David Maddox: Rewarding MPs may be price worth paying

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

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THERE are few issues which genuinely unite the three main party leaders in Westminster – preventing Scottish independence is one, being supportive in times of national tragedies and fighting terror are others.

But this week began with a new show of unity between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband on the need for one austerity measure at least to continue – on MPs pay.

It seems that while the rest of us suffer pay freezes and rising living costs, if we keep our jobs at all, MPs are to be handed a whopping great £10,000 a year pay rise.

For quite obvious reasons the three leaders have baulked at this proposal from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which, after its crack-down on expenses, might not be an obvious friend of the MP.

All three leaders are, after all, agreed on the need for national austerity, although Labour argue they would be fairer. Austerity is not the easiest sell to the public at the best of times, but is particularly difficult when MPs are potentially set to enjoy a huge pay rise.

And it seems many MPs are willing to join the club of turkeys voting for Christmas in opposing the pay rise. Tory backbencher Tim Loughton was one of the first to come out and say he would not take it. Mr Clegg soon followed.

For the first time the matter is out of MPs hands. They will get the rise whether they want it or not, taking them to over £75,000 a year.

This is because as a result of the expenses scandal all matters regarding pay and remuneration of MPs are in the hands of IPSA and there is no challenge. So an MP actually has to take active steps to avoid a pay rise

However, no matter what their party leaders may say, most MPs will be quietly relieved and gladly take the cash.

The reason for this is that while MPs pay is an easy hit for those who hate the political classes, being an MP is not a cheap business, especially now their expenses have been greatly tightened.

The argument that they would be better paid in the private sector was somewhat shot by the difficulty many MSPs who lost their seats in 2011 found in getting work at all.

But there is an issue that if the rate politicians are paid is pushed down, only the rich like Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg will able to enter politics at all – or those with wealthy backers like the trades unions.

This writer knows of one MP in a tight, marginal constituency who apparently only avoided bankruptcy by moving into the home of a constituency party chairman. The MP who complained that he would not be able to have children because of the expense of the job may have pushing it a bit far though.

However, while most people will be shocked that MPs are once again enjoying the benefits the rest of us are not entitled to, it may be that in order to have good politics and politicians the pay rise might be a price worth paying.

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