We are living in a time of austerity. A time when the cost of paying off the deficit, which came about largely because of the greed and stupidity of the banks, is being borne by the poor. A time when the number of people living in poverty has grown to an unprecedented level and ever more people are trapped in low paid jobs or are unable to find a job. A time when wages are falling and the differential between rich and poor has recently been measured as the biggest since Victorian times. But now it’s a special time of year. Christmas? No, it’s the time of year when the MP’s get their pay rise. So yes, actually – it is Christmas, so far as they are concerned. Because they are to be awarded an 11% pay rise. Interesting, when you consider that the government is cutting the wages of most other public servants, many of who are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country.
Of course, the rise has been recommended by an independent (supposedly) committee, so it’s not actually the MP’s themselves who are saying they need a huge pay rise, you understand. You might think they would come out against this, tell us that it isn’t right in this time of austerity, when most other people’s incomes are falling. But no, they’ve been lining up to tell us just how much they deserve it. Apparently their wages are lower than people in equivalent jobs elsewhere in society, so they need a big pay rise. Jack Straw says that MP’s wages are not high enough to allow people who are currently on modest salaries to move into politics. Which begs the question; just what does he think constitutes a modest salary? I can tell him that there are very few people who would be put off by the current salary of around £66,000 a year, plus expenses and free accommodation in London. Apparently many MP’s struggle to survive on this, and need to have lots of other jobs (which usually involve little more than having their name at the top of companies’ headed note paper) in order to make ends meet. I’d like to see how they manage on a salary of £15,000 or less.
The truth is that MP’s pay is very low. At least, it’s low compared to what the public school educated elite that monopolise politics in the UK are used to. What we really need is for politics to be opened up to people from the other end of society – people who would be more than happy to do the job for the current salary. People who know the value of money, and what it is to try and survive on low pay. People who know what low pay is. And what it is, is not £66,000!