Thursday, August 20, 2009

Well, are they worth it?

It is not surprising that the Boy-King of the Conservative Party has distanced himself from Sir Patrick Cormack, the large and unimpressive Conservative MP who has announced that for MPs to do their jobs properly they ought to be paid £130,000. Presumably, even he would not suggest that there should be expenses on top of that but nothing would really surprise me.

Douglas Hogg (known unaffectionately as the Hoglet) a man of great incompetence and complete lack of charm, who is standing down because of a little trouble with his moat, has also called for MPs to be paid six-figure salaries.

They were both described as "living on the planet Zog", which was, presumably named after the erstwhile King of Albania. The Boy-King of the Planet Tory knows that it is not sensible to be asking for doubling of MPs' salaries less than a year before the General Election when popular fury may well be visited on those who are associated with those demands.

In fact, there is some sense in MPs receiving their payment in properly accounted for and taxed salaries rather than the hole-in-the-corner manner they have been getting it. But there are a few problems.

One is the question of market forces. Is there, in fact, any evidence that people do not want to become MPs because of the "low" pay? There is not. Every party in every constituency has to beat off applicants. So, really, why bother to raise the salary if people want the job anyway?

The notion that a low salary attracts a low calibre of applicants is risible. None but the low calibre will go into politics now, whatever you pay and, in any case, if we raise the salaries it will be the bozos in there now who will benefit.

Finally, there is the unfortunate matter of the MPs' work, which, according to the egregious Sir Patrick, they cannot do at the moment because of lack of money. Just what is their job that they need to do?

Some time ago I wrote an Open Letter to our Legislators on the subject of them wanting higher salaries (it was £100,000 at the time so, in the meantime, they have become greedier), in which I enumerated all the many things they do not do: legislate, hold the government to account, scrutinize the budget, take part in debates, find out about important political issues. So far as I can or anyone else can tell, nothing much has changed since December 2006 except that more legislation has made its way from Brussels and more egregious mistakes, documented by the Boss of EUReferendum, have been made over defence expenditure.

So here is my suggestion. Let those MPs tell us exactly (and I mean exactly) what it is they do and why they deserve those fat-cat salaries. Then the electorate will see whether they deserve double of what they now get legitimately. Of course, there is a possibility that the electorate will also see exactly how little our so-called legislators do for the money they get now. And that would be very sad.

10 comments:

  1. I suggest they get paid pro rata, I read 80% of legislation is direct from Brussels, give them 20% of the higher sum, should they earn it pay them the lot!

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  2. WitteringsfromWitneyAugust 20, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    Nice post Helen, well said - have linked to this.

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Parliament is a shadow of what it was with people who never ran anything before now running the country - into the ground! It is they who have to justify themselves to the people, NOT the other way round!

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  4. I like the questions raised not least of which is:
    What is an MP worth? (That is different from that which an MP thinks he/she is worth)

    According to statistics.gov.uk, earnings up to April 2008 were (I don't think they have gone up much since that time):

    Average UK earnings up to April 2008 £27,092
    Top ten percent of earners earned over £49,192

    Does an MP's job description put them in the top ten percent?

    There are other complications of course, eg government ministers. My MP works hard but spends very little time actually representing his constituents, so maybe his MP only pay should be less than the national average pay, as this is very much a part time job for him. He spends a miniscule amount of time on the jobs you mention “legislate, hold the government to account, scrutinize the budget, take part in debates, find out about important political issues.”

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  5. Frankly their current ₤60,000 approx seems very generous to me. ₤45- 50,000 seems fairer to me considering the priceless prestige & aura of power that they get. Certainly no more than that what they get at present, & they should do at least a 5 day week to justify that - 11 months a year - including constituency surgeries. Perhaps one long research trip or retreat-type vacation could be Ok for the average MP, but it certainly should produce something of value debate or legislation-wise. However, late night sittings should be treated specially - paid either by an enjoyable free meal on Parliamentary premises, or a cash payment in lieu of it & worth no more than about ₤20. Oveertime? Only if they've worked it!

    I really don't see many of these people worth more than me, & I have never been paid that well!

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  6. Thanks very much, Witterings from Witney.

    Alfred,
    I am not convinced that the MP's job is to represent his constituents. What about the country? And which constituents are we talking about? Burke, whom everybody quotes all the time, would not have agreed with you. What does you MP actually do when he "works very hard"? I am intrigued.

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  7. Helen, and there's me thinking I voted (I didn't) him in to represent me. I have looked at the parliament web site before to try and work out what an MP is actually there to do, but have failed to find a definitive answer. I'd be grateful for a pointer. (Dare I own up to not having read Burke?)

    He works hard, ie puts many hours in, at

    1. being a Minister (Hard work and achievement are not the same thing IMO)
    2. Interfering with the local council and acting like a councillor
    3. Replying to constituents letters (but never answers the questions posed, in my experience, unless it is against the council. I have a feeling that he has a computer programme that turns out a standard response, including a few words from the constituent's own letter)
    4. Trying to trip up the opposition. It is a marginal constituency

    If I say any more, then you will work out who he is, and I don't want this to become personal, as I think he represents a general malaise which is typical of the actions of a number of MPs who are also ministers.

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  8. Sorry, Alfred, but I can't work out who he is, as what you describe is common to all MPs, particularly those who have achieved a ministerial status.

    Let me reply to one or two points. I completely agree that it is idiotic of MPs to get involved in local council affairs and to try to trip the latter up if it happens to be led by another party. That is not what MPs are for but, of course, they do not do anything that they are supposed to do and, therefore, spend their time on local affairs.

    The point is that you do not vote for an MP to represent you personally because your interests may not be at one with what that MP, supposedly, perceives to be the country's interests or, even, with other constituents' interests. It is a difficult conundrum and I have written about it on various occasions as have many people, who are better versed in constitutional theory. No doubt, the subject will come up again.

    I was referring to Edmund Burke's Letter to the Bristol electors. I discussed it in my posting about the launch of the Jury Team (http://eureferendum2.blogspot.com/2009/03/amateur-hour.html). Burke said to the men (and they were all men at the time, though not all the men of Bristol had the right to vote):

    "His unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you or to any set of men living."

    At the following election this became an issue because Burke believed, for many reasons, in free trade with Ireland, while the Bristol merchants did not.

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  9. What an excellent EURef post, thank you. I wish that I had read it at the time instead of ignoring it, because I thought that it was only about the Jury Party. I apologise.

    "Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

    Yes. Instead of suggesting that he has to respond to the electorate's every whim (pure democracy - yuck), I expect that the person I vote for, sticks to his declared principles and his manifesto, except where he gives very good reasons not to. When at a local meeting, on the Lisbon treaty, that he arranged, 96% of the attendees were saying no to the Treaty, he told us that he had been voted in for 5 years and we had a chance to vote him out at the end of the period, if we didn't like his support for the Treaty. That has to be the opposite of pure democracy but I suppose it supports Burke's point.

    But your "In the end it is not only our politicians who are failing in their duties but many of us as well – our duties as citizens of a constitutional democracy." begs a question. If we can only get involved once in 5 years how do we best discharge our duties?

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  10. That is the big question, Alfred. Having got ourselves through our own self-satisfaction and apathy into the situation we are in, what do we do? I look across the Pond at the growing tea party movement and salivate at the thought of something similar here. Sadly, we have a different system. However, it might be a good idea for people to turn out more at elections and vote for the smaller parties if they disagree with the big ones. Local elections do matter, yet people do not bother with them. I suppose they would if the councils raised their own money and had to account for it. Maybe I should have an open thread on this blog and see what people suggest. Of course, spreading information is hugely important. I look at the situation now and at the time of Maastricht when I first became involved and the difference is enormous. But the politicians have not moved and that is a big problem. Well, obviously. D'uh!

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