We looked at three arguments being put forward as justification for the pay rise it is recommended MPs receive this week. Oh, and why they're wrong.
We seem to be doing everything in threes today. Earlier we looked at three questions Iain Duncan Smith should be asked when he appears before the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs later today, and now we’re going to look at three arguments that are being trotted out as justification for the pay rise it is recommended MPs receive later this week. Oh, and we’re going to tell you why those arguments are wrong.
1) Paying MPs a lot of money attracts the best people to serve the country
Does it? Or does it attract the greediest people? Surely paying MPs too much could also mean more people looking to enter politics for reasons of self-interest. On the other hand, if someone is willing to take a pay cut in order to represent their consituents then they’re probably exactly the sort of person we want as an MP.
MPs should certainly be paid well – which they already are; their salary is three times that of the average worker – but why should they be paid exorbitantly? Bankers get paid exorbitantly – does banking as a profession necessarily attract the most virtuous people?
2) It will put off working class people from becoming MPs
Which would obviously be a bad thing. It isn’t apparent how a salary of £65,000 is something the average working class kid would turn their nose up at, however. An MP also only receives this salary once elected. Working class youngsters are put off standing for Parliament long before the point at which they receive their parliamentary salary. Blaming the lack of working class MPs on the fact that politicians don’t get an eyewatering salary seems a rather strange argument to make – to a working class kid a salary of £65,000 a year is the equivalent of winning the lottery.
3) They’d only be corrupt otherwise
If we don’t pay MPs more, they will only file outrageous expenses claims and spend all their time doing lucrative second jobs, so the argument goes. Imagine for a second if this argument were made to justify giving other public sector workers a pay increase – that we had to give nurses more money in case they stole all the drugs, or we needed to pay the police more so they didn’t moonlight on the job and leave the criminals to run free. The person making such an argument would be laughed at. And yet we accept it when it refers to MPs. (In fact, whenever public sector workers do strike for more money – workers who in most instances receive a great deal less than £60k a year – they are accused of holding the country to ransom.)
MPs are public servants and should be subject to the same rules as anyone else in the public sector. They do an important job – an incredibly important job – but so do lots of other people, such as nurses and the police.
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