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A Modest Proposal to End MPs Rations

“We have to live on rations and they treat us like shit.’”

Cue uproar.

In reaction to Alan Duncan’s now infamous words several things were lost; his job as shadow leader of the Commons, David Cameron’s moral high ground in the expenses row, and crucially the media’s understanding of the role of an MP.

In the rush to prove the purest of intentions, the humility of party and the strength of personality; logical thought was suffocated.

Gordon Brown claimed he would happily take a pay cut to do his bit to help the jobless. Not to be outdone, David Cameron claims he would make every MP take a pay cut, never mind losing their subsidies on food and drink. He revealed, no word of a lie, that in parliament an MP can have a ‘Lean salad of lemon and lime-marinated roasted tofu with baby spinach and rocket, home-roasted plum tomatoes and grilled ficelle crouton’ for just £1.70 thanks to subsidies from our taxes. Bank bosses worldwide breathe a sigh of relief as they are let off the hook for the credit crunch; it was those hungry MPs all along.

With every tit-for-tat noble gesture aimed at reducing the ‘cost of politics,’ another death nail is hammered into the coffin of the British Political Establishment. With every extra plum tomato and artichoke discussed by MPs, Mr. Duncan’s comment that ‘no one whose done anything in the outside world, or who is capable of doing such a thing, will ever come into this place ever again the way we’re going,’ hits a little closer to home.

The fact is that our politicians are criminally underpaid. Harold Wilson once said, “There is something utterly nauseating about a system of society which pays a harlot 25 times as much as it pays its prime minister, 250 times as much as it pays its members of Parliament.” I don’t have the figures to show whether MPs wages have gone up or the price of a harlot down since Wilson’s day, but he makes his point.

The PM has an annual salary of £194,000, an MP £60,675; compare this with the head of Wandsworth council on a salary of £240,000 each year. A bright graduate could apply for a fast-track scheme to one of the 28 BBC executive positions that pay more than the PM; goodness only knows how many BBC employees earn more than an MP.

What, I ask, is the incentive for most capable people in the country to enter the political scene? Cutting the cost of politics can be phrased differently: a decrease in quality of politicians.

Logic dictates that our country should be run by the best minds. Somewhere in the media maelstrom and public rush to condemn MPs we seem to have forgotten the impact they have on our lives, the obvious reality that the brightest minds in the country should be in the positions of highest power.

In Utopia the next generation of University graduates would have such passion for the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people that they would do it for food and board. But last time I checked we don’t live in Utopia; money makes the world go round.

Find the money; scrap ID cards, cancel Trident, don’t build the next aircraft carrier. I don’t care how, but find it. Pay them £1m a year. If it means that the next generations with be attracted to politics; that one moment of genius will create a fairer tax system, a more efficient NHS or solve the ever deeper social crisis then it’s worth every penny.

So Dave, have some tofu tortellini on me. While you’re tucking in, could you have a think over the real issues facing the country; have a pay rise for the trouble. Get Mr Duncan seconds if you will, he must be starving.

Dan Williams

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One Comment
  • Ellis Gener
    30 October 2009 at 02:36
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    Dan, you’re absolutely right that punishing MPs will only serve to narrow the already slim section of society that have political aspiration. What decent person with good intentions, life experience and intelligence would want to go into politics, possibly taking a pay cut in the process, now? What we’ll increasingly get are ambitious cretins who have no interest in the public good and/or those with enough personal cash to saunter in and out of the Commons without caring about what they’re doing.
    The problem with your proposal is in the title you’ve given it: ‘Modest’ is exactly what it is not. A million pounds a year, thereby placing our representatives in the top percentage of income, would only reinforce the sense of alienation the public feel from politicians. It would also distract otherwise dilligent members from their duties as public servants; if you’re suddenly made a millionaire, you’re unlikely to concentrate all your efforts on serving the country when there’s money to enjoy. Most of all though, making MPs rich in this way would detach them from the reality their constituents live in, giving justification to the alienation I pointed out earlier. The best answer is to pay them reasonable sums with which they can afford to live comfortably (the wages of a head-teacher for example), assuring us that they are professional but grounded citizens who don’t need to complain about rationing and don’t get criticised by the public for being out of touch with ordinary people. If the £1m proposal wasn’t meant to be taken literally then I’m sorry for being simple, but taken at face value the proposition seems defenceless.

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