We Get What We Pay For – We Should Pay MPs £200k

IPSA chairman Sir Ian Kennedy presses ahead with the controversial 11% pay deal. Courtesy: BBC

IPSA chairman Sir Ian Kennedy presses ahead with the controversial 11% pay deal. Courtesy: BBC

Am I mad? Is there something wrong me? Am I the only person in the UK outside of the parliamentary pay watch dog who thinks that our MPs should be paid more?

And not just a little more, either. I would more than triple the salaries on offer to prospective MPs. A salary of around £200,000 a year would attract genuinely successful, highly talented people into politics and so break the grip of the cosy cartel at the top of Britain that runs our public life. It would be sufficient to quash the need for housing allowances and all those other expenses funnies. It is enough to live on without the need for a second job. And it might just result in a more effective parliament and a better government as a result.

Today the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has announced that it is pressing ahead with plans to award MPs a 9.26 per cent pay rise. When added to another previously announced increase, this would boost pay packets by 11 per cent – taking the annual salary of an MP from £66,396 now to £74,000 in May 2015.

£74,000 amounts to a pay cut for really talented people

The announcement has been met with howls of protest. Prime minister David Cameron calls it is “inappropriate”. Labour leader Ed Miliband says that the increase can not be justified when people are suffering from a cost of living crisis. While deputy prime minister Nick Clegg highlights the problem of giving MPs an inflation busting deal while insisting that the rest of the public sector sticks to 1 per cent.

Of course, they are all right. Any pay rise at the moment would not sit well with what is happening in the rest of the country. But increasing the pay of politicians has never gone down well, even in the good times. And that, in a strange way, is why we find ourselves where we are today, in the wake of an outrageous expenses scandal, with a relatively lowly paid legislature, and with all sides complaining about the fact that an independent pay review body is doing exactly what it was asked to do – be independent.

Now you may think that £74,000 is a lot of money. And you would be right. But that is not the point. It is not enough. We should want to recruit the very best people to stand for parliament. And the fact that we do not is all the evidence you need.

There is a pool of hugely talented people in this country who know a thing or two about the real world beyond the bubble of the Westminster village. They would be able to bring some genuine quality into public life. But, for the vast majority of these people, £74,000 would amount to a massive and unaffordable pay cut since their current jobs pay far more and they do not have the cushion of inherited wealth that comforts many of our leading politicians.

We need to attract the very best

Whenever we raise the salary of MPs, we increase the number of people who can afford to come into public life. And the more we cap their pay, the more we freeze out quality competition for our current crop of politicians. It is simple supply-and-demand economics.

By refusing to pay the kind of money that might attract the very best we are saddling ourselves with the mediocre and the independently wealthy. So let’s get over our collective envy and recognise that in politics, as with so many other areas of life, you get what you pay for.

If you want quality government then you need to hire quality people and you should be prepared to offer them quality salaries.

We should pay our MPs £200,000 a year.


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