Just as they cut the incomes of the poor, MPs say they deserve to be paid more. They may be right

Quality costs. It's true that people go into politics to serve the public rather than make a fortune. But to attract and retain top talent, we may have to pay a little more

Share
Fact File
  • £86,250 Average salary MPs say they deserve
  • £65,738 What MPs are paid now
  • £96,740 What Tory MPs say they deserve
  • £78,361 What Lib Dem MPs say they deserve
  • £77,322 What Labour MPs say they deserve

In December I met for coffee with an exceptionally talented young Labour MP. She has merits that most employees would salivate at: a fierce intelligence, excellent communication skills, judgement and motivation. Best of all, she has an inspirational concern for social justice and solidarity with the poor and needy.

Naturally we got talking about the prospects for her party in 2015, and I joked about her imminent challenge for the party leadership. At which point, she dropped a bombshell. She probably won’t be in parliament after the next election, she said. And certainly not after that. Why, I asked. Because the life of an MP can be utterly thankless, and she could easily earn three times the money in the private sector.

Long before the corrosive effect of the expenses scandal, our politicians have been generally held in low regard. There are many accusations against them, from vanity to venality and everything in between. The stupidest thing said about them is that they’re lazy. Well, they are not, often commuting across vast tracts of the country, doing seven-day weeks and putting their families under unbearable strain.

It’s in this context that we should examine the news that MPs have said they deserve a salary of £86,250, up from the current £65,738. Unsurprisingly, Tories had the highest estimation of their worth (£96,740), Lib Dems were second (£78,361) and Labour were third (£77,322). Other parties alighted on £75,091 between them.

Your instinctive reaction to this might be repulsion. Government, which is led by an exceptionally privileged elite, vote to cut the incomes of the poor (through welfare reform) while demanding a pay rise for themselves. And in any case, you might say, politics is about serving the public, not making a fortune. I sympathise with both those points.

But I keep thinking about that Labour MP too. I don’t want her to leave public service.

In several aspects of modern life we are breaking the connection between the consumption of valued goods and the purchase of them. Some people, like Chris Anderson, author of a marvellous book called  Free, revel in this trend. I’m afraid I can’t. I’m as guilty as you are of consuming things that I adore – daily journalism, music from iTunes, five series of The Wire – without paying for them. But quality costs. This year, I’m trying (especially on the journalism front) to pay if I can.

The same applies to MPs. There are 650 of them. If each got that increase, it would cost the public £13,332,800. This year, our government will spend £683,600,000,000. So we’re talking 0.00195 per cent, or one fifty-thousandth, of public expenditure.

Quality costs. We need brilliant MPs. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us