Pay peanuts and you get…?

12 July 2013 at 11:00

‘You get what you pay for’ is an ancient adage that most of us in business will recognise to be true. It is true of business clubs; it is true of events; and it is true of MP’s.

Without wishing to generalise too much, I would suggest that the current bunch of Parliamentarians that represent us are of a significantly poorer calibre than in previous parliaments. One only has to look at the respective front benches to recognise that all the mainstream parties are short of talent. Indeed how many ministers and shadow ministers can you name?

Those who do have a bit of quality and the ‘X’ factor are in huge demand from within their own political organisations and from the outside world, so if you want Chuka Umunna or Boris Johnson to appear at something for you in 2015 I’d advise you book them now. Come to think of it, Boris isn’t even an MP nowadays, though internationally he is the UK’s most recognisable politician.

Of course this dearth of talent is not simply about what MP’s are paid. It is about the increased pressures on family life and the abject failure of the House of Commons to modernise its procedures. It is about ‘cabals’ and cliques in party associations and constituency parties who stitch selections up for their mates. It is about 24/7 media scrutiny of all that you do as a public figure.

But ultimately salary does matter. Why would a captain of industry, a young entrepreneur or a creative talent give everything up to put themselves forward for a seat in a dragons den where there place is re-advertised every four years however good their individual performance, if the annual remuneration is less than a Premiership footballer earns in a week?

The job of an MP is a tough one, a time consuming one and one that is high on pressure. If we want to attract good people to this important role then we will have to be more generous and mature when it comes to paying them. The recommended 75K has hit the headlines this week. Buried was the radical change to expenses and pension rights that actually leaves MP’s no better off.

We can continue to compare our MP’s to care workers and beat them up every time a salary increase is recommended by an independent body. In that case we have to accept that we will continue to get the MP’s we deserve. In other words, get what we pay for…