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A pay rise for MPs right now would be totally unacceptable

Picture 15 Today's Telegraph carries news that I imagine will stupefy most people right now: Gordon Brown is reportedly planning to give MPs a pay rise (funded by a cut in ministerial wages) "to make up for a loss of income from expenses claims" which they will soon no longer be able to make:
"With MPs growing increasingly fearful of a stricter regime, he [Brown] wants to offer them a deal that effectively buys their silence. “If we show that ministers are being paid less and the overall bill in terms of salary is not going up then it could be done,” a Downing Street source said... Mr Brown hopes to persuade voters that the move would make MPs’ pay more transparent and less reliant on “top-up” allowances."

The Telegraph report - albeit already being played down by Downing Street - includes the full arithmetic of how the ministerial wage bill would be cut to fund a £3,000 rise for all MPs.  

Tim Montgomerie has previously proposed that MPs take a 5% temporary pay cut and that ministers take a 10% pay cut throughout the next Parliament, whereas David Cameron has already pledged a pay freeze for ministers throughout the next Parliament.

Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack, meanwhile, recently made the brave proposal to double MPs' pay to £130,000 and abolish their allowances.

For far too long MPs of all political colours have been complicit in their opposition to taking a pay rise in return for increased allowances for food, cleaning and the like. As such, there is a case for making MPs' pay completely transparent and paying them a higher figure, including some of what was previously given in allowances but which they had been encouraged to view as part of their salary.

HOWEVER, it would be totally unacceptable to go ahead and do this now. In the wake of all the expenses revelations, MPs are held in such contempt by the general public that such a move would seriously risk alienating voters yet further and giving succour to parties on the extremist fringe.

The political class needs to demonstrate a little humility and austerity which might just help restore people's faith in politics and the political process.

Yes, there does, in the longer term, need to be a proper review of the level of MPs' pay, but while the country as a whole is having to tighten its belt, talk of raising MPs' pay is simply unacceptable.

Jonathan Isaby

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