Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday had 3 components. First was the well-received (in Labour circles) idea that trades union members should choose whether or not their subs go to the Labour Party.
Second, it was made clear that a primary would be used to select Labour’s London mayoral candidate and suggested that it might be used to select parliamentary candidates – perhaps even starting with my constituency of Falkirk. The latter is a super idea, although I suspect the Scottish Labour Party will battle to prevent it from happening. In any case, like the idea about trades union subs, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Both ideas seem decent starting places, mind you.
Third, though, and bizarrely, the Labour leader has said that no Labour MP will be allowed to earn more than 15% in addition to his or her MP’s salary. What?
Clearly, limiting outside earnings can’t be a matter of time spent on the job – because if it were, you’d limit the time spent on the job, right? Not the earnings. But there’s a problem with that: all MPs who are ministers, in addition to a considerable number of other MPs, are paid for up to around 4 full-time days of work each week, away from their job as a constituency MP. No MP who also works as a laywer, doctor or company director puts anything like that amount of time in to work other than being a constituency MP. By the way, is anyone suggesting MPs who are also ministers and so forth don’t do their jobs as MPs properly? Of course not.
It’s clearly not a matter of time, then.
So what about money? Cabinet Ministers get around £80k in addition to their MP’s salary; junior ministers get somewhat less. The leader of the opposition (cough) and opposition chief whip each get little over £70k; committee chairs get around £13k. MPs chairing legislative committees get up to the same sort of figure. The Speaker gets a cabinet minister’s salary, and his deputies get junior minister’s salaries. All in all, around a quarter of all MPs get over 15% above their MP’s salary. So in what universe it is fair to ban MPs from earning over 15% extra at no cost to the taxpayer while many MPs are earning it from the taxpayer?
And how can a leader earning over 100% above an MP’s earnings at state expense limit his MPs to 15% (at no state expense) and expect respect? How does his chief whip (and deputy, actually) seriously enforce a 15% pay cap, when they’re getting more than that themselves?
And apparently it might be OK to earn book royalties? What? You can write books but not treat a patient or advise a client? And what about unearned income?
It’s class war, of course. It’s a balancer for the other two potential measures – but the downside of that balancer is that it makes its proposer looks desperate and ridiculous.
When MPs’ leaders take to MP-bashing we should view them with scepticism.
Ed Miliband has been tempted by daft advisers (some of whom earn more than MPs now, and most of whom would in government) to throw a piece of meat to his detractors – but the effect of this third proposal is to enable opponents to belittle the other two decent ones.
He should change his mind on this ridiculous and manifestly unjust plan.