NEWS: Some justification is required if MPs salaries are to be doubled

It is time MPs acquainted themselves with strategic PR. They should realise something is wrong when people like me, who regard politics as an honourable trade, begin to despair of our public representatives.

It is time MPs acquainted themselves with strategic PR. They should

realise something is wrong when people like me, who regard politics as

an honourable trade, begin to despair of our public representatives.



I recognise that, in competition with journalists, MPs often prop up the

league table of public esteem. They follow a rough old trade. They do

not expect to be loved and some of them positively set out to excite

public angst.



But we are within 14 months of an election. Even the least imaginative

PR adviser would counsel MPs to watch their p’s and q’s. Yet what do

they do? Led by such pillars as Sir Terence Higgins (Tory), Sir David

Steel (Liberal Democrat) and Sir James Molyneaux (Ulster Unionist), they

put in a pay claim. And not just any old demand. They want their basic

pounds 34,085 salary doubled. This, of course, ignores various

allowances on top for secretaries and London accommodation.



This move is not calculated to endear them to voters when there is some

evidence that the public thinks we have too many MPs who cost them too

much for what they do. In fact, British MPs are not particularly well

off. Their pay suffers by comparison in Europe and also with Australia,

Canada and the USA.



Nor has it kept pace with the rise since 1979 in average earnings or in

the wages of top civil servants, policemen or nurses. On the other hand,

they have latterly never been better off in real terms since they were

first paid in 1911. They can make a case of sorts. Indeed, that is what

any self-respecting public relations adviser would tell them to do, if

they were basing their argument on fair comparisons. But that is not

their approach.



Instead, they are being cynically opportunist. They originally called on

the Government to refer their demand to the Nolan Commission on

standards in public life. Why? Because, Nolan recommended - and they

agreed - that they should limit their earning capacity from outside PR

consultancies by banning client advocacy in the Commons and publicly

declare their outside earnings. They were, in effect, asking Nolan to

make good the damage to their pockets. This is on top of their

acknowledging that they are without honour in their own House by

agreeing to appoint a Commissioner for Standards to regulate their

behaviour. Why should the public agree to pay such dishonourable

inadequates more?



Our MPs should get themselves a good PR company. It would focus

attention on the real issue: what kind of MPs do we want? Professional

politicians of limited experience or rounded men of the world who do not

rely solely on their Parliamentary salary?



Sir Bernard Ingham writes for the Daily Express



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