Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Poor dabs

According to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MPs simply can’t live on an annual salary of £67,000, and need to top up their earnings with outside work.  On my calculations, a salary of £67,000 would put someone in the 95th percentile for salaries in the UK – meaning that 94% of us have to live on a salary which is apparently inadequate to keep an MP.  How on earth do the poor dabs in Parliament manage it?
The calls from some quarters for an increase in salary for MPs so that they don’t need to seek additional income are somehow not surprising.  The people making them live and move in the same rarefied circles where incomes at that level are the norm rather than the exception; but it’s not the world in which most of their constituents live and work.
It’s not as if MPs carry a great deal of responsibility as individuals.  All most of them are really required to do is walk through the right door when their masters tell them to, so that they can be counted, just like sheep.  Some of course perform useful services for their constituents, although more of that than most people realise is actually delegated to their staff.  The job requires no formal qualifications or experience, and the process of appointment has at least an element of randomness about it.
I’ve argued before that the salary should be linked to a multiple of average earnings.  After all, if they think they’re running the country, why shouldn’t their salaries be linked to what their constituents might see as success?  A multiple of between 1.5 and 2 should be quite adequate – it would mean a significant salary cut, rather than an increase, but might bring some of them back into contact with the real world.
Alternatively, what about the Cuban approach of paying them the same salary as they were earning before getting elected?  They’d all end up on different salaries, of course, but it would mean that higher earners needn’t be reluctant to take on the job; at least they wouldn’t lose.  And such a proposal would also save us a great deal of money; whilst a few MPs earn less than they did before they were elected which would cost us more, there are many more who’d be on a lower salary than they are now.
The one thing that neither of these suggestions would do is attract those who are primarily motivated by the financial rewards.  Those calling for a higher salary might see that as a disadvantage; but most of us would probably see it as a plus.

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