I’m at something of a loss to understand the plaintive cry of David Cameron that he cannot do anything about the pay rise proposed for MPs.
The sovereign government of the UK can do something about most things that happens in the union, simply by legislating for or against it. Why not so on this issue.
If Danny Alexander and Gideon Osborne can decree that public sector workers may only receive a 1% rise in salaries, never mind that they work for as diverse organisations as Birmingham City Council and The Highlands Health Board, then it beats the hell out of me that all they can do about MPs getting an award of 11% is to beat their breast and wail uncontrollably.
But moving on… should they be getting a pay rise?
There are those who would say that good MPs are worth more that the £66.5 k that they currently receive. Some of them, highly qualified people, quite rightly point out that they could earn ten times that in industry (or fifty times in banking).
But that’s not a valid argument. After all, there are many who aren’t worth anything like three times the average national wage. But it the job which dictates the salary, not the person. In short you get paid the rate for the job you do, not the job you think you might be able to do.
The job has a flat rate salary; unlike many other jobs it demands no qualifications, and it has no salary scale; you start at £66,500 and you will finish up there, unless you get to be a committee chairman or a minister.
It seems that the job consists of 3 or 4 parts.
MPs are first and foremost constituency members, there to help out and advise their constituents with their travails. But it is a sort of Citizen’s Advice Bureau/social work/facilitator kind of job, often the last resort when officialdom just won’t listen. MPs’ letters go straight to the decision makers, not to junior clerks that deal with mail from the public! In truth much of this work is often done by their administrative staff.
MPs also take part in debates in the chamber, although a look at the chamber for anything other than showpiece debates, suggests that is not a full time job. And because of pairing they can travel the world with never a care for turning up for votes, witness Anas Sarwar undertaking speaking engagements in Pakistan while important votes were taking place at home, and Gordon Brown virtually never showing up at all.
Of course some MPs take part in committee work where they hold ministers or officials to account often to hilarious effect. Sometimes they seem to hold other members of the committee to account; ask Eilidh Whiteford!
And finally, they get invited to places to play the role of minor royalty, opening community centres and hospital wings and the like and saying a few words.
Some MPs have time to take on a variety of other jobs, from those who sit on a number of boards of directors to some who work part time as dentists, barristers, public speakers, quiz show panellists, etc. There are even the ridiculous ones who take themselves off for extended periods to eat spiders or wear cat suits in reality tv.
So the questions are: is £66,500 around right for the job, or should it be more? Would we get a better standard of MP if we offered more money? If they should get more, is now, when everyone else is restricted to tiny pay rises or none at all, the right time for an increase?
And given that by law the MSPs and AMs in London, Cardiff and Belfast are paid a proportion of Westminster’s members’ salary, should the First Ministers or Mayor try to do something to stop that happening.
What do you think? There is a poll on the right side bar. It was supposed to have an option, 'YES, but not at the moment', which disappeared into the half-world that is Blogger. Apologies. That's why there is a multiple answer option.
Finally, I note that the BBC was having difficulty finding an MP who was in favour of the pay rise to appear on the radio this morning. I wonder if anyone has put his head above the parapet.
I hope that those MPs who have been vociferous in decrying the rise will be giving the extra money to charity. Maybe the local food bank would be a good place to start.