Letters: Democracy damaged by MPs' pay row

These letters appear in the Monday 16th December edition of the Independent

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I really take issue with the perception that many people have that the job of an MP, as Steve Garrett (letter, 12 December) puts it, "is essentially an unskilled job requiring no qualifications".

Having just participated in an uplifting parliamentary-candidate selection process in Ealing Central and Acton, in which a packed meeting of hundreds of local Labour Party members selected from five enthusiastic and talented candidates, who would all in their different ways have made excellent MPs, I know what a supreme effort people have to go to in order to secure a party selection, let alone the popular local vote.

Do your correspondents really think that the multiple real-life experiences and achievements prospective MPs must demonstrate in order to get on to a constituency shortlist, the time commitments they must devote to campaigning, talking to party members, local groups and constituents, and the necessary skills including effective public speaking, extensive networking and mastery of the local political brief, amount to lack of skills and qualifications? Perhaps they should try to stand for office themselves and find out first-hand how "easy" it is.

I don't presume to comment on the right level of pay for MPs in a time of austerity, but to denigrate the institution of representative democracy in this way is dangerous, and your correspondents should stop doing it.

Rosy Leigh, London W3


If deliberations on MPs' pay are to mean anything, let us – the taxpaying public as the ultimate paymasters of our MPs – see data relating to the earnings of MPs both before they were elected and after they leave office, along with data relating to their income from "moonlighting" while in office.

Professor David Sapsford, Liverpool


The Prime Minister claims that he is eager to cut the cost of politics by reducing the number of constituencies. It would be far better if, with the other leaders, he would show the way by reducing the size of the House of Lords, or at least refrain from adding to the cost to the public purse by packing that Chamber with even more peers.

The electorate uses its influence to vote in worthy MPs, but has no say at all as to the membership of the bloated Upper House, the raison d'être of some of whom appears to be the claiming of allowances and little else.

David Hindmarsh, Cambridge


Its all very well for David Cameron to lecture MPs about the proposed pay increase being totally unacceptable. He is a rich man married to an heiress.

How exactly are MPs to run two homes, one in their constituency and one in London, on the salary we pay them? David Cameron has a London home already and he is now given two official residences.

MPs and their pay are an easy target, especially after the expenses scandal. We pay MPs about half the salary other European countries pay.

It is time we moved Parliament out of London altogether. If we want to pay MPs regional pay rates, Parliament will have to meet in the regions. (The civil service should be moved out of London too.) Otherwise we will have to give MPs central London apartments to live in while they are MPs.

Nigel F Boddy, Darlington


If I am undecided how to vote at the 2015 election, the deciding factor will be which candidate has the courage to say that he or she will accept the entire IPSA package, especially given the fact that the overall impact on the public purse will be neutral.

The way politicians are falling over themselves to declare that they will refuse to accept a package which the public mistakenly believes gives them some kind of unfair advantage is quite nauseating.

Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent


Mandela's true politics ignored

The sight of David Cameron, Barack Obama and other western leaders fawning over the memory of Nelson Mandela is nauseating. The political elite present Mandela as "one of us", as if he shared "our"' values, and we his.

While Mandela was always an implacable opponent of neoliberal capitalism, the US and the UK have been in the forefront of promoting this execrable creed as the one true path towards progress, regardless of its capacity to produce division, misery, instability and inequality on a grand and global scale. At a local level witness the extraordinary proliferation of pay-day loan sharks and betting shops, so symptomatic of austerity Britain in a financial crisis.

Mandela may have been an idealist, but he was certainly no capitalist.

Simon Sweeney, York Management School, University of York


As Nelson Mandela has finally been buried and all those dignitaries who were delighted to be filmed – and filmed themselves at the memorial service, too – return home, let us spare a thought for that other great African leader, FW de Klerk, who had the courage to release Mandela in 1990 and hand over the presidency to him 1994. I wonder what the obituaries, tributes, and funeral service for South Africa's last white president will be when that time finally comes?

Dominic Shelmerdine, London W8

In South Africa, when Nelson Mandela died, there was singing and dancing in the streets. In the north of England, when Margaret Thatcher died, there was singing and dancing in the streets. Truly, culture is a funny thing.

Michael Baum, Ilford, Essex.


Keep Genetics out of Education

Regarding your "nature trumps nurture" story (12 December), one should always be suspicious of supposedly objective studies that just happen to uphold the prevailing governmental ideology and policy.

At a time of gross inequality and absolute poverty, reinforced by a ferocious propaganda war against the poor, it's hardly surprising that eugenics should be raising its ugly head. The attempt to disclaim this study's moral implications by saying it points to an "individually tailored approach" which will help the "lower end of the distribution", is simply a relatively polite way of calling for a two (or more)-tier education system to support a two (or more)-tier society. Separate but equal? Not likely.

Katherine Perlo, Prestonpans


Regarding the debate about the genetic role in the ability of a child to be academically bright, allow me to share the Indian approach to this which was developed thousands of years ago.

According to the ancient Hindu scriptures there are four psychological categories of human beings. The first is the intellectual type who will excel academically; the second is the warrior type for whom leadership and courage will come naturally; the third type is one who exceeds in trade, business and agriculture; the last type is the artisan type for whom any occupation requiring making things, comes naturally – anything from carpentry to fixing cars they excel in.

A class of students will have all four types. For some of these students understanding Shakespeare will be a doddle, but for some it will be impossible. The education system should be designed to work out which student is more inclined to a particular discipline. No one is a failure. It is very wrong to measure success simply by the numbers who go to university. Our country desperately needs builders, carpenters etc. and we need to raise the profile of vocational courses.

Nitin Mehta, Croydon, Surrey

Richard Garner's perceptive comment on genetics in education mentions the "spectre of concentrating on the education of blue-eyed, Arian boys".

As far as I am aware the followers of the third-century priest and heretic Arius, deemed "Arians", drew from a broad racial palate, not least in the case of Arius himself, who was probably of North African origin. The confusion with Aryans, or Aryanism, a popular racial conceit of the late 19th and 20th centuries, while frequent, is inimical to the memory of an ascetic theologian who presented a rational, tolerant and more human alternative to the increasing Hellenisation and mystification of the early church, and who was anathematised and probably poisoned in consequence of his beliefs.

Christopher Dawes, London W11


Spell Checker's fishy result

The dangers of spell-checker are revealed yet again in Charlotte Raven's review of The Pleasure's All Mine (14 December) which mentioned: "our confused sexual morays."

Confused, indeed! The subtitle A Guide to Perverse Sex suddenly seems disturbingly accurate. How perverse can you get? (Don't answer that!)

David Gee, Newhaven, Sussex


Segregation by any other name

Why should segregation based on sex in universities be any less offensive than segregation based on colour? (Letters, 14 December.)

Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon