Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Pay: MPs and comparability

I have been struck recently by two commentators saying that MPs should be paid more. Given who they are (Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT) and Shami Chakrabati (Director of Liberty), I am left really wondering what planet I am on.

Over my career I believe that I have been reasonably paid and whilst in employment have felt “comfortable”, but I have never earned the sort of sums that MPs are getting paid.

So what have these two paragons on restraint been saying?

Bob Crow:

MPs deserve a pay rise so they are not forced to “scramble around the place”

I do believe that the MPs should be paid adequately because what you will get, in my view, is a lot of people not going into parliament because they’ll say that we’re going to lose out.
BBC News Website: MPs deserve pay increase, says Bob Crow

Shami Chakrabati:

MPs should be paid more because you “Don’t want be to be rich to do it”
Paraphrasing from comments recalled from BBC1 Question Time

From this there seems to be two issues:

  • A view that £60k + (and expenses) is not a “living wage” for our legislators and if you do not pay more only those with private incomes can afford to be MPs
  • Because some potential MPs earn more (sometimes a lot more), we need to pay comparable amounts so that they do not lose out by taking on the “responsibilities of being an MP”

I find both hard to stomach.

If you cannot live on £60k (and expenses) you do not deserve to be a legislator as you clearly do not have a clue as to how the majority of us survive.

Comparability should apply to jobs of equal value – which raises interesting questions about “value”. Presumably the senior company director believes that an MP does work of similar value – he would not otherwise want to be seen to be “lowering himself” by becoming an MP. Presumably also the (junior) trade union official also believes that his job is comparable to that of an MP. So does that mean that the (junior) trades-union official’s job is of the same value as the senior company director? No, comparability does not really work like that!

Sometimes if you want to take on a job, you accept that the pay may be different and you get paid “the rate for the job”. If you don’t like it, you don’t take the job.

£60k + (and expenses), never mind the proposed £74k (and expenses) should be more than enough – representing about three times average (mean) pay. If you are earning considerably more than that, and you would like to become an MP, perhaps whilst earning “super salaries”, you can put aside some savings to “subsidise” your “reduced circumstances” for when you are an MP – and only earning three times average pay!

Different planet? Some people on huge salaries lose track of reality – I wish it was possible somehow to force everyone to live on average pay for say one month a year. It would be a reality check for the excess earners and a period of respite for the poor.

Well, Bob Crow is said to earn £145k per year. Compare to some, that’s not an enormous salary so probably he’s just on a different planet rather than the entirely different solar system occupied by some of our corporate mega-earners. And Shami Chakrabati? Liberty’s full accounts (which would reveal her salary) do not appear to be available on Liberty’s website, but may be obtained from the Secretary at Liberty House, 26-30 Strutton Ground, London SW1P 2HR. I doubt she earns as much as Bob Crow (I don’t think Liberty has the income to support that type of expenditure) – and may only take a very ethically modest salary – in which case why the comment about MPs needing a pay rise?

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One thought on “Pay: MPs and comparability

  1. A day after writing this post, I read the unexpected and in many ways shocking news that Bob Crow has died.

    Bob Crow died at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone after suffering an aneurysm and a massive heart attack, reports the Evening Standard.

    Comments by those who knew him can be found on the BBC News website reports:
    RMT union general secretary Bob Crow dies
    Latest: RMT Union leader Bob Crow dies

    Strange to note:

    Mr Crow was elected general secretary of the RMT in 2002 following the death of former leader Jimmy Knapp.

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