An interesting point

As a Labour MP who for 23 years represented one of the poorer areas of the country, my family and I could live well on an MP’s salary. With the exception of perhaps one or two doctors or a headteacher, I earned more than any of the 500 or so members of my local party. My Tory equivalent, representing a seat in the home counties and without a private income, is likely to be one of the poorer members of their constituency party. In a party where status counts, that must be painful. Which is why so many Tories feel obliged to top up their public service salaries with outside earnings.

33 comments on “An interesting point

  1. The more status you already have, the less it need concern you. So aristocrats and now Labour MPs it seems need never think about it.

  2. Of which one interesting point is that the only people out-earning said labour MP are other people with public sector salaries.

  3. BiG – Under private healthcare and private education, doctors and head teachers would still be the big earners locally. Though perhaps less likely to be members of the Labour Party.

  4. Which is why MPs shouldn’t be paid, but compensated for loss of earnings based on their pre-election income (5-year average, as declared for tax).

    That way there is no financial incentive to be elected.

  5. Chris Mullin’s family home presumably cost less than £50k (the average price of a semi-detached house in Sunderland was £48.701 in 1995) so he had a lot more left out of £33k pa than a Tory MP living in Henley where the average cost of a detached house was £207,167. At 8% interest and paying back over 25 years CM was paying just under £5k a year while the Tory was paying just under £20k.

  6. @Richard

    Indeed, or disincentive.

    Having recently been elected as district councillor, people ask me if I’m considering standing for MP. I get some funny looks when I reply that I couldn’t possibly afford the pay cut. Will have to think of a different excuse…

  7. Another victory for national pay scales.

    As an idea:

    1) Candidates for election declare how much they want if they get elected. All inclusive, including office expenses, maybe excluding travel.

    2) The figure goes on the ballot paper next to their name.

    3) There is a minimum (around the current backbench pay + office expenses), so nobody can offer to work for free.

    4) If they win, they get whatever they asked for.

    5) The amount gets paid by the local authority. So the local people bear the expense of whoever they have elected.

    Will the market prevail to find the real cost the ‘customers’ are willing to pay? Will the candidates and major parties become a cartel and take the piss? Who knows. Just an idea…

  8. In a party where status counts, that must be painful.

    Whereas in the Labour party having a certain colour skin, the right genitals, or a father who was a minister in a Labour government counts. None of which can be considered “status”, of course. Oh no.

  9. 5) The amount gets paid by the local authority. So the local people bear the expense of whoever they have elected.

    Currently, an MP’s salary costs around £1 per year per voter (varying from £3 in Na h-Eileanan an Iar to about 60p in Isle of Wight). Expenses and office support will add onto that, but only at the same order of magnitude. I would look more favourably on such a process if it was going to have a noticeable effect on people’s council tax bill, but at the level of three quid a year I don’t think this would really going to affect people very much: the rational voter would pretty much ignore all the monetary bids except where a candidate is obviously trying it on.

    That said, regardless of the overall level of cost, it would be politically difficult to make people in the lowest-population seats pay five times as much as those in the highest-population seats. Especially since the low-population seats are poorer than the high-population ones for fairly obvious reasons.

    Further, local authority areas are not exactly congruent with parliamentary constituency boundaries. This is probably surmountable, but I wouldn’t like to assume so. I guess one solution to both of these is to have a jolly good tinker with the boundaries and fix everything. And wait until people start moving (as is their wont in a free country) and muck up the beautifully-arranged, equally-populated constituencies that Whitehall has so generously imposed on them.

    I agree that MPs’ compensation arrangements should be published to households, perhaps in an election pack with their voting cards. I would support something which gives voters some constitutional information about the election(s) they are voting in: not just the candidates, but the powers and (ir)responsibilities of the body to which they are electing candidates, the salaries paid, all that kind of thing.

    And I agree that MPs should have their salaries fixed for the duration of the Parliament (yes, fixed: an extra incentive to keep inflation low), and uprated for wage inflation only for the next Parliament. But I don’t think a bidding process would add any meaningful information to the election.

  10. Rob: Do we have a foreign policy stance towards African countries?

    Your answer to that question pretty much determines your answer to the need for a Minister for Africa. Unless you’d prefer the Foreign Secretary to handle it all, or to leave it all to the Permanent Secretary. (The former, in reality, amounting to the latter.)

  11. Many, perhaps most, Labour MPs get a big pay rise on becoming MPs; many, perhaps most, Tories a pay cut.

    I think we can conclude that it’s the Tories who are public-spirited citizens, the socialists who are snouts-in-the-trough greedy pigs.

    Or, at least, that’s an analogy to Citizen Mullins’s logic.

  12. As a lapsed Tory, I can’t say – in all fairness – that I think ‘status’ is any more important to them than anyone else.

    A lot depends on what you think of as status anyway. Mullin got to swan about Sunderland like some sort of prince regent crossed with a man on a white charger, as grateful locals queued up to kiss his ring and buy him drinks in the working mens’ clubs.

    Tell me that’s not status.

  13. Plus back in Westminster, and in the pages of the Graun, he got to preen and pontificate about ‘his’ people being poorer and harder-done-by than people in X other random Labour constituency.

  14. Tell me that’s not status.

    Exactly. But the left, being obsessed with money in a way that few rampant capitalists are, assume status is purely a matter of wealth and earnings.

  15. If the “rampant capitalists” are so un-obsessed with money, why do they bother to pay themselves so much?

  16. Oh, and while we’re at it, I would be “interested” in some chapter and verse on:

    “Mullin got to swan about Sunderland like some sort of prince regent crossed with a man on a white charger, as grateful locals queued up to kiss his ring and buy him drinks in the working mens’ clubs.”

    or are we just relying on the insight of Alf Garnett – “it stans to reason, dunnit!”

  17. What Steve said.

    If there fewer ministers for AFrica, Ministers for wimmin ministers for sport and clutchyer bottom, etc etc there would be fewer useless expensive bastards pissing our money against the wall trying to climb the slippery pole.

    I think MPs should have to justify their salaries and expenses annually in a public meeting, and of course there has to be a power of recall.

    They need to be reminded regularly and forcefully that they are our servants, they work for us and if we collectively are not ‘appy then they need to pull their fucking socks up.

    As it is abundantly clear that in the collective we are not ‘appy, how we achieve this starts to take on some importance before our patience snaps and a simple and painless P45 becomes two yards of the finest hemp.

  18. The way to look at it is, like so many things, is through opportunity cost. You only jump ship if you can line up a better deal elsewhere. An MP nibbling cheese and quaffing wine might well keenly feel their lowly status among his hosts’ home county set. However it aint’ going to improve the situation if you drop the MP suffix and go out and get a worse deal.

  19. @Nutjob

    ‘If the “rampant capitalists” are so un-obsessed with money, why do they bother to pay themselves so much?’

    It may be a surprise to you, but it’s entirely possible to be a rampant capitalist and earn not very much at all.

    Because to be a rampant capitalist it is necessary only to observe the very obvious fact that rampant capitalism puts more varieties of bread on more tables in greater quantity than any kind of socialism ever has, anywhere in the world, ever.

    You missed what I suspect was the key element of Tim Newman’s comment, which was the intalicised words in the phrase ‘the left, being obsessed with money in a way that few rampant capitalists are’.

    That way being, in an envious way.

    That is, they couldn’t care less about the fact that socialism improverishes and immiserates everyone it touches, as long as someone somewhere doesn’t have more than they have.

  20. @Richard,

    You’d find a lot of recently-fallen or about-to-be-pushed captains of industry lining up to be MPs and demanding €30 million a year for their services. We could go back to selling safe seats to the highest bidder, to a greater extent than that happens already.

  21. Steve & BiI: I agree that “Free Trade” (which naturally includes “Open Borders”) could and should form the principal part of our foreign policy stance towards the rest of the world, regardless of whether it is Africa. Free trade enriches the poorest and is the best guarantor of liberty across the world.

    But to pretend that we would never have any consular problems to resolve nor any other diplomatic objectives to pursue is to elevate a particularly monocular form of ideologically isolationist purity over real-world practicality. I thought only the Left did that; I can see I was mistaken.

  22. Philip “But to pretend that we would never have any consular problems to resolve nor any other diplomatic objectives to pursue is to elevate a particularly monocular form of ideologically isolationist purity over real-world practicality.”

    That does not explain why somebody has to stand up in Parliament and field questions about Africa. In the old days, i think there was a single Minister for the Colonies, and that included a big swathe of the world with whom we had close trade and political ties. I thought we had largely done away with colonies by now. Do we need someone determining policy for “Africa”, a geographical concept rather than a political one?

  23. ““Free Trade” (which naturally includes “Open Borders”)”: it’s natural only if you plan to trade slaves.

  24. I have just checked the governmental website and it is, of course, worse than I thought.

    We have a Foreign and Commonwealth Office whose 21 policies are:

    Keeping the UK safe in cyber space

    Creating a lasting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

    Establishing stability in Afghanistan

    Increasing the UK’s exports and attracting inward investment

    Supporting international action on climate change

    Countering weapons proliferation

    Working for peace and long-term stability in the Middle East and North Africa

    Leading international efforts to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme

    Reducing the impact of climate change in developing countries

    Making the single market more effective

    Supporting British nationals overseas

    Protecting the UK against terrorism

    Promoting human rights internationally

    Supporting the Overseas Territories

    Supporting the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination

    Promoting stability throughout the Western Balkans

    Preventing and reducing piracy off the coast of Somalia

    Strengthening the Commonwealth

    Controlling defence, security and dual-use strategic exports

    Preventing conflict in fragile states

    Strengthening UK relationships in Asia, Latin America and Africa to support UK prosperity and security

    And we also have a Department for International development (whose 21 policies seem to be the same as that FCO guff).

    I am sure it is all extremely efficient and effective and I am sure the Minister for Africa has his hands full. It just feels so colonialist and pagternalist to have a ministry to help those poor brown people with governing themselves, advising them about climate change etc.

  25. You don’t need a Minister for Africa. It’s simply not an important enough part of the world to merit cabinet-level representation. Some junior FCO bod could field any day-to-day stuff, and punt anything above his pay grade upstairs, as it arises.

    I don’t see the need for more than, say, nine Cabinet Ministers. Has to be an odd number, as Parkinson stated, but beyond that nothing that isn’t an absolute core competency of government should have a ministry devoted to it.

  26. I mean someone considerably more junior than that. Like a civil service Executive Officer behind a desk somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall.

  27. I once worked on a huge operating system (in supposed concert with many others), and we found that whenever we patched a bug, another one appeared. Sometimes two. Eventually Management scrapped it. The tortuous solutions proposed here suggest parliamentary democracy has reached that stage. And that we’d be better off without it, leaving government to a much-reduced civil service (e.g. 8,000, as in 1914) directed by Facebook trends & the ever-present threat of being killed by the mob.

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