I think it was Frank Herbert in Dune who wrote "It is not that power corrupts, but that power attracts the corruptible." Yeah, no prizes for guessing what I plan to write about.
It's quite easy to see how the situation could arise whereby they assume it's all ok. Consider it, you're a newly elected MP, getting paid a paltry £60k... Your colleagues in parliament point out how it's the MPs who run the country, who make things work - in private industry they'd be paid a lot more.
They use logic - we deserve more, they say. We need to be paid more to do the job properly, but the public won't be happy if we award ourselves massive pay rises, so we just have expenses... Think of it as extra wages, just without any of that bothersome tax to pay - put down any old excuse.
There are a number of problems with this argument. First and foremost, who says that they deserve more? The easiest way to tell if a job is overcompensated (be it in pay or benefits) is to look at the number of applicants - and there are a lot more applicants than there are seats. Of course the position of an MP is a little unique in that there are no doubt some people who would do the job for nothing. We need to ensure that someone who is an MP receives enough money to live on so that it's not just a job available to the rich and those with sponsorship (and the attaching vested interests). But there's no reason to pay them any more than this amount...
If the pay isn't good enough, go get another job. Don't try to sneak in pay rises as "expenses" and expect the general public not to find out or care.
"But compared with CEOs of big companies, we get paid hardly anything" they say. Well, probably not literally, but that sort of thing. The problem is that CEOs of private companies are responsible to their shareholders, they can be kicked out at any time, and if they're not shown to make money for the company, out they go (unless they do catastrophically badly, but the government agrees to pick up the cheque, as with the banks). There is no measure of an MPs performance that's meaningful, and there's no way they add value to the country at present. Look at the current economic crisis, brought about primarily because of Labour's inability to understand how things work.
Several people have said that MPs should just be paid more, and lose their allowances. I say why the hell should we pay them any more - pay them less! Work out what the average wage for a British worker in the private sector is and pay them that much. Allowances should cover travel costs, and the cost of renting a place near westminster if their constituency is a long way away, and nothing else. Staff, if necessary, should be supplied centrally and paid a reasonable wage - not £40k p.a. for your husband (because I doubt that job was awarded based on any bias at all, honest... I'm sure it was advertised, and the best man for the job selected, with no consideration of any links to the employer which might bias things...).
MPs make our laws. If we don't have faith in them, the whole criminal justice system is under threat. They must be above reproach, honest, fair and trustworthy. Our current lot fail all of these tests - at the next election we must kick them out and show them what we think of them. Then put into place a system to stop the troughing...
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