We can’t have it both ways on MPs pay

By Alex Bryan

In Britain, the popularity of politicians has been declining for a number of years. Since the expenses scandal though, it has become a sadly consistent fact of political life that voters have little but contempt for those who ostensibly run the country. A general election has happened and a significant amount of time has passed since the scandal, but the idea has very much become entrenched. The public hates politicians.

IPSA, then, must have known what the reaction to their findings that MPs should be given a pay rise from the current £66,000 to £70,000 would be. They will have predicted the indignant Middle-England howls of the Mail, the oppressed screeches of the Mirror and the mass disapproval of the public, handily surveyed by the Sun.

The more astute members of IPSA may even have foreseen the stampede of MPs desperate to be seen disapproving of the rise. All sides of the house lines up in front of TV cameras and microphones to assure the public that they didn’t deserve or want a pay rise. From Nick Clegg saying he wouldn’t take the rise to David Davis calling it ‘barking mad’, MPs across the board have rushed to ensure that they are not seen endorsing IPSA’s decision.

Given the overwhelming volley of abuse that has been directed IPSA’s way this week, one might have begun to wonder why this body even exists. IPSA, of course, was given the responsibility to set MPs pay after the expenses scandal, before which MPs themselves set their pay rate. Since IPSA was given responsibility to set this rate, it has not changed once, due to a wage freeze for MPS after the election.

Despite the fact that MPs have in no way been responsible for this announcement, they have still been subject to the standard anti-politician objections and corruption allegations they used to face. Why? Partly due to the media, which knows that an anti-MP line will be popular with readers, and partly because of a readership and electorate which assumes the worst of politicians before it has heard the facts.

If the public and MPs are not going to accept IPSA’s findings, then in its function as a pay-setting body, IPSA essentially becomes toothless. Its recommendations must be made to stick, regardless of how unpopular they are. The whole point of having an independent body making these decisions is to make them more likely to be good decisions.

Most people, and all politicians, if queried, will agree that MPs pay should be set by an independent regulatory body. The public, then, should face up to the consequences of their beliefs and decisions. To support the creation of a body such as IPSA and then to scoff at its findings because you don’t agree with them is clearly inconsistent. Either one must support the body, and its findings, or neither. We place trust in independent bodies to perform their tasks well. There is no evidence IPSA has not. Its crime had not been to be inaccurate, but to be too honest.

The public and the press cannot have their cake and eat it. They need to make up their minds. It is clear that MPs should not set their own salaries. We should give IPSA a chance to do its job properly, and the catcalls of a prejudiced public do nothing to aid this. The truth is, the uproar over IPSA has nothing to do with the body itself and everything to do with a nationwide hatred of our chosen representatives. Some of them took advantage of an expenses system, so now we allow nothing to pass without outrage.

This must stop. IPSA should be allowed to continue its job. Given the pay freeze, it is certainly not unreasonable to suggest MPs should be given a pay increase now. The press, the public, and indeed politicians, need to stop flaying the name of Westminster as an easy target and instead take the medicine which was administered in response to the expenses scandal. If not, it is the public that will suffer in the long run.

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4 Responses to We can’t have it both ways on MPs pay

  1. Paul Miller says:

    The publics outrage has nothing to do with the expenses scandal. It’s mantras like ‘We’re All In This Together’ that really gets up peoples noses. The country is broke, benefits are being taken away from the most vulnerable in society and people have not had a pay rise in years and find their standards of living falling but low and behold MPs should get a massive pay rise

  2. Azaelea says:

    I think that you will find that people have had enough of these individuals lying, cheating, stealing our tax money, while keeping the rest of society in poverty !! If they want this payrise then they have to be answerable to the people; not simply at election time but ALL of the time! I haven’t voted for anyone to send illegal arms to terrorists in Syria or any other country!!

    If they want this payrise, then they must give up outside work and stop selling their services to private companies……………..ahh well, let us wait and see if the Electorate fall for any of the 33 main parties hogwash next time LoL

  3. Helen Reed says:

    Public sector pay rises have been frozen for some time and are frozen at 1 per cent until 2015/16, whilst inflation is above 2 per cent.

    Why should MP’s get a rise above this when workers like nurses are having their relative pay reduced? It is argued that public sector professions give more intrinsic reward than those in the private sector and this is what motivates people to work as nurses, social workers etc. Being an MP certainly is a privileged position that many people would like to undertake and surely, is undertaken for reasons other than financial reward.

    It also must benefit to keep such people more in touch with the ordinary worker and to attract a more diverse set of people to this role. Currently it is very hard to break into politics without having the financial support to be able to gain experience for free and many of our politicians come from the same circles. If they would prefer to go off and do something better paid then that is their choice and they are probably not the right people for the job anyway. Instead of increasing MP’s pay, perhaps we might pay their interns to get a more representive set in the future.

    A nurse currently gets paid between 21-27,000. A nurse consultant, leading the way in research and implementing new practice will, once they reach the top of the top scale it is possible for them to have been put on, get 67,000. A backbench MP (with no ministerial responsibilities) currently gets 66000 plus a nicer pension than the nurse consultant and the rest of the public sector.

    As an aside they voted not to ruin their own pensions like has happened in the rest of the public sector – public sector workers had generally offset low pay with good pensions, much along the same argument as for MP’s with their pensions and expenses (with the latter to try and conceal from the public that they were getting a rise in wages, rather than being accountable and publicly giving themselves a rise). However nobody proposed/is proposing to give public sector workers a rise in wages to justify the more rubbish pension terms they have had to accept. So why so for MPs?

    I don’t see why a backbench MP should get more than the nurse consultant (who has worked a great number of years and is leading the way in their profession to get to that 67000 and is responsible for bringing us improved care, through change in policy and practice.) I certainly don’t see why they should be given a big increase whilst a newly qualified nurse (having probably struggled as a student nurse) is getting 21000 whilst performing an important and valuable job.

    Having worked alongside social workers – stressed and overworked – often doing long hours for no extra pay but because they care about the most vulnerable in society – I have no idea why any of them do it considering the financial compensation they get for it. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a nurse or a social worker. A nurse consultant – on the job tasks alone – sounds a bit more attractive and being an MP is something I would love to do. I would do it for much less than 67000 as the reasons I would want to do it are not financial. We are very lucky that there are some that think the same about other public service jobs, such as social work.

    As for the argument we need to do it to prevent corruption through issues such as lobbying – well if that is the case, we have elected the wrong people. We would be better off investing money in creating a more accountable political system so that should we get such unsuitable people who will be influenced, they will pay for it with their job.

    Whilst there is a public sector pay freeze and many are struggling to get by, a 11000 increase for MP’s already earning a more than comfortable salary is unacceptable. Their pay and conditions , and any changes in such, should be in line with the rest of the public sector. That saves IPSA a job and allows a fairer system. If they are ‘suffering’ from their own historical decisions to try and deceive the public, that is their own fault and at least they have already built up a nice pension pot to look forward to, unlike many other workers. As for the next generation of MP’s – let’s attract those that are in it for the right reasons and stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us – perhaps then they may be able to restore the public’s confidence.

    As another point, lets not forget the (lack of) fortunes of those genuinely unable to work due to ill health or lack of opportunity (it can be hard to strive for the top when you are in constant pain or, for example, have been brought up in care without the right nurturing, support and stability – neither of which are in your control, whatever Mr Cameron says – and what would he know about it?!) whose income was set by working out the minimum amount to live on and then cutting it by 10 per cent and which is now being cut further in both actual and relative terms. Ask them to feel inspired by and grateful to their MP whilst they divvy up their 71 pounds a week (3692 a year on top of housing and council tax benefit less deductions for having a spare room). This is not the society I want to live in, so the MP’s in my opinion are not doing a very good job and so as per Osborne’s pay related pay proposal, I award them nothing!

  4. Helen Reed says:

    I would be a backbenchet for much less than 67000. I have just had an inspired idea – why not put the posts out for competitive tendering?!

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