The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Why £80,000?

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 26, 2009 @ 06:27

Ahh, the used £50 note. So rare. But not so where MPs are concerned...

Ahh, the used £50 note. So rare. But not so where MPs are concerned...

Yesterday I suggested that £80,000 might be a good figure for an MPs’ salary, while abolishing all of the expense allowances except for travel to/from the constituency and staff.

Today I’d like to put my cynicism to one side for a day, and explore a little into why I believe they are actually worth such a generous wage, which, of course, is well above the average, let alone the median, and would put them amongst the highest earners in the land.

I used to work for an MP. I’ve seen at close quarters just what these people get up to.

And, in all honesty, it was not a pretty sight.

My MP was somewhat high profile. This certainly gave him more to do than the average MP, in the sense that there were a lot more media bids to deal with. But even without the added media pressures, his diary was difficult.

How do I know this? Well, I was his diary secretary.

It was my job to try to make sure he dealt with all the things he needed to. This invariably resulted in a week that resembled something like this:

Monday: work in constituency office before long drive to London. Parliamentary meetings and business in the afternoon. These would dry up by 7pm ish, giving him a couple of hours free time to mill around awaiting any votes. Probably not home before 11pm.

Tuesday:  8:30am start in the London office, where we would have him working non-stop, going from meeting to meeting, dealing with correspondence, dealing with anything his staff have for him, dealing with casework. Endless phonecalls. Oh, and some parliamentary business. Continue until 11pm as yesterday.

Wednesday: 8:30am start in the London office. Same deal as yesterday. Finish today at about 7pm, perhaps a few hours free time.

Thursday: 8:30am start in the London office. Continue attending meetings… finish approximately 3pm, driving back to the constituency shortly after. Perhaps attend an event on the way home for a random local party. Should be home by 10pm.

Friday: 9am start in the constituency office. Deal with constituency business. Attend usual local stuff. Deal with casework.

Saturday: No constituency office, but the day will invariably have local constituency events to attend. And the phone can ring at any time if it’s a journalist as they have his mobile number.

Sunday: The only day off per week – but often intruded upon if there are constituency events he must attend that are scheduled for this day. Often the regional party would schedule its meetings for this day because they knew it was the only day all MPs and councillors would be free. Phone continues to ring all day.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I believe my MP worked exceptionally hard and I knew it was actually very draining on him, despite outward appearance. A 60 to 80 hour week is not uncommon. It’s not quite the glamorous lifestyle that’s made out. And huge amounts of these things were paid for out of the MP’s pocket: particularly the ceaseless requests for donations to charities, and prizes for local party events all over the country.

All this on top of the charity work that he did as the President of his favourite charity.

To be dealing with all of that requires a lot of effort. Like I said yesterday though, I don’t believe it requires exceptional talent. But to be asked to sacrifice almost your whole life, and seriously impact on your personal life, deserves at least some reward. And yes, there are plenty of holidays – but it is actually true when they say MPs spend most of it working in their constituencies.

If we average it out at about 12 hours a day, worked across 310 days a year, it would turn an 80k salary into approximately £21.50/hour.

Hardly an unreasonable rate for someone working in London in such a high profile, high pressure job.

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3 Responses to “Why £80,000?”

  1. Actually, that’s an incredibly unreasonable hourly rate. I would expect (if you want good quality people to give up their other opportunities to be an MP) about four times that much. Which is about my hourly rate but then I don’t do nearly so many hours and I don’t work so many days. But if someone wants me to spend time away from my family and my hobbies, then that’s what they have to pay for my skills and experience.

    Or we could ask our MPs to focus less on case work and more on legislating? Thereby cutting down their hours and increasing their hourly rate, without increasing their pay…

  2. In truth, I agree with you. After all, solicitors don’t think twice about charging way in excess of £100/hour for their services. It’s clear MPs pay has been held back significantly over the years, and rolled up into the expenses system instead.

    We need to be honest about this situation. Which is why I suggest scrapping all the expenses and immediately putting its rough equivalent into salary. In time it needs to reach six figures; perhaps we could reduce the number of MPs at the same time to keep a lid on the overall cost. But right now… in the midst of a recession, this isn’t the time to do it.

    If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, etc, etc. Thanks for your comment!

  3. […] report says absolutely nothing about what MPs ought to be paid. Bear in mind that MPs pay is the elephant in the room, and that Kelly’s recommendation to farm it out to an independent body is merely […]

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