THE BLOG
08/07/2013 07:43 BST | Updated 06/09/2013 06:12 BST

How Much Is an MP Worth? How Much Have You Got?

The idea that IPSA is floating, pushing out there, running up the pole to see which way the wind is blowing, is not just how much an MP should get for their duties, but also why they should get it. If you have not heard the argument yet, then you may wish to sit down and grip on to something firm.

It took almost 53 years of solid searching. Just over half a century of sucking up passing information like a dredger takes on silt, of vacuuming up any tiny microbe of knowledge, opinion and rumour that passed me by and it has finally happened. I have now heard it all: MPs must be given a pay rise of ten or even a whole twenty thousand pounds a year for their arduous travails. That is what the head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has said. I am not making that up. I am also not making up the part about there being an authority governing standards in parliament, which must be tricky, as to the casual observer, standards there seem so thin on the ground.

The man tasked with the onerous duty to give parliamentarians whatever it is that they want is an old lawyer called Ian Kennedy. He is a "Sir" as you would expect. Being a "Sir" ads gravitas and heft to his pronouncements, whatever ordinary people might think of them. Common or garden misters and missuses might be under the delusion that their elected representatives are most handsomely rewarded, considering what a bunch of useless, conniving, self interested and bloated layabouts they are. How fortunate is the man and woman in the street to have a "Sir" to explain the error of their thinking.

I haven't even got to the best bit. The idea that IPSA is floating, pushing out there, running up the pole to see which way the wind is blowing, is not just how much an MP should get for their duties, but also why they should get it. If you have not heard the argument yet, then you may wish to sit down and grip on to something firm.

The rationale behind this seemingly insane rush to attract the ire of the electorate is for our own protection. Protection from whom, you might reasonably wonder. Here goes...are you ready? The reason that MPs should be gifted a pay rise of ten or twenty thousand pounds a year in the face of the worst economic crisis the modern world has ever seen, in a period of belt tightening that is choking the life out of the rest of us, is that if we don't give them more money, they will be forced to recommence their expenses escapades.

Sir Ian Kennedy actually said that out loud. Not in so many words of course, but the way he put it does not seem any more palatable than my summary.

There were meek, barely audible protestations from the party leaders, who must have clouds of eager young things with clip boards advising them on what the population outside of the best postcodes in the land might think. They must have set the sirens going that we, the downtrodden, might not take especially well to such a notion.

Desperate Dave offered the advice that caution is warranted, the other party leaders whispered much the same but Sir Ian was having none of it. We are the deciders, he stated, it is up to us to decide, you do not do the deciding on how much you are paid, we take that task from MPs and we come to a decision. That is the thrust of his position.

Let's assume he was not utilising the royal "we" and referred to his compatriots in the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the bulk of whom are ex MPs or highly remunerated civil servants or who have had a career that depended to various extents on the patronage of politicians. I have not seen their accounts but from their CVs it is safe to assume that they have all earned considerably more than the basic salary of a member of parliament.

This may be part of the problem. To a person who has spent their days as a lawyer or banker or feted panjandrum of the state, the top line earnings of an MP must seem like walking around money, the sort of amount that one might spend on a celebratory meal if they went off-piste with the wine list. Sixty-five thousand pounds a year must appear a laughably small amount to these fortunate few who are pondering the question of MPs pay on our behalf. What they might be missing is our point of view.

Most toiling souls in Great Britain earn around a third of the amount that our political servants coin in. Further, they do not get to claim for travel and a second home and every little thing they do, see, hear, eat and buy on expenses. They also do not get child benefit if they are earning over sixty grand a year. Politicians get to claim about £2,500 for each child they have produced. Politicians earn considerably more than the arbitrary limit they have set on their subjects, who also do not get to take holidays that last two and a half weeks at Christmas, one and a half in February, three weeks at Easter, two at Whitsun, a full seven weeks for summer, three and a half in Autumn and a week in November. I am not making that up either.

They would say that they are diligently sticking to the task of a local functionary during those periods of seeming inactivity, that they are engrossed in their constituents' botherations. But what do you think? With all that time off, would you be stuck in some airless office listening to the whining of the proles? Of course not, and neither are they, not for more than a third of the year they're not.

But none of this is relevant really, and all of these arguments could be shot down with accusations of jealousy or spite or of wilful misunderstanding of the vital role that MPs play out of the spotlight.

The only point that sticks out and that can not be explained away or waved aside is the one that was offered by the very team that are tasked with overseeing that standards are maintained in parliament.

The position of the body that does the deciding on such things is that in order to help the denizens of the Palace of Westminster to remain on the straight and narrow, we should legitimise their thievery by simply giving them the money.

Like I said: now I have heard it all.