There has been a predictable outcry against the independent review body’s recommendation of an 11 per cent pay raise for MPs. People rage that it is unacceptable during these times of austerity, and politicians queue up to agree with them.
But there is never a good time for us to correct the anomalously low pay of our elected representatives. Compared with politicians in other countries, or compared with senior civil servants, the pay of our MPs and ministers is woefully uncompetitive.
The MPs who represent us form the gene pool from which the leaders in our executive are selected. Do we want the best people as our leaders? Of course we do. We won’t get them if we pay poorly. They should take the rise.
If we keep denigrating politicians and underpaying them our choice will be restricted to the wealthy or the fanatical.
Paul Sloane, Camberley, Surrey
It is remarkably arrogant of any MP to suggest that they will refuse to accept the proposed pay rise. As it will not come into effect until after the next general election, no sitting MP will benefit unless they are again voted for by a majority of their constituents.
The rise does not apply to any individual but to the job. Current MPs are of course all welcome to apply for one of these jobs if they so choose. I imagine that the rate of pay will be only one factor in their decision.
Dr Dominic Horne, Ledbury, Herefordshire
With regard to MPs’ pay , many insist that higher pay is needed to attract suitable people into Parliament. Would not suitable people, though, be those who recognise the value of being an MP? Would they not be more suitable, if content to live on incomes more typical of the general population?
Indeed, would we not respect good footballers were they to value their play without needing millions in salaries? Could not successful entrepreneurs be pleased with their businesses instead of scarpering to lands abroad if the size of their profits is endangered by taxation?
It is surely depressing that the current ethos is that the main motivator to get people to do valuable jobs must be more and more money. Must a society have such an ethos?
Peter Cave, London W1
I’m confused by all the comments on the subject of the recent announcement of an apparently obligatory and legally-binding 11 per cent pay increase awarded to MPs by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Party leaders appear to “protest too much” that the increase is excessive, but they cannot refuse it. Would that the other “independent” pay review bodies’ recommendations (which cover more than 40 per cent of public-sector workers), such as those for doctors, dentists and nurses, had such legal protection. The first response by government to their announcements is usually to alter the proposal out of all recognition or reject it altogether.
Dr John Hamilton, York
Politicians are the only people who are appointed to their job by us, the public. So if we think our MP is not worth £74,000, it is up to us to appoint someone who is. In view of the fact that the increase will not come into force until after the 2015 election, I cannot see what all the fuss is about.
Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent
Mandela’s example to Scotland
Many acres of newsprint have quite rightly been devoted to the life of Nelson Mandela. And as we look to next year’s Scottish independence referendum we should take some lessons from that great life.
Here was a man noted for his dignity in adversity, who demonstrated a massive capacity for forgiveness towards those who had imprisoned him for almost three decades, all in order to create a united nation.
Next year’s referendum campaign is set to be a bitter affair, but what we must not lose sight off is that in the aftermath, whatever the result, those of both sides still need to live, work and get on together.
The hope must be that we can put aside triumphalism and revenge, as Mandela did, and move on as one nation, not as a deeply divided country comprising two tribes in continued conflict.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh
While rightfully honouring Nelson Mandela’s immense political and moral courage and inclusivity, after his release from years of imprisonment by the white apartheid government in the early 1990s, let us not forget the precedent set by Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyan president and father of Uhuru, the current President, whilst acknowledging his post-independence flaws.
Following his release in the early 1960s from years of imprisonment in the arid and remote Northern Frontier District by the British authorities for his alleged links with the banned Mau Mau resistance movement, he repeatedly implored and reassured the white European residents not to leave Kenya but to stay in the spirit of the country’s slogan “Harambee” (“Let’s pull together”) and make an essential contribution to Kenya’s uhuru (“freedom”) and future economic and political prosperity.
Marcus Loxton , Chelmsford, Essex
What do you want schools to do?
As a headteacher I have recently carried out a simple piece of internet research, drawing up a list of the expectations made of schools (this year alone) by politicians and interested groups, as reported in newspaper articles or the BBC news website.
The Royal Society has called for a greater emphasis on science and technology education. The NSPCC wants to see more done to tackle bullying. St John Ambulance believes first aid should be compulsory in the curriculum. The Amateur Swimming Association has requested that swimming be compulsory
Others have voiced opinions that schools should be teaching children to recite poetry, how to organise personal finance, to know where food comes from, and that all children should learn to speak a foreign language.
There have been broad calls for a greater emphasis on the arts, set against those of the opinion that there should be more apprenticeships, more enterprise education and more vocational learning.
Famous athletes have spoken of the need for schools to tackle childhood obesity and falling fitness levels. A top TV chef has called for a greater emphasis on cookery in schools.
Other interested groups have demanded that schools address a lack of religious affairs knowledge, build character and teach about road safety.
In addition, there have been strongly expressed views that children should be learning more British history dates, should have much better geographical knowledge and should be brushing up their Latin.
If, as a headteacher, I actually responded to each week’s call for something extra to be added to the school curriculum, the result would be a mish-mash of initiatives with little time left to spent on basic literacy and numeracy.
What is clear is that there is no national agreement on the fundamental purpose of education. Headteachers are caught in the middle of argument and counter-argument about which of the problems of society we should concentrate on in our school curriculum.
Thank goodness England have qualified for the World cup finals in Brazil next year: it has saved me having to read the inevitable opinion of a TV pundit who believes that schools should put a greater emphasis on football.
Ben Warren, Headteacher, Summerhill Comprehensive School, West Midlands
Male pill will be kind to rivers
Grace Dent’s scepticism of the efficacy of the male pill is understandable (4 December).
But she is perhaps unaware of the damage caused by oestrogen polluting rivers. The consequences were reported in The Independent as long ago as 1994; that is the feminisation of fish and other organisms. It is thought that this is one of the reasons too for the reducing sperm count in humans.
The male pill does not have this effect. A means of killing the sperm as they pass through the vasa deferentia is also being experimented with, which is reversible. It would certainly be better for all of us if the males in long-term relationships took one of these initiatives in birth control.
Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France
Scans for the dead and the living
Dr Mark Howard’s letter (7 December) raised, in my ignorant layman’s mind, an important question. If digital imaging (MRI and CAT scans) has such a high rate of error when used on dead bodies, instead of a conventional autopsy, is the error rate similar when used for diagnosis on the living?
I certainly hope there is a significant difference. No one wants to see a return to earlier times and exploratory operations!
Iain Smith, Rugby, Warwickshire