MPs’ pay is not up to standard
It perhaps says something about being an MP that Matt Hancock would rather spend three weeks eating various less-than-pleasant parts of exotic Aussie animals than hang around in Westminster. He also felt that he could bring more light to his personal cause – screening for dyslexia in schools – by going on the telly than he could from the backbenches. Hancock, as far as we know, is going to stick around in SW1 for a little longer, but many of his colleagues are ready to leave.
This weekend we saw Sajid Javid announce he was stepping down at the next election, the most high profile of a sea of Conservative MPs who have had enough of the green benches. It should concern Britain that its politicians no longer feel their public service can best be achieved in Parliament.
Our MPs get a bad reputation, much of it a hangover from the excesses of the expenses scandal. Mostly that’s unfair – the vast majority are in it for the right reasons. The more interesting question is whether the current system is set up to get the right people.
Perhaps it’s worth a thought experiment: would you pack in a secure job, submit yourself to the vagaries of the electorate, attend countless Friday evening functions, be forced to defend your party’s most outlandish policies and dysfunctional individuals, for £85,000 a year? The answer for many in the City would be no, even before you include the inevitable and occasionally over-the-top scrutiny of the media; individuals like Javid, giving up careers in global finance to enter politics, will become rarer by the year.
Newly qualified lawyers are on nearly double what an MP makes, for goodness’ sake. It’s absurd.
It’s perhaps unpopular to say it but the fact is we need to be delivering a more attractive package if the next generation of MPs are going to be the leading lights of our generation. Westminster is in desperate need of the country’s brightest minds, and at the moment there remains all too little to attract them.