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Thursday 4th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

DAVID CAMERON'S po-faced statement that it is for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) "to determine what MPs are paid" stands in stark contrast to his previous utterances.

He has played into the gallery of public opinion by previously opposing any rise in MPs' pay and by freezing ministerial pay.

Yet Cameron now accepts the Ipsa decision that his pay should rise from £142,000 to £149,440 a year.

His fellow Bullingdon boy Boris Johnson said six years ago that the £250,000 channelled his way by the Telegraph for a weekly column on top of his £140,000 salary as London mayor was "chicken feed."

So it seems the PM has been convinced that refusing the Ipsa rate for the job could throw his family into penury.

In fact, both Cameron and Johnson and many of their Tory colleagues are beneficiaries of inherited wealth and could probably exist comfortably enough without their parliamentary salaries.

However, personal wealth is not the key issue when it comes to remuneration for MPs.

It was the Chartists who led the demand in the 19th century for MPs to be paid so as to broaden the social background from which our parliamentary representatives came.

Landowners and industrialists who dominated Parliament beforehand were happy without a salary, content with knowing that their tiny segment of society could pass laws guaranteed to benefit themselves in the main.

Paying MPs allowed people from modest backgrounds - even from the working class and even active trade unionists - to stand for Parliament, particularly the Labour Party.

Sadly, as Dennis Skinner remarked this week, that process has been undermined by a clique within the parliamentary Labour Party that has centralised power and opened an alternative selection avenue for "spads and suits."

It could be argued that an annual salary of £74,000 for MPs in not unreasonable, given their collective responsibilites for scrutinising the executive and approving draft legislation.

That would certainly be the case if comparisons were made with corporate management or senior grades within the public sector.

However, there is one major complicating factor - namely, that most MPs support holding down public-sector pay, squeezing in-work benefits and degrading public-service pensions.

How any MP who has lectured civil servants, local authority staff and other workers on the supposed need to tighten their belts to tackle the spending deficit can take this rise with a clear conscience defies credibility. 

Nor should anyone get carried away by the populist statements by Labout leadership candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall and by Stella Creasy, whose hat is in the ring for deputy.

"Refusing to accept" a 10 per cent pay rise is meaningless since it will appear in their bank accounts whatever they say.

Alternative pledges to donate their extra pay to local causes or let supporters decide where it is spent are simply populist padding unless those enjoying this bounty take a stand alongside the victims of the austerity agenda.

People who work for the public sector have been under the cosh since the days of Gordon Brown.

They have paid the price of the Labour-Tory-Liberal Democrat consensus that the private banking sector should be free to regulate itself and then be bailed out by a clampdown on spending on public services. 

Working people don't need meaningless or patronising gestures.

They need the MPs whose salaries they pay to take a stand on their behalf rather than sucking up to the "heroes" of big business.