Not a penny more

1 Jul 2013 at 16:58

It is strange how history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. The row over MP’s pay is going to be boringly predictable. There is an independent review. They compare the salaries of middle management and come to the conclusion that MPs aren’t paid enough. Party leaders go mad. The cabinet and Shadow Cabinet are instructed not to trouser a penny more. There are rumblings of discontent on the backbenches. There is a vote. The payroll vote opposes any increases. The backbench trade unions, the PLP and the 22, organise the snout in the trough lobby. Those with safe seats vote for. Those with marginal seats think of a more important constituency engagement to attend and those who face execution at the next election vote against. The Lib Dems then put on hair shirts and demand that every Tory and Labour PPC swear an oath in blood that they won’t take the extra money.

Whatever happens the public will just feel sick to the stomach.

The trouble is that in the old days the assumed wisdom was that the punters wouldn’t take revenge as they thought everyone was on the take anyway. So despite the horror of the Party Leaders on salaries, they allowed a little leeway on allowances ( the word “expenses” has always been considered beyond the Pale).

So what has changed today? Well, it won’t be MPs who will decide how deep their snouts will go (although the pigs have been complaining for years) but a really, really independent body called IPSA.

As much as I like Keith Vaz I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I heard him on Breakfastime punt the new backbench line which was that it was quite invidious for members to have to vote on something so vulgar as their pay. Let us wait for the report. Let us consider how savings can be made. Let us pass the buck. Let someone else shoulder the blame. As John Junor used to say, “pass the sick bag Alice”.

But surely someone is going to have to take a decision? It is hard to believe that IPSA’s recommendations are automatically put into force. After all most MPs regard them as Satan incarnate. What if there was a recommendation that pay would be reduced? All hell would be let loose.

I have no doubt that one of our faux hair shirted tribunes will force a vote even if it isn’t binding. There will be naming and shaming. It will be the first question on every local reporter’s lips, “did you vote yourself an increase?”

The truth is that IPSA is so independent that they are despised. But they are the enema that was needed to expel the toxins of Tony Blair’s dash for cash in 2005, when doctors, consultants and Parliamentarians were showered with cash to keep them under control. Not so much the liquid cosh as the liquid dosh.

Are MPs paid enough? No. Are the majority hardworking and honest? Of course. Should they be getting an increase when living standards have been plummeting for everybody else? Don’t be daft.

There will be all sorts of quasi compromises floated. A further cut to allowances, higher contributions in a very generous pension scheme. I wouldn’t support either. Allowances are now at the bare minimum and darn difficult to claim, and the pension scheme is generous simply because being an MP is as precarious as being a football manager, but without the perks.

There will be grumblings on all sides of the divide. But surely they must know that none of the Party Leaders can afford to give an inch.

It is all desperately unfair. Welcome to politics, where at the moment you have to take the rough with the rough.

Quite honestly any MP who supports any sort of increase (no matter what other savings are made) will be strung by the goolies from a lamp post. And that’s after the pitch forked mob have run them out of Dodge.

It will be interesting to see how Offshore Farage will play this one as his party has got a Turner prize for excessive trousering . My guess is that he will plug in with the public mood and flog this one for all its worth.