Monday, 1 July 2013

Let's pay our MPs more

I initially wanted to call this post The Idiots at IPSA. It wasn't the risk of offending the officials at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority that stopped me, but the risk of readers not bothering to read on if I had.

So of course the title I chose is a sarcastic one? Well, no. British MPs are not paid a particularly high salary given that they are tasked with collectively managing the world's sixth largest economy. German, Irish and Italian MPs are paid more.

"But they're doing a terrible job!" comes the incredulous reply. Well, then, you surely need to have better MPs. How do you get better MPs? Offer a salary that will attract better people. That seems to be IPSA's response.

And, after all, find an ambitious manager, negotiator or economist who will eschew the six-figure salaries of the private sector to serve her or his nation. Tall order? Now find six hundred and forty-nine more.

But - and here's the problem - we're talking about a long-term, theoretical, best-case scenario. Look at Britain in 2013 - it hardly qualifies as a 'best case scenario'. The economy is flatlining, exports to the far east are miserably low & trips to the supermarket are an increasingly austere routine for a lot of people. Theoretical arguments give way to public outcry*. Now is not the time, IPSA.

It's worth saying again: now is not the time. What were the officials who recommended a £7,500 pay rise for MPs thinking? Have they not noticed the austerity? Or read a newspaper? Do they have any idea what 'public opinion' means? Did they imagine that their recommendations might - just might - be picked over by the press?

You might say idiots is too strong a reproach. I disagree. These people had about as simple and limited a job as is possible to imagine: make an informed recommendation for MPs' pay. Not complicated. "Informed" might suggest that they take a look out of the window at the state of the country's finances. Or acknowledge the pain that millions of Brits are going through. Or consider the effect of offering the nation's custodians a huge pay rise  - while everyone else has to cut back - on public trust in politics.

Here's my recommendation: for this appalling decision alone, let's give everyone at IPSA a temporary 10% pay cut for the year 2015-16. That aught to give them a better indication of how the rest of the country are feeling for next time around.

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* Highest-rated vs. worst-rated comments on BBC website at time of writing.

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