HALF a million people are reported to be relying on food banks in Oxfam’s Below The Breadline report taken to the house of Lords for debate this afternoon – dismissed by Lord Freud, but more on that later.
In what could easily be mistaken for a woefully out of touch parallel universe, Members of Parliament are considering giving themselves a pay rise, in addition to their £65,000 a year salaries, and expenses. You know, the moats and the Laura Ashley curtains and the like. The valuable use of the taxpayers money on making second and third homes “nice”. If you ask me, I’d rather have an extra member of staff at the local Sure Start children’s centre, but nobody asked me. But why did nobody ask me? Or you? Or any of us? I thought this was a democracy – but it seems the only people that want the MPs to snort more taxpayers money out of the alarmingly short public purse, are MPs.
In January, an Independent Parliamentary Standards Association revealed that 69% of MPs think that they deserve a pay rise. As the poll was anonymous, it is suddenly impossible to identify whether those clamouring through the press that they wouldn’t accept the raise, were those eagerly (anonymously) deciding that they should be paid over £100,000 a year. The average results of the poll were as follows:
LABOUR MPs thought that they deserved an average salary of £77,322 per year.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MPs thought that they deserved an average salary of £78,361 per year.
And with no surprises, CONSERVATIVE MPs thought that they deserved an annual salary of £86,740 a year.
8% of them thought that they deserved over £100,000 a year.
Our current “public servants” seem to have forgotten that they were initially paid a wage at all in order to encourage working class people to represent their communities.
Their current wage, £66,000 a year basic rate, not including additional payments for sitting on committees, expenses, or allowances, is approximately three times the national average wage.
I haven’t done a poll, but how many firemen, teachers, nurses, postmen, shop assistants do we actually have in the Houses of Parliament? And how many professional politicians, that went from University to an internship at the Houses Of Parliament, or to work for an MP, and have never done anything else?
How many MPs have even been to their local food bank – (mine has, James Duddridge, Conservative MP) – let alone have any idea what life is like for the half a million people struggling below the poverty line and reliant on handouts every day? And what are they doing apart from photo opportunities and lip service, if they’re capping benefits at 1%, but giving themselves a £10,000 pay rise?
But we’re all in it together, remember. Leader of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg might whinny to the national press under pressure that he “wouldn’t accept” a pay rise, but will he whip his members into doing the same? Or will he turn it down because he can live comfortably on his hefty salary, and it will be good PR for him to look “like a man of the people.” Please. Reduce your salary down to minimum wage and live in a council house on £71 a week for all bills and food for a month, and then tell me that you’re a man of the people and you’re doing the right thing.
I had the same outrage at Iain Duncan Smith, claiming that he could live on £53 a week. Of course he could, in his wife’s big posh house, with his big posh things, a nicely stocked larder and all the home comforts a man could possibly want or need. Try doing it in a single bedroom, with your child sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with no food in the cupboard and no heating to turn on. Try it then, and tell me that we’re all in it together. Tell me how easy it is.
Job seekers and people on income support receive £71 a week for food and bills. MPs receive £140 a week for food, and can claim their bills as expenses.
They say there’s no money for libraries, for children’s centres, for police officers and benefits – yet they can justify an unstoppable pay rise for themselves? How?
As I have said before – we are not a country of middle aged, middle class white men with private educations – so why in hell are we governed by them? Are we really not collectively angry enough at how it’s all playing out, to go to the polling stations and vote them out?
But we’re all in it together, remember. It’s just that some of us are apparently in our living rooms with the blinds drawn to ride out 52” HD 3D TVs and fiddle jobs and nine illegitimate children that we’re claiming every type of benefit on earth for, and some of us are too busy guzzling away at the trough to notice the underpinnings of a decent society is collapsing around their knees.
I was asked a few weeks ago, completely seriously, if I would stand for Parliament in Southend.
I said no, because I’m currently writing a book and doing 101 other things that mean that I wouldn’t be able to commit to the election campaign for the next 18 months as much as I would like to. I am often told to go into politics, by blog readers, friends, strangers – and I agree that there is only so much shouting at the rain and raging against the machine that I can do.
But right now, the thought of joining that Parliament, with it’s ridiculous salary, corrupt culture and complete lack of values, saddens me. That culture and lifestyle will only attract a certain type of person, and it isn’t me. It needs to change. They make a murmuring noise every now and again about having more “real people” in Parliament – but then alienate those “real people” by deciding to give themselves pay rises, while the rest of us scrabble to feed our children in biting, wounding austerity.
As the great Billy Bragg said:
“The factories are closing
And the armies are full
I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I’ve come to see
In the land of the free
That there’s only a future for the chosen few.”
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe