Coffee House

MPs: We’re underpaid and worried about Christmas

10 January 2013

7:42 PM

10 January 2013

7:42 PM

Are MPs paid too little? Quite a few of them seem to think so. Parliamentary expenses watchdog IPSA released the results of a survey today which found 69 per cent of MPs think they are underpaid. If that wasn’t quite enough to light the touchpaper, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen very bravely appeared on PM this evening to make the following rather provocative comments:

‘We work in the constituencies and we work in Westminster. In the city of Westminster average salaries are well over £100,000. We work in both those spheres. Now I know MPs who will say in private that every year they are getting poorer. Most of my colleagues on the government benches took a large pay cut to be an MP, and I think there’s a real danger, if you need good people, you need the right people, there’s a lot of exclusion.’

Bridgen may well have a point about making sure Parliament is attractive to the brightest and the best. But his argument may be a little obscured by his next warning:

‘A man or a woman who’s very capable, doing very well in their profession, whatever that may be, with a family, are they going to be willing to take that pay cut, look their children in the eye when it’s Christmas say you can’t have what you normally have because Mummy or Daddy wants to be an MP.’


You can listen to the full exchange here, with thanks to the BBC’s Nick Sutton for uploading it:

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Show comments
  • barbie

    The last paragraph I find laughable. £65,000 per year is not a poor wage. Many in this country would love to earn that much. While we see cuts taking place, loss of jobs, businesses closing, the remarks are very insensitive indeed. We all know they undertake to work in parliament and the constituancy, but that’s the job and they knew this when they took up the challenge of getting elected. I don’t agree they are badly paid, they get enough for what they do, and at present what they do is not much good; and given the state of the countries finances they should show restraint and not ask for more. Of course they won’t for they are naturally greedy.

  • Wessex Man

    Mmm and they want the same sort of increase in their pension contributions, you could make it up!

  • James Baxter

    I wouldn’t say politicians shouldn’t be paid competitively but to suggest
    65k is not a lot for the vast majority is unhinged. The average UK
    salary in 2012 was £26500! I’m sure politicians can work hard for their money but they made the choice to enter that realm of employment.

  • James Baxter

    wouldn’t say politicians shouldn’t be paid competitively but to suggest
    65k is not a lot for the vast majority is unhinged. The average UK
    salary in 2012 was £26500!

  • DaveL

    It surprises me that MPs pay is more of an issue than council Chief
    Executive. I’d be happy to swap them around.

  • Tom Tom

    I consider MPs woefully underpaid, but not all MPs. I am against paying all MPs the same package, and would like full-time MPs paid say £100,000 pa with Expenses only as approved by HMRC and a Defined Contribution Pension with which they buy an Annuity. Those MPs with outside incomes would be paid on a reduced Sliding Scale and have no Pension Contributions from the taxpayer nor any right to Short Money. They would get 1 month’s Severance for each year in The Commons when they lose their seat only if they have no job to go to within 3 months.

  • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    If they’re so underpaid, why don’t they do what people outside Parliament do and see if they can find another, better-paid job?

    I did read some time ago that employers are typically reluctant to take on former MP’s.

  • Olaf

    I heard that interview and he compared MPs’ salaries to a middle school headteacher and less than other city workers which I think was disingenuous. A Head teacher might have a similar headline salary but they do not have access to the same level of expenses. 2nd mortgages payed my the tax payer, subsidised food and drink, free travel, office and staff allowances etc etc.

    It’s well known that MPs use expenses in lieu of wages and they are very very high. Also shall we mention the golden plated pensions, golden goodbyes if you lose your seat and more.

    Don’t expect synpathy.

    • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

      Head teachers do rather more than sit in endless committees, discuss government policy and write letters. They also have ultimate responsibility for the education and safety of hundreds of children. What is an MP responsible for?

  • Teacher

    ‘Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

    That thou mayst shake the superflux to them

    And show the heavens more just.’ King Lear

    Lear was forced to empathise with ‘wretches’, other people, and so should M.P.s. In this age of ‘we’re all in it together’ austerity Andrew Bridgen should realise that everyone has to cut their cloth according to their means and that everyone has to adjust their Christmas spending. Does he not realise that everyone else’s children are suffering as his own are? If suffering is the word in our still relatively prosperous country.

  • A.Doc

    Quite Stunning!
    I’d like to think that being a hospital doctor, I’m amongst the best and the brightest – I’ve spent 6 years at university, have 2 degrees and will be doing professional exams well into my thirties.
    I work nights, weekends, miss family holidays, birthdays, christmas etc. When at work I quite literally have a person’s life in my hands. When I have more than 10 minutes for lunch I call it a quiet day.
    Courtesy of this government, I haven’t seen an inflationary pay rise in the last 3 years. Now this government wants to cut our salaries further.

    I will be a consultant before I see a salary higher than a backbench MP – that will be after 6 years university, 10 years training, thousands of pounds spent out of my own pocket of subscriptions, training and exams that I need to simply do my job (and the generous NHS will not subsidise).

    Given all that, I think MPs have an extremely cushy deal – and anyone who thinks otherwise has genuinely lost touch with the lives of their electorate.

    • Tom Tom

      “I’m amongst the best and the brightest” not sure if that is common amongst doctors most seem to be donkeys programmed to follow a carrot held 30 cms in front of their nose which never gets closer

      • A.Doc

        I think you might have wandered into a petting zoo by accident. I can only guess at what your presenting problem was…

        • TomTom

          coming from a family of doctors I suspect

    • barbie

      Well said, and we do appreciate you and what you now and in the future, policitans we don’t appreciate, and they know it.

    • Dimoto

      I guess you are assuming that everyone has already forgotten the scandalous contract ramp provided to you on a plate by the incompetence of the last government ?

  • Maidmarrion

    “69%of MPs believe they are underpaid” and it seems like 99.9% of the public believe they are not .

    • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

      Andrew Bridgen stated that “the great majority of the public does not think that £65,000 is a lot of money.” I can’t wait for the next time that an MP denies they’re out of touch!

    • Tom Tom

      It was 69 but MPs cannot do percentages

  • James R

    Perhaps MPs struggling to make ends meet should ask David Milliband for advice.I’m not sure what his field of expertise is but there seems to be a great demand for it..comrades.

    ”After losing the Labour leadership to his younger brother Ed, Mr Miliband
    went on to make £985,315 from the public speaking circuit and his work as an

    The figure, drawn from the register of MPs’ interests, includes hospitality,
    travel and gifts.”

  • John McEvoy

    And there was me thinking that being an MP, like taking any other path in life, was a matter of choice for the individual.

  • RGtx

    Perhaps, it would be better if their salary was to be fixed at its current level, but all MPs receive an annual bonus. The amount, if any, determined by how well “UK plc” has performed against a set of consistent metrics. Could lead to less adversarial politics.

    • AnotherDaveB

      I think any year when the government increases the national debt should be considered a failure.

  • Ian Walker

    I can kind of see the problem, but the solution is not a blanket high salary. The current system attracts too many past-it doctors, lawyers and accountants, and too many kids from the Westminster PR/Lobbying/Party Office with no experience worth a damn. The people who don’t become MPs are the intelligent mid-career professionals who have just started a family.
    Increasing the base salary won’t fix that, because it’ll just attract more of the ‘wrong sort’. Perhaps a system of bursaries to attact a cross-section of society, similar to the way they are trying to get people to go into teaching. So if you’ve worked all your life in Westminster, you get nothing, but an engineering manager for a private manufacturing firm would get a healthy golden hello.

    • Noa

      A good idea in principle.

      However a paid professional politician is the creature of his paymaster. As the main party central office selection systems now operate to nominate seats an MP’s master is no longer the public, if it ever was, but the party bosses.

      We get the gready and corrupt politicians we pay for, even if they aren’t what we deserve.


        It is the Party system, and the whips office, which produce much of the corruption we see. The Party asks for the unfailing loyalty of each MP, when it should be the constituency which the MP serves and looks to. The whips use bribes and threats to ensure that an MP is not free to represent his constituency.

        Both of these need to be made illegal. Open Primaries in each constituency would also allow the election of candidates who had some support and not shoe-ins who cannot be removed. Recall elections would also allow the constituency to determine much of the behaviour of each MP.

        Without this we do not have a democracy worth the name.

        • Ian Walker

          Or we could have STV voting which obviates the need for either recall or open primaries. Unfortunately, the complete ballsup of the AV referendum means that we’re stuck with the godawful FPTP system (which actively helps perpetuate the situation you describe) for at least a generation.

  • Troika21

    Whinge, whinge, whinge.

    We’re not paid enough! From a bunch of self-important tossers who are giving everyone else who gets money from taxpayers a freeze or cut.

    I seem to remember that this came up a while ago, with the argument from one of them that ‘we only fiddled our expenses because we’re paid so little’ . Blooming cheek.

  • D M

    Here are a few measures and principles i would like to see for government (along with other changes there and elsewhere). I just happen to have written them to someone in an email the other day..

    If a person wants or strives to be in authority, they shouldn’t be

    Parliament should have no parties, and no whips : simply a Parliament of freely-elected ministers who speak their mind freely and vote freely

    Decision-making should be by consultation and working together, not by confrontation and humiliation; decisions are made better this way, are reviewed better, and when found to fall short, are changed more easily. The confrontation and polarity of party (partisan) politics results in important views being dismissed, and clinging to policies that are not working.

    People should vote for ministers based on their qualities – moral conscience, love, energy, delight in listening to alternative views, ability to lovingly express views – not on any policies. Such ministers are best able to seek out and heed wise advice.

    Everyone, not just a few, should be a candidate, so that people can choose freely; this involves a system of very local elections.

    Ultimately remuneration for work done should revolve around the principle of an hours’ decent work attracts an hours’ pay; people should take up jobs through a passion to do it or because it needs to be done; the best reward is seeing one’s efforts leading to a job well done, and experiencing appreciated by colleagues and neighbours.


  • anyfool

    You have to feel sorry for non ministerial MPs up until a few years ago MP after your name meant something and you could get reasonable sinecures locally in the private sector after your time was up, now no one wants people at best regarded as spivs, especially as they proved themselves spivs after the expenses debacle.
    I don’t think this current whinge about low pay will help either, it will only confirm their avarice, vanity and stupidity, after all they are only glorified club committee men.

  • 2trueblue

    The capable person earning £100k does not have the opportunities that MPs have to do a 2nd job, make the connections MPs have the opportunity to make, enjoy long holidays, and that massive expense account that is secret and does not need the sort of receipts and explanations that the rest business people have to present, wonderful bars and a great subsidised place to eat. Ah……..what a terrible life they have to endure.

    If they spent less time whinging, and got on with the job they put themselves forward for and not feathering their own nests we would all be better off. They could also command more respect, by earning it.

  • Bellevue

    If they think that the salary is not enough, they can foxtrot oscar. No one is forcing them to be MPs and it seems to me that there are more than enough candidates for each post.
    No one is forcing them to become MPs. If they think 60,000 quid (plus expenses) is not enough, they can try their hand in real life.
    They all make me sick……

  • Reiver

    High wages attracts the wrong sort of people – the self-serving Tony Blair being a classic example.

  • Daniel Maris

    Personally, I think they are underpaid. Their pay should be closer to £100,000. However we also need to sort out the expenses business with a simply miles from Westminster formula.

  • Colonel Mustard

    This is a joke right? Andrew Bridgen, supposedly a man let alone a Member of Parliament, didn’t really say out loud in the presence of sentient beings: “A man or a woman who’s very capable, doing very well in their profession, whatever that may be, with a family, are they going to be willing to take that pay cut, look their children in the eye when it’s Christmas say you can’t have what you normally have because Mummy or Daddy wants to be an MP” did he?

    So embarrassing and unseemly it makes me cringe.

  • CharlieleChump

    There’s no money left. As the man at Barclays said, if you don’t like it bog off.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    The only way to find out what you are worth is to look for the best wage you can get on the open market. If these tossers don’t like the terms of their employment, that is what they should do.

  • Noa

    MPs who took a pay cut to become representatives had no doubt calculated that the benefits arising from office would outweigh the disadvantages.

    If this does not suit them they can resign, like Mrs Mensch or wait till the general election.

    Even on their current salaries MP enjoy the finest club in central London at subsidised rates, for excellent working and leisure conditions and low hours. An index linked pension, tax free lump sum and lucrative consultancy prospects complete a mouth watering package.

    Where can my children apply?,

    • Dan Grover

      Excellent working and leisure conditions? I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not, but the life of an MP is incredibly unsociable. They are expected to work in two different places at once. Their family can only be in one (unless they have a particularly doting partner and children [if they have them] at boarding school). Think of all the school plays or trips to the swimming pool they have to miss because there’s an important vote (or even if there isn’t, in fact). They’re expected to come home from holiday if something bad happens in their constituency. They can be expected to be at work at 7am after a debate that went on til midnight the previous night. Then, if they become a cabinet minister, they have to do all that AND try to run a department that they might well have no knowledge of against an army of civil servants.

      Assuming it’s even vaguely accurate, The Thick of It does a great job of painting what I understand to be an accurately miserable picture of an MP (who is, admittedly, also a cabinet minister). Working in a nice building and having a fancy balcony terrace does little to mitigate this. It’s like they designed the job for twenty-somethings with no responsibilities, but expect “normal, family loving” people to do it. Unless you already live in London, I don’t understand how you could reasonably call what an MP has does “excellent working and leisure conditions”. Unless, of course, they do a Gordon Brown and just don’t show up. But then, it’s their constituents that get shafted in that situation.

      • Noa

        Your description of the travails of MPs fails to convince and basing your observations on a TV series is risible.

        I can assure you that a management career in the private sector places significantly greater personal demands on individuals and their families, without the commensurate rewards and opportunities, including expenses or kudos.

        As Rhoda says, if they don’t like the job they are free to test their market worth.

        • Dan Grover

          I think the careers in the private sector that offer worse conditions than that of an MP *do* pay more than £70k, and if you’re giving up all that time for less, you’re an utter mug. But that’s not really the point – comparisons aren’t all that relevant when the initial suggestion was that their working conditions were actively “excellent”. There are plenty of people who *do* have excellent working conditions. That there are worse than MP’s does not mean that MPs’ therefore are “excellent”. Strawman argument.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Poor naive boy. You must be fortunate in your own career if you are indeed in the private sector. The stress and pressure on most middle managers at £40-50k and sometimes even less is something their grandfathers (and it was mainly grandfathers) would not comprehend. If they don’t play the game with all the silly surrender of personal time and dignity required then career-destroying politics and redundancy quickly step in.

            The top levels of management have never been so without empathy for the hierarchies below them, so greedy and so utterly callous in their determination to put self before responsibility. That they then parade the idea that they are somehow worth the inflated pay and perks they reward each other with adds insult to injury. Exploitative robber barons – the scum of the earth – but unfortunately for society they are mainly in charge.

          • Noa

            You have much to learn.
            Of course comparisons are relevant! Mustard has explained the facts of life in the private sector very clearly. I worked an average 80 hour week without additional pay for 20 years in a FTSE company and was liable to be despatched a a moments notice to the most god forsaken holes on earth.

            In comparison £65k pa, a nice expenses paid flat, or my sister’s back bedroom for £100k tax free, or a fellow MPs buy to let sounds delightful.

            That’s added to a 25 hr working week am a paid admin team run by my family to deal with queries and an excellent social life.

            • Dan Grover

              Thank you all for educating me, but quite why you all seem to assume that your experiences automatically trump mine is beyond me.

          • Tom Tom

            There are some jobs that are advanced by being in The Commons…..Barristers take Silk much earlier; Solicitors too benefit; Teachers benefit; lots of companies have a Political Cadre track with paid time to campaign – Asda, McKinsey, KPMG and a lot of banks. There is a good deal to being a placeman for your employer. Just as having a Lord on The Board pays when you need a superb taxpayer-subsidised reception for your business in Parliament with that lovely little place on St Stephen’s Wharf.

      • d knight

        Compare and contrast with a serviceman

        Excellent working and leisure conditions?
        Unsociable life?
        Work in two different places at once?
        Family separation?
        Missed school plays or trips to the swimming pool?
        Cancelled holidays?
        Inability to plan your life?
        Working extended hours?

        Oh and be shot at

        And have to put up with political interference by armchair generals in Parliament who know everything about the military without the inconvenience of any experience

        Still at least they are all paid £60k, plus benefits, plus subsidised meals, plus a subsidised bar, plus a huge housing allowance plus anything else they can screw out of the system….

        • Dan Grover

          I don’t think anyone would deny that the life of a serviceman was the opposite to conducive to a comfortable family life. But I didn’t say they had a terrible, horrible life – I said that MP’s having “Excellent working and leisure conditions” wasn’t true. It’s not mutually exclusive to “Squaddies have it worse.”

          • Tom Tom

            How many MPs have been knifed in Parliament, spat on, assaulted, how many have been laid off, or had their business relocate ?

            • Dimoto

              Not enough ?

            • Dan Grover

              And this is relevant to what I said because… ?

        • Tom Tom

          “Oh and be shot at” Ah those police rules of engagement, cannot fire until fired upon……how wars are now lost by giving snipers first dibs

  • Koakona

    We should pay them minimum wage.

  • DaveL

    I’d give some MPs more money to leave…. 😉

    Seriously though, competence and achievement should be rewarded.

    • Noa

      Which already occurs by ministerial advancement and subsequent lucrative parallel or post political work.

  • Mr_Bubbles1

    They’ve got a bloody cheek. They’ve spent decades topping it up by stealing from the public purse. They finally get caught, named and shamed, and now barely a few years later they’re already whining about being underpaid.

    Well, welcome to the real effing world MPs, not all that easy is it? Now bear in mind you earn more than 95% of the population already. A population whose taxes you’re only too eager to piss up the wall in overseas aid.

    And this crap about paying to attract the best? Well good God, if you think this lot are the best and deserve more money you need your head checking.

    • barbie

      Well said, it made me smile, thanks for the laugh.

  • AnotherDaveB

    MPs getting paid is quite a recent development (1911). Is there any evidence that parliament was improved by the innovation?

  • Archimedes

    Politics is not a profession that should be financially incentivised, and it should not be an easy choice either. Those that decide to do it should have to make a sacrifice because that is the only way to attract the correct people. The best and the brightest still choose to become academics and scientists, despite the fact that it is not financially attractive, because it is a passion. Likewise, those that govern a country should choose to do so on the basis of passion, not because it is affordable. If Parliament is failing to attract the right talent, then it is a failure of Parliament, and not of wages.

    • Dan Grover

      I’m not going to throw out cliche’d quotes but, like those in the Police, bouncers and security forces, those whose “passion” is having power over people are not necessarily those best placed to wield it. I know far too many self-serving twonks that would love nothing more than to be an MP to believe that a desire to be one is an inherently positive trait.

      • Archimedes

        Those with a desire to wield power over people don’t go into politics in the UK, because it would be a rubbish choice. Our institutions are designed to make it difficult for one person ever to wield a large amount of power.

        Low pay, democratic accountability, and rigid institutions are the recipe for the sort of politicians we should have, and probably the reason why we rank so highly in terms of political stability.

        • telemachus

          As I see it the main problem with low pay is that it automatically favours the rich to have their dalliance with politics
          And therefore the rich right rather than the reasonable left

          • Colonel Mustard

            Do you actually believe the nonsense you spout? Or do you just recognise it as propaganda but feel you are achieving something by peddling it here?

            • telemachus

              It has always been true that the rich Tory businessman/jurist/patrician is able to have a nice life thank you and dip into his hobby without fear of any consequences
              While the labour and liberal striving MP has to take not of his voters to stay in power and in post without personal alternative
              I would not expect the home counties brigade to appreciate that

              • Colonel Mustard

                I don’t live in the Home Counties and try to respond to the question without a grotesquely silly characterisation of what you think distinguishes the parties. There are plenty of rich Labour dynasty politicians parachuted into safe seats and plenty of millionaire Labour MPs. Your characterisation is ridiculous. Are you suffering early onset political dementia?


                I wonder why the Spectator has said that they are trying to prevent trolls posting while allowing this specimen, a supporter of female genital mutilation, to continue unabated.

                I can imagine that one reason is because the Spectator staff make a point of never reading the comments, and therefore being drawn into conversation with their audience.

              • Tom Tom

                So Jo Grimond was a pauper married to Laura Bonham Carter descendant of a poor wool stapler from Morley (sarcasm !) ……or do we mean Ian Mikardo, Labour’s pauper or Robert Maxwell or Hartley Shawcross or Harold Lever or Tony Benn or Margaret Hodge or perhaps we are thinking of Shaun Woodward

          • Archimedes

            The point is that the going rate that someone might be able to get in the market is not a basis for setting an MPs salary. In any case, the last time I checked, £65k+ puts an MP in the top 5% of earners, which hardly makes them poor.

            • Dimoto

              MPs are certainly not underpaid (Dennis Skinner ?)
              But ministers probably are.

          • Noa

            Once true and the reason for introducing MPs salaries. No longer so when the Labour party is distinguishable in background, privilege and wealth from its triumvirate partners only by its unctuousness and halitosis.

          • Sailor25

            I nearly fell of my chair laughing at that one telemachus.

            If what you say is true then why is the politics of westminster consistently and substantially to the left of the electorate on the EU, Immigration, law and order, benefit payments to the long term unemployed, in fact on a almost every single subject that is covered by politicians.

          • cyllan2


        • Tom Tom

          “Our institutions are designed to make it difficult for one person ever to wield a large amount of power.” I disagree… cannot identify the “person” but power is highly concentrated in Britain

    • Tom Tom

      It is financially incentivised – access to the Community Chest attracts Monopolists like flies – the whole political system has been bought, packaged, and is owned by financial interests – not even business – Finance. Stop living in a textbook and get into Tammany Hall

  • Andrew Bristow

    It’s a fair argument that MPs are under paid.


      How it is a fair argument? Anyone who enters Parliament to get rich should not be in Parliament. I’d certainly be happy to work for £65,000 and be my own boss and have no real obligation to do anything.

  • Dan Grover

    I think we should pay as much as we need to in order to get the best people doing the job. I don’t know what that number is. It might be higher than they currently earn, it might be (but I highly doubt it) less than they currently earn. Right now, the only talented people that become MPs are those that care more about either their ambition or their ability to change things than they do about money. Not only is this rare, but it’s also potentially dangerous – terrible things have been done under the guise of ones best intentions.

    Ultimately, I don’t care about someone’s intentions. If they’re representing their constituents well, voting according to both their judgement and their manifesto, and performing well in any cabinet/shadow cabinet role they might have, that’s great. If they aren’t, the people can vote them out. Their will to make a difference doesn’t mean anything to me, only their ability to. If this means we have to pay them double, so be it. What I don’t want is for these people to ignore it as a job on financial grounds. Doubling every MP’s salary would cost us, what £45 million extra a year. We are currently spending that every 8 hours on debt interest alone. If it gets even a slight improvement in the calibre of people in our parliament, I’m all for it.

    (Of course, all of this is based on their being reasonable evidence that this would occur. I don’t advise raising it just for the sake of it.)

    • Archimedes

      “If they aren’t, the people can vote them out.”

      Ok, and what if high wages, the ability to set them yourself, and a populist desire to keep MPs wages at the higher end of the market in order to attract the best talent ends up attracting those with a talent for corruption, having taken note of the lucrative packages available to those that govern a country? How do you vote out a corrupt parliament, or even reform it?

      MPs in Italy get paid almost 3 times as much as in the UK.


        How do we vote a bad MP out? Do tell? Here in Maidstone we are stuck with an MP who has closed her office in town because she is too busy to come here, and she doesn’t live anywhere near us either. How do we get rid of her without voting for a Labour or LibDem candidate?

        That’s right. We can’t. The choice of our MP was made by 10 men in a selection commitee somewhere and democracy certainly wasn’t involved.