Karen from Facebook is angry about MPs’ pay. Periodically we will be bombarded with images of a half empty chamber and some sort of pithy comment about pay. Usually it will be a full chamber and an empty chamber, one ascribed to a vote on the topic of the day and the other to voting through a pay rise. This is usually false, not least since MPs don’t decide their own pay anymore.
At the moment, virtual pearls are being clutched to chests because MPs have been given an allowance of £10,000 to set up home offices. This is apparently evidence of MPs awarding themselves a pay rise and profiting from a crisis. Of course, it is nothing of the sort, and is vital to allowing MPs and their staff to continue to function during lockdown.
I always find these posts disturbing, as I have no doubt they are orchestrated and carefully targeted to undermine trust in our institutions. They betray a certain Luddite pride in the days when being an MP was a job for a gentleman, a self-funding amateur.
It is the same rose-tinted “Corinthian” ideal that makes footballers fair game. There are some who find young, working class black men becoming millionaires so much more distasteful than inherited wealth. It seems bizarre to me that they were such an early target during this crisis, footballers are neither the cause nor the solution to any problem that does not involve kicking a football.
Indeed, there are no outraged calls for newspaper columnists to donate 30% of their wages to the NHS. Unfortunately, many of them already work from home so are not in need of an extra grant to tell you they watched Joe Wicks and are finding their children tedious.
The expenses scandal exposed some truly egregious abuses by MPs, but the expenses system grew so out of control because MPs used that instead of voting for a publicly visible pay rise. Fear of being seen to abuse the system promoted secrecy and allowed some people to line their own duck houses in secret.
All too often we discover that MPs who speak against climate change have a financial interest in fossil fuels, or that those who oppose plain packaging in cigarettes have an interest in tobacco companies. Sometimes these are the same person, step forward the MP for Slitheryn, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
I would double MPs’ pay and assign a large separate allowance for fully staffed offices in Westminster and their constituencies. It is not an easy job, and they are subject to a regular review by their constituents. Pay them well and hold them to a high standard. The days of the amateur are over, I would like my elected representatives to be competent, dedicated, focused and immune to external financial inducements.
I hope that this crisis will force a reappraisal of what is important in society, and I’d like to think we can change our relationship with our elected representatives, many of whom are working extremely hard to help their constituents. I have a feeling they are going to be quite busy once it is all over too.