View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
25 February 2015

Let’s do what MPs want, and pay them what they’re really worth

How to get the best bang for your buck out of MPs? Julia Hartley-Brewer has a radical proposal

By Julia Hartley-Brewer

It is “quite unrealistic”, Sir Malcolm Rifkind insisted this week, to expect backbenchers to live on an MP’s salary of a mere £67,060.

This news may have come as something of a surprise to the many millions of British voters who somehow manage to scrape by every year on far less money.

Those words were perhaps the most damaging aspect of the latest “cash for access” scandal to hit Westminster, when Sir Malcolm, the Tory MP for Kensington and Chelsea, was filmed (along with his fellow former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw) in a Channel 4 sting offering to take on highly paid consultancy work for a Chinese company on top of his MPs’ salary.

But while Sir Malcolm’s words may have been met with horrified screams in Number 10, just down the road in Parliament, MPs from all parties would have been nodding their heads in agreement with him.

They, like Sir Malcolm, take the view that they shouldn’t be forced to live on a pittance when they are worth far more than their Parliamentary salaries.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Many an MP would, in private, happily invoke the L’Oreal defence – “because I’m worth it” – when taking outside work, bumping up their (still lucrative) expense claims or accepting their promised 11% pay rise after the election.

The fact that MPs are already among the top 10% of earners in this country, or that they earn more than double the average salary of £26,500, doesn’t faze them at all because they believe they are really worth far, far more.

So isn’t it about time that we took MPs at their word and paid them what they are actually worth?

It is undoubtedly true that some MPs are able to earn far more outside Parliament than inside it – they earned a combined £7m in extra earnings last year – but it’s not entirely clear that every MP has the skills to command high earnings anywhere else.

So, instead of paying the same salary to all 650 MPs regardless, why don’t we simply pay each of them the same salary they were earning on the open market before they were elected?

If they were a high powered lawyer raking in £300,000 a year, then that’s what they’d be paid as an MP. If they were a lowly TUC researcher on £25,000 then that would be their Parliamentary salary.

This would end the need for high earners to take a big hit on their household income to enter public service. It’s all very well wanting politicians to be dedicated public servants with a vocation, but would you take a 200% pay cut to be an MP? No, exactly.

At the other end of the pay scale, there would be no more “career politicians” with no experience of life or work outside politics, standing for Parliament after working as researchers straight out of university, because this system would incentivise them to get a “proper” job before becoming an MP. 

And not for just a month or two with a friendly lobbying firm before the general election, either. They would have to prove their income for at least a year before polling day to be entitled to the same pay after getting elected.

Yes, this would mean 650 MPs doing the same job while being paid vastly different salaries. But what’s so wrong with that? Footballers do it, actors do it, pop stars do it, and it happens in many other careers too.  

MPs say they want to be paid what they’re worth and this will do exactly that.

No one will have to take a pay cut to enter Parliament but neither could anyone ever again be accused of entering politics to get on the gravy train.

So isn’t it time we did what MPs say they want and start paying them what they really are worth?

Content from our partners
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU