesn't mean you should inside - if anything people should be entering politics because they want to help govern, and shouldn't have an issue as long as the pay is reasonable

And why do we even need people of the 'highest calibre'? What exactly are they doing? yes we need life experience and expertise across the board - but we don't get that and anyone who thinks the bulk of 650 MPs are experts at anything is living in fantasy land

The truth is anybody can stand for parliament (over 18) and to be an MP does not require any sort of nous, like they currently claim - this whole idea that they deserve more based on their skills is just institutionalised elitism, yet another example of the political class in action and worst of all it is regularly perpetuated by the broadsheets - why? Is it because their senior editors and journalists earn much the same, or more? Well guys, actually you have a skill and have built up a reputation and probably a readership

Where skills are required is in government and opposition - where they are paid anywhere from £100k to the Prime Minister's £180k - these are the people who make the laws, speeches, come up with the ideas (?) and have to go on the TV and look awkward

If an MP is particularly skilled surely he or she would be in the hundred or so that make up the actual government and be paid substantially more anyway?

Let us also not forget the issues of those gold plated pensions that have been done away with for all but the upper realms of the public sector, tasty severance packages for ministers (see: David Blunkett) and of course the much-maligned allowances

So please - somebody justify to me why MPs actually should be paid more?

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