How do people live on £67,000 per year?

House of Commons

Believe it or not this is a genuine question. It is occasioned of course by Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP making it clear that he couldn’t live on such a low figure. My query is how could you spend that much money when the vast majority of us earn so much less!
I am not going to repeat all the points in a previous blog when I pointed out that Erica and I have been able to bring up our kids, get a new car occasionally and have holidays when we earn far less than this. I don’t need to do so because most of us have a similar experience. But I do want to comment on the Straw Rifkind affair because all they have done is to reinforce the view that politicians are bad, corrupt, on the make and on the take.
Actually I don’t believe that this is true. Of course these descriptions apply to some people in politics. I look at councils and think that in many cases the people thorough their vote and the application of party labels have given jobs to people who are basically unemployable! But most have come into the council because they do care for their community; their city or their interest group and want to do their best for those people. For most of us being a councillor is not a very well paid position. On an hourly basis with an acute lack of ‘perks’ we get far less per hour than MPs and often carry greater responsibilities.
In fact most of us for much of our time are not politicians at all but local representatives. I spend far more time being a councillor than I do being a party politician. I recently spent several hours working with a local doctor’s surgery to help then set up a local handyman’s scheme and casserole club aimed at older patients. There is nothing particularly partisan about this but I am able to bring my experience and crucially my local contacts to assist a GP who wants to work in a wider horizon than a purely medical one on behalf oh his patients.
So let’s look at Straw and Rifkind in turn.
Straw makes the perfectly valid point that he is retiring from Parliament in May and wants to do something to keep him occupied and his brain alert. I sympathise with that. I am partly retired and may be further retired by my electorate in May! I too want something to do with my brain and to continue to use what little talent and experience I have to good end. I will have a decent pension so am in the fortunate position of not needing employment to supplement it. My option is to look for volunteering opportunities where I can put something back into society especially on the World local government scene or in my City.
Mr Straw seems to think that the only way his brain can work is if it is helped with a shed load of money. The £5,000 per day he was quoting for mental stimulation is a huge amount to most of us. Mr Straw will retire on a very good MPs pension. Having been an MP for 35 years and a Minister for many of them the pension he gets from us (because for a long time the amount MPs put in was miniscule) will be worth at least 3 times the median wage. He will no doubt have been able to make other savings. His wife was a senior civil servant who got a part time retirement job as Chair of the Post Office. Their joint public sector pension alone will probably put them into the top 5% of earners. AND HE NEEDS MORE MONEY? Mr Straw you have undoubted talents and experience. Put them to good use by going on the Board of national charities or none-profit making companies and continue to enjoy a good existence with the money that you already have.
Rifkind seems even more venal. I don’t watch the telly much but I did catch him verbally lashing out at a TV reporter come cameraman. You could see the patrician sneer and the tone in his voice which clearly showed that he thought that he was dealing with an oik – a common working class person who did not deserve even to lick the boots of someone as great as him. He thinks that earning £67,000+ as an MP is really only a part-time job. He thinks that he needs more money and can use his spare time during the day to earn it. Particularly upsetting was his assumption that his position would enable him to effect entry for companies into our Embassies and High Commissions. Our Embassies and High Commissions should be there for the common good and not bought and sold to the advantage of particular individuals and their clients.
As I said some 6 weeks ago I believe that MPs should have outside interests and not outside jobs. If, for example, an MP with a specific interest in housing went on the board of a housing association or similar body that would give them valuable information about housing which they could use to supplement their knowledge and make them more useful in Parliament. For every area of activity there are similar opportunities to get stuck in with an organisation on a voluntary basis and give two way benefit from that experience.
But apart from such limited opportunities looking after 100,000 people should be enough of a job without looking for further work. A good MP or a good councillor should be regularly out on the street of their patches (all year round – not just at election time!). They should be readily available; they should be up to date on the national and local issues that regularly effect their constituents; they should be ready and prepared to take on the Executive and scrutinise performance. That is a full time job.
I suspect that many of the readers of this will not accept my assertion that most elected politicians are honourable men and women who are as appalled as everyone else when we are let down by the likes of Straw and Rifkind. But please remember that we are not all the same and that the vast majority of us do what we do for the right reasons.
Finally also remember the saying, “Evil flourishes when good men stand aside”. You can stand for election. I would like you to do it as a Lib Dem but anyone can stand for the council. It just needs 10 names of your fellow citizens from the area you seek to represent and your name will be on that ballot paper.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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1 Response to How do people live on £67,000 per year?

  1. Pingback: Corruption and the Commons: A Richard Kemp blog - Gnoname's North East Councils' News

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