Are MPs underpaid? The key numbers

MPs' current salary of £66,396 puts them in the top 5 per cent of earners but they are paid significantly less than parliamentarians in other countries.

In a proposal seemingly drawn from the Louis XVI school of public relations, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) will recommend today that MPs receive a pay rise of around 11 per cent (£8,604) to £75,000 after 2015. The increase will be tempered by the replacement of MPs' final salary pension scheme with one based on a career average, cuts to evening meal allowances (a payment of up to £15 when the Commons sits beyond 7:30pm) and transport expenses, and lower "resttlement grants" or "golden goodbyes" (currently worth up to £33,000) for MPs who retire or lose their seat, but will still represent a net gain. 

While few are likely to publicly defend the salary increase, at a time when public sector pay rises have been capped at 1 per cent until 2015-16 (following a two-year pay freeze), most MPs do believe they are underpaid. A survey of 100 MPs conducted by YouGov on IPSA's behalf found that 69 per cent thought they were underpaid, with an average salary of £86,250 proposed. On average, Tory MPs proposed a salary of £96,740, the Lib Dems £78,361 and Labour £77,322. A fifth suggested that they should be paid £95,000 or more. But are they right to believe they get a raw deal? Here are some of the key metrics for answering that question. 

Do they earn more than the average wage?

Yes, the median full-time salary is £26,500, so MPs' current pay of £66,396 puts them comfortably in the top 5 per cent of earners. 

Are they paid less than other major professions?

Yes, council chief executives (£134,528), GPs (£88,920), senior civil servants (£88,000), army colonels (£85,359), headteachers (£78,298) and police chief superintendents (£72,649) all earn significantly more. 

Do they earn less now than in the past?

No, by historical standards, the current regime is generous. In 1979, MPs were paid £9,450, the equivalent of £40,490 in real terms. Their pay has since risen by more than 50 per cent, compared to an average increase of 37 per cent.

Are they poorly paid for the hours they work?

Here, MPs are on a stronger footing. A survey by The Hansard Society found that new MPs work an average of 69 hours a week, excluding travel, with constituency casework representing the largest share of their time (28 per cent), followed by constituency meetings and events (21 per cent) and debates in the Commons Chamber (21 per cent).

The poll also found that more than half (56 per cent) took a salary cut on entering parliament. 

Are they paid less than parliamentarians in other countries?

In short, yes. 

Japan £165,945

Australia £120,875

Italy £112,898

US £108,032

Canada £99,322

EU MEPs £75,114

Ireland £74,495

Germany £73,953

UK £66,396

France £53,186

Spain £27,130

Do the public think they should be paid more?

Unsurprisingly, they do not. A YouGov survey found that 17 per cent believe MPs should receive the proposed pay rise of around £10,000, with 68 per cent opposed.

Fifty per cent believe thay are paid too much already, 35 per cent that their pay is "about right" and 9 per cent that they are paid too little. 

Some of the 232 new MPs pose after the 2010 general election in Westminster Hall. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue