They say timing is the art of comedy. Unfortunately, nobody's laughing.
In the week after the chancellor of the Exchequer announced a pay rise of just one per cent for public sector employees, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) have awarded MPs a juicy 10 per cent rise – roughly £7,000. This takes their salaries to £74,000, and at a time of serious and necessary austerity, that's simply not acceptable.
Yes, MPs’ expenses do need an overhaul, as do their pensions, and it is a good that in future their pay will be linked to public sector wages. But to arbitrarily raise MPs’ pay in this way ignores the realities of the situation.
The untouchable quangocrats at Ipsa have, at one stroke, given MPs a pay rise and made the lives of those in Westminster much more difficult. MPs can no longer make the arguments for necessary spending restraint without immediately being attacked as hypocrites of the worst order. The UK will run a budget deficit of close to £70 billion, and the arguments for spending cuts need to be heard. But MPs will not be taken seriously if they appear to say “more for me and less for everyone else”.
Perhaps this is why the pay rise has been denounced from all sides of the House of Commons? Or, perhaps it is because MPs know that the Ipsa commissioned polling with ComRes showed that only a quarter of the public think that this pay rise for MPs is justifiable? Either way, there is a dearth of people who are willing to argue that this is a good idea and that makes the point more eloquently than any MPs’ protestations.
This polling cost the taxpayer £70,000, and it appears to have been largely ignored, which begs the question: why did this unaccountable quango think that MPs were struggling to get by on more than double the national average wage? It is bewildering.
Tough decisions are having to be made across the country as the government continues its slow-motion effort to restore the nation’s finances and no area of public spending, no matter how small or insignificant, should be completely free from scrutiny. This is true of NHS funding, the international aid budget and, of course, MPs’ Pay.
Ipsa’s recommendation to arbitrarily raise MPs’ salaries flies in the face of everything that we have heard about spending restraint. Through no fault of their own, our representatives in Westminster will find themselves a little richer, but with a far more difficult job.