£66,396 is a pretty good salary, I think. If you were being paid that much, you’d be getting more than 95% of your fellow workers in the UK. And if actually turning up for work was optional, well, that’s the dream job, isn’t it?
That’s the cushy number for Members of Parliament in Britain. Add to the generous salary an equally substantial allowance for running your office and employing staff (often your spouse) and an expenses system modelled on the long-gone Civil Service model of the 1950s, and you’d think they’d be not just happy, but embarrassed by the taxpayers’ largesse.
No. It’s not enough. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, established as an independent body in response to the MP expenses scandal of 2009, is considering a pay rise of 11% for MPs, which would put them on £74k after the next election. While it’s definitely an improvement to take away MPs’ former ability to vote for their own pay rises, the IPSA has neither managed to reduce the expenses bill nor gain public support for a pay strategy.
That’s because their fundamental premise is wrong. To quote from their most recent paper, recommending the 11% increase, “It is a package based on the principle that MPs do a professional job and this should be matched by a proper professional salary.”
And the only possible response to that is “no, they fucking don’t” and “no, it fucking shouldn’t”.
(The same publication also notes, with no irony, that: “MPs have no job description. They do not have to undergo training or gain qualifications. They have no annual appraisals nor performance reviews completed by their line managers. Indeed, they have no line managers.”)
MPs themselves sometimes argue that they could earn much more in another job. Even though many of them have never actually had a proper job (for example, all three leaders of the largest parties) it’s quite possibly true. We all know how the world of directorships works, where you get a fat salary for turning up at a few meetings.
So I say “go!”, go and get another job. If your only interest in being an MP is that it is a well-paid job that matches your skills, then I don’t want you doing it. And I’m your employer. I believe that being an MP should be a vocation, like being a nurse (although without the nurse’s studies and qualifications).
In the end, only voters can derail the gravy train. The 2009 expenses scandal did put the wind up MPs, with the number quietly “stepping down” before the 2010 election being double the usual number. They understood that the public was surprised, dismayed and resentful at the revelations of extravagance. Those MPs endorsing the 11% pay rise (Miliband and Clegg not among them) need to be reminded that the next general election is not that far away.