Thursday, November 05, 2009

Castrating Parliament

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.

6 comments:

Alex said...

What do you mean ONLY £64,766?

Costello said...

"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."

You yourself point out that they have 'allowances' which cover the two places that some of them require as well as their staff so what possible relevance does that bear to their supposedly small salary? Quite simply anyone who regards £60+ as a pittance is absolutely out of touch with the reality most of us have to deal with.

Banning them from employing family members is simply silly tokenism while the other 'costs' you mention - while i don't doubt they weigh heavily on some - are simply not worth us considering because every single bloody MP became an MP by choice. If they don't want the lifestyle all they have to do is not stand for election.

As for your proposal that MPs should be paid "properly" and "well above civil servants" - absolutely not. Civil servants actually serve a purpose (well in theory) while MPs are now, quite simply, more or less pointless given how much power has left Westminster for Brussels.

"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."

This view is one that we've seen frequently trotted out by the more shameless politicians and it's every bit as disgusting reading it here as it has been reading it from them. The idea that it is the people who are "trampling on the prestige of Parliament" by having the gall to feel outrage at the rampant abuses by the hundreds of political parasites who inhabit it is frankly repulsive.

"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."

For goodness sake. Media personalities receiving "absurd" compensation packages do not take money out of my pocket against my will (unless they work for the BBC but that's quite different). To justify any increase in political saralies or to throw any accusations of hypocrisy simply because certain individuals in private industry earn what you consider to be "absurd" amounts is simply daft. Private individuals in private industry can take whatever the hell they can get - it's no business of mine. Politicians and public servants helping themselves liberally to my money is, however, absolutely my concern.

Newmania said...

I rather agree with that but I think those of the left look particularly ridiculous when they are always berating us for wanting to keep more of our hard earned cash.....

Of course the main reason the HOP is held in contempt is that they do not decide much anymore ....thanks to you

Ian Thorpe said...

If we're ringing back rotten boroughs I want to be one of the MPs for Old Sarum. £64k a year for representing no electors sond like my kind of job.

Simon said...

Why does an MP need an office or a home in his constituency? He has been elected to represent his constituency at Westminster.

If his constiuency really thinks he needs a home or an office there as well, it should be down to the constituency to pay for them.

What does an MP need by way of any office, apart from at most a secretary, anyway ?

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