Tory Charles Walker Slams 'Grubby' Cameron, Clegg And Gove For Rejecting MPs Pay Rise

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CAMERON CLEGG
Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (left) at Wandsworth Day Nursery in south London, as more than two million working families stand to gain through a major expansion of government support for childcare, ministers announced today. | PA

Conservative Charles Walker has accused David Cameron and Nick Clegg of "hiding in their bunkers" while pushing their MPs towards the "machine guns" after both men criticised proposals to give politicians a pay rise.

Yesterday the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposed that MPs see their pay increase from £66,396 to £74,000 in May 2015.

Both the prime minister and deputy prime minister have sharply criticised the regulator for the suggestion - arguing MPs should not see a pay rise at a time the government was squeezing public sector pay.

However Walker said the pair were being "crass" and simply "trying to make capital off their MPs" for political gain.

The Broxbourne MP told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme late on Thursday evening: "I know many people in the tea room in House of Commons who are deeply hurt and deeply upset by their leaders."

"I love parliament, I love being an MP and I have a strong affection for my constituents," he said. "I will accept the pay, and I'll spend it on my children because I'm not a millionaire. As a humble backbench MP I'm just not going to carry the can for those two."

"I find it pretty grubby when leaders of our parties once again hide in their bunkers, hide behind their MPs and push us towards the metaphorical machine guns," he said.

"They have been predictable, it is what we have come to expect from prime minister and the deputy prime minister.

"They are not great parliamentarians, neither of them spent very long in parliament before becoming leaders of their parties. They don't have any much love or regard for parliament. It is a vehicle for their ministerial and prime ministerial ambitions."

Walker, who at 45 is a year younger than both Cameron and Clegg, added: "They are both very talented young men, I don't mean to be rude, but I think most observers who love parliament would say they are not really of parliament."

He added: "There are many, many better people in parliament as humble backbenchers than those at the head of our parties."

Ed Miliband and Clegg have both said they would refuse to accept a pay rise should it be awarded. However David Cameron has so far refused to rule out accepting the money.

Downing Street's decision to dodge the question has been seen as an attempt to avoid further upsetting backbench Tory MPs such as Walker who have significantly less personal wealth than the prime minister - as well as a much lower salary.

Education secretary Michael Gove was less circumspect. He told ITV News Ipsa was a "silly organisation really" before adding: "as far as I'm concerned about this pay rise they can stick it".

Gove's comments were also not welcomed by Walker, who said it was "was probably the sort of benchmark of awfulness of the whole day, a shabby low grade intervention".

Many MPs have reacted with horror to the suggestion that they be given a large pay rise at a time other public sector workers are seeing their pay squeezed.

However a few others, like Walker, have publicly argued that politicians do need to be paid more. Tory Sir Peter Bottomley told ITV News he worked hard and that this should be rewarded.

"At the moment with overtime, I believe the senior police guarding the House of Commons are paid more than I am. The senior clerks are paid more than I am, I expect the librarian is paid more than I am," he said.

Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the powerful public accounts committee, also said she was worried about party leaders suggesting their MPs not take a pay rise - fearing a race to the bottom.

"I think it’s really dangerous," she said. "I think our leaders shouldn’t do it to enter into a Dutch auction. You then end up with people putting themselves forward ‘I’ll do it for 20,000, I’ll pay you to do it’.

"You then end up with the rotten boroughs you had in the 19th century. I don’t want us to start having a Dutch auction between MPs."

And Conservative Andrew Bridgen, said there needed to be a balance between the calling to public service and good pay.

"MPs are paid about the same as a junior school headmistress or headmaster, I’ve got lost and lots of those in my constituency, there’s only one MP," he said.

"I can’t think of another job where there is another job where there are only 650 of those roles in the whole of Great Britain that are paid on this sort of level."

Bridgen, who recently got admonished by Tory party whips after being outed as one of the backbenchers who has called for a leadership election, told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "It is public service, we expect that we are not going to earn the money we could have earned in the private sector but there has to be some balance in there."

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