Gerald Warner: Pampered MPs on borrowed time

'A 50% pay cut for MPs would be more appropriate'. Picture: PA
'A 50% pay cut for MPs would be more appropriate'. Picture: PA
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BACTERIOLOGISTS report unusual levels of activity among the subspecies scumbagus politicus infesting Westminster; a proposed massive pay increase has galvanised the swarming pathogens on the slime-green benches.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is minded (more accurately demented) to increase the basic remuneration of MPs from £66,396 to £74,000 in 2015. This has presented our rulers with a tormenting dilemma.

Few of them are in any doubt that they deserve this award: 69 per cent of honourable members have expressed the view that they are underpaid and should receive more than the proffered £74,000. Yet there is hesitation about accepting a 9.26 per cent pay rise at a time when other public-sector workers are restricted to 1 per cent – not, of course, out of any sense of decency but because of an uneasy awareness that their paymasters, the public, are increasingly invoking their occupation in a word association test that includes the terms “rope” and “lamppost”. That is why their leaders have reacted ungraciously to the attempt by Sir Ian Kennedy, Ipsa chairman, to throw money at them.

Ipsa claimed “nuanced” public support for a large pay rise and insisted: “The salary component is justified on its own terms.” At one point Ipsa’s paean of praise to MPs waxed lyrical: “They sit at the pinnacle of our democracy. This is a fact that we ought to record and respect.” Gratifying though that was for the assembled expenses fiddlers, duck-house owners and moat-dredgers in the cesspit of the nation, it soon emerged that public sentiment was less nuanced than Ipsa had supposed. Chairman Kennedy changed his tune to a more placatory: “We are sweeping away the out-of-date and overly generous benefits, and introducing a one-off uplift in pay. Crucially, therefore, MPs’ pay will be linked to everyone else’s.” Everyone else’s on £74,000 a year, that is. The introduction of the novel euphemism “uplift in pay” maintained Ipsa’s lyrical tone and felicitously suggested a moral element.

Sir Ian Kennedy, dogged in his advocacy, claimed: “Whatever measure you choose – including international comparisons and historic trends – they all lead to the same conclusion: MPs’ pay has fallen behind. It needs to catch up.” So, by Sir Ian’s yardstick of international ­comparisons, a ­British MP currently ­earning £66,396 needs to catch up on a Spanish MP earning £28,969 or a French deputy on £56,815. Admittedly, Italian MPs in Berlusconi’s Palace of Varieties are paid £120,546, but the ladies whom ­Silvio sent there were notoriously high-­maintenance.

Meanwhile, news broke that the pygmies in the Wee Scotch Senate were giving a moral lead – a phenomenon always good for a laugh. Since 2002, MSPs’ pay has been fixed, in a kind of parliamentary Barnett Formula, at 85 per cent of Westminster rates. That meant an extra £6,390 was on offer to those tribunes of the people who, by congregating at Holyrood, have left 129 Scottish villages deprived of their idiots. Normally, the denizens of the crumbling adobe favela at the bottom of the Royal Mile, currently struggling to get by on £58,097, would eagerly have grasped such largesse in their hot-and-sweaties; but these are not normal times, with public-sector pay rises frozen at 1 per cent and a referendum impending in which neither side wants to be accused of leeching on the public teat. So a self-denying ordinance has restricted the Holyrood pondlife to a 1 per cent increase.

Westminster should be compelled to follow suit. Already there are 280,000 signatures on a petition against the pay increase. When staff costs are included (155 MPs are still employing a family member), last year’s parliamentary expenses bill totalled £98m – a 7 per cent increase on the previous year. Sir Ian Kennedy warns: “The alternative approach takes us back to the days of political deals, with scandal never far away.” Scandal? Surely not. From those who “sit at the pinnacle of our democracy”? What have they been doing at that pinnacle? Presiding over mass immigration, wrecking marriage and handing over our sovereignty to Brussels. Since half of our laws are now made in Brussels, a 50 per cent pay cut for MPs would be more appropriate. Watching their simian antics at Prime Minister’s Questions makes one wonder what clown imagined parliamentary democracy was a viable medium of governance?

It should not be beyond human inventiveness to devise a better, freer form of government. If a fundamental institution such as marriage is dispensable, so is the House of Commons. An Estates of the Realm, differently constituted and meeting much more rarely to pass only essential legislation, is one possibility. These parasites are living on borrowed time. During their remaining shelf-life they should be restricted to pay rises level with inflation, with all expenses abolished. ­Politicians have destroyed this country. «

Twitter: @GeraldWarner1