In the 19th century MPs were not paid at all, but Parliament was at the centre of national life.
Over time as the Parliament of landowners and lawyers also began to include simple employees, a small stipend was granted- and it remained small. Even now, back bench MPs only earn £64,766 a year. Meanwhile, even with allowances, they usually have to fund two places to live and two offices- in London and in their constituencies. They have to employ staff in both places too. By contrast all of the senior civil service grades earn a lot more than this, and of course do not have to fund their own office costs.
As the journalists of the Daily Telegraph relish the power that their scoop on MPs expenses has brought them they should reflect that most of them too are better paid than MPs are. Now the Kelly report proposes to cut back MPs compensation still further. For example, it is suggested that Parliament will only pay for a rented one bedroom flat in London. This, together with the ban on employing spouses, will severely damage the family life of MPs. Personally I think that the price of being an MP- in terms of the isolation that living away from ones family- creates enough problems as it is: marriage break downs and alcoholism are just two of the known consequences of such isolation. As MPs return to their single flats after the House rises at 10 PM, it would be hard for them to consider that they were being treated in any way except shabbily.
In my view by trampling on the prestige of Parliament and treating MPs in this way, we are in grave danger of getting at best a distorted representative body, at worst one that is positively dysfunctional. MPs should be paid properly- well above the civil servants (after all even a GP can be earning more than twice what an MP does)- and they should not be expected to destroy their families to serve their constituencies.
It is healthy to be sceptical about or political leaders, it is extremely dangerous to treat them with such contempt- and very hypocritical of the journalists who are doing the kicking to avoid mentioning the absurd compensation packages that media personalities in their own world can command.