Sadiq Khan: MPs should tell IPSA we "reject your advice" over pay rise

Shadow justice secretary tells the New Statesman that MPs "should say in the most courteous and polite way, 'on this occasion we reject your advice.'"

Ahead of the expected announcement by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) on Thursday that MPs' pay should rise by 11% (taking their salary to £74,000), Labour politicians have been understandably keen to distance themselves from the proposal, with several, including Ed Miliband, stating that they will not accept the increase. 

In an interview with me for the next issue of the NS, Sadiq Khan echoed this stance, telling me:

I’d be against that [a pay increase]. I turned down and refused a pay rise in 2009. There’s one argument that says professionals doing comparable work to MPs get a lot more and so MPs should be paid the same as them. My response is to say those professions aren’t legislators, they aren't part of the executive. We are going to have to take tough decisions in 2015 given our financial inheritance from the Conservatives; the idea that we can accept an 11% increase in our salary when we’re asking those in the public sector and others to be disciplined I think beggars belief. And I think IPSA and others should recongise that.

Listen, there are many MPs who took a huge pay drop, like myself, to become a member of parliament because we think it’s a really noble profession and you can do some really important things as long as you recognise that. But an 11% pay rise is ridiculous.

But the shadow justice secretary then went further and suggested that, rather than merely refusing to accept the increase, parliament should tell IPSA, which was awarded control over MPs' pay and conditions following the expenses scandal, "we reject your advice". He said: 

I think we should tell IPSA that, on this occasion, we reject their advice. I don’t want to be in charge of my own pay increase, I think it’s good having an independent body in charge of that, but I think we should say in the most courteous and polite way, 'on this occasion we reject your advice'.

While Khan's position is both morally right and politically astute, others will ask what kind of independent body IPSA is if MPs can pick and choose which of its recommendations they accept. 

P.S. Look out for more from the interview on Wednesday. 

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear