I would like to take issue with one aspect of Iain's post.
Relatively junior managers in industry or the public sector now command salaries in excess of what MPs earn.
This is, with all due respect, absolute cobblers. You could, I suppose make the case for the fact that a senior manager—working, by the way, about 240 days a year—earns £60,000 or so, but MPs are not paid £60,000.
No, MPs are paid £60,000 plus expenses for a mere 160 days' work a year. These expenses routinely climb year on year and this year averaged some £136,000. I would therefore contend that MPs are actually paid nearly £200,000 plus, of course, a very generous final salary pension scheme (which NuLabour—by dint of being utter fucking wankers of the very first water—have now ensured is denied to the vast majority of the population).
MPs are in an absolutely no-win situation here. If they speak out in favour of higher salaries they are accused of having their noses in the trough. If they don't they are doing a disservice to their successors, and ensuring that good people won't even bother trying to be MPs. And then we are left with a Parliament full of duds, under achievers and bores. Or have we already got there?
Yes, we have already got there and despite the fact that we pay MPs really quite generously; being an MP has become a career path, rather than a public service, and so we end up with the dross and the crap who can't actually make £60,000 plus £136,000 expenses in their normal professions.
Now, I tend to come down on Timmy's side in this argument.
The value of any job in a market economy is set by supply and demand. We have a (relatively) fixed demand for MPs. Some 630 or so (roughly, isn’t it?).
At the last general election some 3,000 people stood for one of those seats. Some will say that some were markedly unqualified (from Monster Raving Loonies to Trots of various types) but this isn’t, in a democracy, a valid position to hold. Any and every one of us is qualified to be an MP: that’s what rule by the people means.
So as we have 3,000 qualified applicants for some 600 jobs, clearly, we are overpaying those who do it. MPs pay should therefore be cut, radically.
However, my reason for supporting this position is a little different to Timmy's.
- MPs have far too much fucking time on their hands, with the result that they have to come up with more and more legislation.
- Under our Common Law principle—under which everything is legal unless specifically legislated to be illegal—almost all legislation leads, by definition, to less freedom.
- Thus—if we are actually interested in liberty, rather than democracy (which we should be)—we should ensure that MPs have as little time on their hands to legislate.
- If MPs are having to spend the vast majority of their time earning a living doing something else, then they will have less time to spend taking away our freedoms.
But, tell you what: instead of MPs deciding how much they should be paid (which, effectively, they do) how about we put it to the people—let's see what value the electorate put on our oh-so-very-valued representatives? In other words, why don't we let the voters decide how much MPs should earn?
I'm willing to bet that the answer will be something along the lines of "a lot less than they do currently."