Well, it depends really

On the face of it, the idea that a prime minister cannot afford to do the job on a salary of £157,372 is ridiculous.

Cannot is ridiculous of course.

Johnson has told friends that he needs to earn about £300,000 a year — twice his salary — to keep his head above water. A former No 10 insider said it was “received wisdom” that he is permanently broke.

“Head above water” isn’t quite the right phrase either.

However, it’s a hell of a lot easier to allow expenditure to expand to rising income than it is to compress it to match a falling one. Someone who’s been earning £300 to £400k for a couple of decades would indeed find it difficult to compress down to £150k. That just is difficult, whatever the number of zeroes there, 40k to 15k is difficult too.

Add in a divorce, the ex-wife used to make a lot more than Carrie does and so on and one can see the problem.

On his own head and all that but the base contention isn’t unfair. It’s not that he can’t live on it, it’s that he’s not used to doing so.

37 thoughts on “Well, it depends really”

  1. Good job he’s not Chancellor eh? Just think what the economy would be like if the country was run like this……

  2. It also matters from the point of view of an observer. One who is on 40k will look at a 150k income and wonder what they would do with all the extra money. Someone on 150k would wonder how on earth one can manage on 40k.

    In the end it is all dishonest as it doesn’t mention the impact of tax and benefits. Tax on 150k is a damn sight higher, proportionally, than 100k or 40k. In my experience those on lower incomes don’t realise that and scale up their proportional after tax income.

  3. Wasn’t this a constant refrain of Churchill’s. Boris will just have to rough it for a while longer and then coin it in when he steps down.

  4. Churchill was worse – on the radio-phone to his bank extending his overdraft from the plane he was flying to Paris to offer union with France in 1940. Seriously dodgy tax planning, at least two rich aunts dying just in time, and a few big backers ready to do things like buy the movie rights to his books for unreasonably generous sums.

  5. He should cash out a pension (he’s over 55), or sell a property. And stop pedalling expensive bikes.

  6. I just read a history of his writing the second world war book. Ages of finagling so that the papers he used were in a family trust, meaning that the advance could be said to be a fee for the use of the papers and go into the trust, not subject to income tax at 19s/6d in the £. Thousands and thousands of dollars paid by the American publishers for “writing trips” to the Riviera etc. Ended up admiring the chutzpah of the old boy over it…..almost.

  7. What’s he spending the money on? Housing is provided (though as MP for Uxbridge, he presumably doesn’t get a second house allowance). Cars are provided by the government. His first four children are all grown up and have finished their studies. His appearance – clothes, haircuts – have never been a priority for Boris.

    So where is the money going?

  8. He should be doing what a lot of us have been doing recently – saving something. I reckon I’ve been saving about a third of my income over the past year, and my bank account is now quite healthy.

  9. Forgot to add – he has a gold-plated MP’s pension, so he doesn’t even need to save for retirement.

    Perhaps he could ask his next door neighbour to eliminate the 60% tax band.

  10. @ Napsjam:

    … and a few big backers ready to do things like buy the movie rights to his books for unreasonably generous sums.

    And this is the worrying thing isn’t it. When does the recipient of the donors largesse stop representing the people who elected them and start represent their backers?

    As it says in Matthew 6:24: ” No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. “

  11. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

    He could do a Tony Blair, and publish a bribe price list?

  12. I suspect it requires an income far in excess of an MP/PM’s pension to hold your own in the sort of company Blair mixes with, let alone those from Boris’s circle.

  13. @ Jonathan
    Churchill’s backers didn’t want to change his policies, they just wanted him to (in 1940) beat Hitler and (late 40s) win the next election and reduce income tax from 19s 6d to below 90%.
    There hasn’t been an expose of Churchill ever introducing policies to suit his backers – unlike Harold Wilson or Tony Blair

  14. Bloke in Nort Dorset

    Boris will just have to rough it for a while longer and then coin it in when he steps down.

    Lets hope that sooner rather than later. I’d rather be governed by a proper conservative than a pretend libertarian governing like bloody socialist.

  15. Tricky, isn’t it? John77’s right, it was benignly corrupt, or harmlessly corrupt, or something. Might not even have been against the rules at the time. He didn’t get paid to do favours or bend the rules to suit anyone – as it turned out. But we really don’t want the PM paid for by benevolent backers who never, or never yet, anyway, ask for the favour to be returned. I’m very glad Churchill got away with it, and it didn’t do any harm, but it’s not hard to point to much worse pols, and much worse rich backers, and be glad the system won’t let it happen (much?) anymore.

    Tim, try No More Champagne, by David Lough: good historical work looking at Churchill’s bank statements, begging letters and tax bills. Hair-raising stuff.

  16. I’ve said for some time its ludicrous that the PM gets such a poor salary. Why on earth should the person who runs the country get less than many of the individuals running far smaller parts of it? Starmer as DPP got nearly 200k ten years ago. Loads of council CEOs get £250k+. The UK is the what 5th biggest economy, if you look at the list of what the PMs or Presidents get paid we’re below Iceland for goodness sake! If the PM isn’t paid enough to make sure he isn’t worried about money, it opens him (or her) up to exactly what is happening here, trawling around for ‘donations’ that may well have strings attached, and even if not the look of having them attached. It also means only the already monied can ever consider being PM.

    The PM’s salary should be roughly doubled from what it is today, then it would be broadly comparable internationally.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset,

    “Lets hope that sooner rather than later. I’d rather be governed by a proper conservative than a pretend libertarian governing like bloody socialist.”

    The reason I quit the Conservative party is that I saw no hope of change. They’re all in the Cameron/May/Boris mould.

    It cracks me up when the left talk about the Tories as hateful, tax-cutting racists. Out of everyone I met in the local party, less than 5% of them had the perspective that government was a necessary evil and nothing else. They were all genuinely sad about closing lots of libraries, even though most of them are empty and should have been closed to give money back to people.

  18. Am all in favour of limiting the largesse of our public sector purse – money that comes from working stiffs that can ill afford to part with it. Accordingly, am more than happy to turn a blind eye to the sort of lads that covered the cost of Thatcher’s suite at the Ritz.

  19. ‘Might not even have been against the rules at the time.’

    I understand that back in the really good, really old days it was all sinecures and rotten boroughs. So as fashions change and what’s acceptable alters, how the pollie is furnished with the necessary loot changes as well.

  20. @Bernie G.,

    I would have thought that Thatcher’s room at the Ritz was better value than many Care Homes, even if it was somewhat more expensive. And wasn’t Dennis a millionaire?

    Plus, the grub’s better – I dine there regularly (or used to) and I’ve seen what care homes dish up.

  21. “… Why on earth should the person who runs the country get less than many of the individuals running far smaller parts of it?…”

    Because the Prime Minister’s job is to run The Government – not The Country. The Country would be much better off if The Government shrank by 50%. Then, the PM would be properly paid for the job he ought to be doing.

  22. @Witchie…

    I once worked for a guy that insisted on holding the morning meeting over breakfast at The Ritz. While it was a pain to trundle up to the West End of a morning, as you say, the grub was so much better.

  23. @ John77:

    Churchill’s backers didn’t want to change his policies,

    Maybe not, but he certainly changed his mind on a number of important issues between 1920 and 1930. Now, of course, that may have been an entirely organic process or could possibly have been as a result of the influence of his backers, I don’t know.

    TBH though, my point was meant to be a general one and not particularly about Churchill.

  24. Whoever invented that joke will go through life knowing it was the best thing he ever did.

  25. Bloke in a bint

    Salaries for politicians have been a disaster: it frees them up from the tedious business of earning a living and allows them to spend more time fucking us over.

  26. There’s no necessary correlation between skill in public finance and skill in personal finance – Pitt the Younger was the best financial prime minister you ever had, and also absolutely dependent on some very understanding friends.

    Of course, we could always try the Roman system, and have elected officials pay for government out of their own pockets. It would limit the pool of potential officials, but…

  27. @ Jonathan
    Do you *really* believe that “Doctor Who” is real? And that Churchill’s backers when he was writing his “History of the Second World war” (in the 1940s, in case you didn’t know) influenced his policies in the 1920s?

  28. Dunno. 150k seems a bit excessive for a bloke whose job seems to consist of reading out SAGE press releases.

  29. “Because the Prime Minister’s job is to run The Government – not The Country.”

    Alright pendant, why should the Leader of the Government get less than many of the people he is in charge of, regardless of the size of the government? Would there still be a DPP in a government 50% of its current size? And if so would they be getting a higher salary than the PM? If so, why?

  30. @ Jonathan
    What you wrote was:
    “that may have been an entirely organic process or could possibly have been as a result of the influence of his backers, I don’t know.”

    Maybe *you* should re-read what you wrote.

  31. @ Jonathan
    The “backers” in the discussion were those who financed him with respect to his history of the *Second* World War. Hence my reference to “Doctor Who” in reply to you 9.10 am reply to Napsjam.
    You should re-read *all* of your posts

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