Tagged: Dr Martin Farr

Should MPs be paid more? – Salary set to rise after the general election

Would Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been caught out in a sting apparently offering their services to a private company for cash if the salary earned by MPs’ was much higher?

> Probably. There’s no accounting for greed.

The suggestion is an unpopular one with the electorate, many of whom have endured years of pay freezes, particularly in the public sector in which the politicians are classified as working.

After the next election, an MP’s salary is set to rise 10% from £66,396 to £74,000 – the level set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) which said they did an important job and should not be paid a “miserly amount”.

When this was revealed last year it caused a bit of a meltdown inside and outside of Parliament with the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour party leaders for once united.

They argued it would be wrong when public sector pay rises were capped at 1%.

Rifkind, who said the allegations made against him were “unfounded”, has subsequently said he can’t live on his £67,000 a year MP’s salary.

However Blaydon MP, Labour’s Dave Anderson, was unsympathetic. He said:

“If you can’t live on the salary get another job. You know what you sign up for.

“If you can’t live off £67,000 a year you must be from another planet.”

Mr Anderson was equally dismissive of MPs who took on second jobs to boost their income.

“If you want another job, take another job and leave. You shouldn’t have a second job as an MP regardless.

“Me and my colleagues work so many hours I don’t know how anybody who fit another job in.”

His fellow MP Nick Brown who represents Newcastle East said:

“I agree with that. Your duty is to your constituency and the country.

“I’ve been an MP for 31 years and have never had a second job.”

As for the salary of MPs he said he did not want to be “sanctimonious” and criticise anybody who thinks it should be higher. “I think an MP’s salary level should be set independently,” he said.

As for how much a fair salary would be, Mr Brown wouldn’t be drawn on a figure just that it should “cover the cost of being an MP.

> Before exopenses claims, I imagine.

The debate about what an MP’s salary should be has been clouded by a number of scandals over the years to the extent that when a rise is suggested most in Parliament come out in public against it firmly.

 

But in a secret poll of MPs, the responses were different.

Back in 2013, in a survey conducted by Ipsa, MPs suggested they deserved an £86,250 salary.

On average, Tories said their salary should be £96,740, while Lib Dems thought the right amount was £78,361 and Labour £77,322. Other parties put the figure at £75,091.

However later that year, a poll of the public revealed it thought MPs should actually get a pay cut, the average figure being £54,400. In the North East, people thought they should be paid £52,140.

Arguments for the rise included one that being an MP was an important job and salaries should be more in keeping with this, comparing it to money earned by company executives. If pay was better, we would get better MPs.

> Does anyone really believe that ? What we’d really get is richer MPs.

It would also, the argument went, entice more people from less well-off backgrounds to become interested in becoming an MP.

To counter this some have wondered how a salary that is around three times the national average would put off potential less well off candidates.

According to one commentator: “To a working class kid a salary of £65,000 a year is the equivalent of winning the lottery”.

And anyway, MPs are public servants and should be subject to the same rules as anyone else in the public sector. They do an incredibly important job – but so do lots of other people, such as nurses and the police.

Political expert Dr Martin Farr of Newcastle University said:

“The public has unreasonable expectations of politicians because they just don’t like them.

> And I wonder why that should be ?

“There needs to be a competitive salary as in comparison to parliamentarians elsewhere, MPs here aren’t played a lot nor do they get the same level of support.”

“They are frightened to be awarded a competitive salary which was why they tried to make it up in allowances in the first place.

“However in trying to avoid one problem they have created another.”

He said such was the “febrile” nature of the debate, the public generally can’t even accept the need for MPs to travel first class on trains and reclaim it on expenses.

“Yet they often do work of a confidential nature at this time so these arrangements are needed,” he said.

Dr Farr said that while it appears Straw and Rifkind might have broken no rules, they were foolish to do what they did.

However he added what did need to be sorted out was the so-called ‘Whitehall revolving door’ situation where former Ministers get jobs in the private sector

“It’s a toxic issue and in some ways MPs are in a lose-lose situation,” he said.

> For that sort of money, you’d get a lot of volunteers willing to risk that kind of lose-lose situation…

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015

Can UKIP and the Green party win in the North East?

The forthcoming general election has been described as one of the most unpredictable in generations.

And with the polls revealing Labour and the Conservatives to be neck-and-neck, the result could depend on how well the so-called minor parties perform.

For some time now this has largely meant UKIP which has enjoyed a level of success in the North.

Now it also means the Green party which has seen its membership surge of late reportedly to a higher level than that of UKIP.

So will either of them manage to win seats here or perhaps gain sufficient votes to affect the final outcome?

Political expert Dr Martin Farr of Newcastle University said Labour was most at threat from the rise of UKIP while the Greens posed a threat particularly to the Lib Dems.

Dr Farr also said the support in the North East had given UKIP a certain amount of credibility.

“Before it had been portrayed as the party of disgruntled Tories, the anti-immigration party.

“But the North East is Labour’s heartland and immigration isn’t as big an issue here as it is, say, in the North West.

“The issue here is about representation which many former Labour voters don’t think they are getting from the party.

“Meanwhile UKIP can say what it likes at the moment as it is a party untarnished by being in Government.

“What it is offering is what Labour used to offer – clarity and certainty.”

This could explain why UKIP has enjoyed notable electoral successes up here recently.

At present it has a North East MEP, Jonathan Arnott, and four local councillors, two in South Tyneside and two in Hartlepool.

 

At the 2013 South Shields by-election following David Miliband’s resignation, UKIP’s Richard Elvin came second to Labour’s Emma Lewell Buck winning 24% of the vote, with the Tories and Lib Dems a distant thrid and fourth.

And, if the UK didn’t have a first past the post electoral system, it could have many more representatives.

In the May 2014 local elections at Newcastle City Council, having never contested a ward before, UKIP put up candidates in 19 and nine came second in the vote.

Its overall share of the vote was 9,231 or 13.5%, ahead of the Conservatives although trailing Labour and the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile at Sunderland City Council, UKIP put up five candidates in 2012 and although none won, it got some notable numbers in Hetton in particular with 1,363 where their candidate came a close second.

In 2014 it was unlucky not to win any seats despite gaining 16,951 votes in total, a 24.3% share. Of the 23 wards it contested it came 2nd in 16 of them.

Even as we approach the general election it is still making inroads. Last month the Mayor of Bishop Auckland, Coun Colin Race, quit the Labour Party and joined UKIP.

As for the Greens, Dr Farr said:

“There has been a huge surge in support because the Lib Dem support has collapsed and they are also attracting people from the left of Labour who are fed up with austerity.

“There isn’t a Syriza type party (the left wing anti-austerity party in Greece which formed the last Government there) in the UK.

“The Green party is basically still a pressure group without fully formed policies on all the issues. It’s leader was embarrassed recently in a TV interview because of this.”

However he said in time, using the success it has had at local level in places like Brighton, it could achieve credibility at a national level.

This might mean any electoral success it enjoys in the region by be more limited than UKIP which, in the public’s eye, is a bit more of an established party.

Overall Dr Farr said he wasn’t expecting many surprises at the May general election.

He said: “I think in most of the North East, the majorities are such that the numbers they attract won’t be enough to win seats.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015