MPs are incomparable. This may seem an odd thing to say in the current climate of opinion, but I mean it exactly: they cannot be compared with others. Now that a big rise is being suggested by Ipsa, the ‘independent’ body which sets their pay, people say they should be compared with local authority chief executives or head teachers, or that they are a profession.
They cannot, and they aren’t. They are our elected representatives. We elect them to make our laws and to vote ‘supply’, i.e. to decide how much of our money government may spend. They therefore constitutionally must decide, in public, on their own pay (if any) and vote on it. Anything else is an evasion, and Ipsa or anything like it is a power above Parliament, and therefore unanswerable to voters.
When Ipsa began in 2009, David Cameron said that the decision that MPs should not vote on pay and rations was ‘an essential part of restoring faith in Parliament’. It was the opposite. It has now produced the undemocratic absurdity that Parliament will be breaking its own law unless it accepts its new increase.