Who would be an MP? The answer that people often give to that question is the rich, the power hungry, and the narcissists. There is widespread acceptance in British society that politicians are incompetent bastards, a view not entirely disproven by their actions. However, we have only ourselves to blame for this when we pay them so little.
To run the country, a task as large and complicated as any around, we pay them the same as if they were mid-level managers at American Express (£82,000) or Head of Trading at John Lewis (£90,000). Yet at the same time we ask and expect them to be the best and brightest. Unfortunately, our best and brightest are at John Lewis where their talents are appreciated. This creates a disconnect between the value of the work expected and the remuneration for the work. This deficit can be addressed either by lowering the quality of the work done, leading the Guardian to compile a ranking. of MPs by number of parliamentary votes missed, making up the difference with inherited money or money earnt in other jobs or finally, being so power hungry that you don’t care how much you are paid. Most MPs tend to employ all three in differing amounts.
The outrage at the MPs’ proposed pay rise is just the most obvious of the British obsession with keeping down our elected officials. When Trump got ill he was flown to a special medical centre and he received 24/7 medical care. The Americans understand that the death of a leader would be disastrous enough to do everything in their power to prevent it. In Britain, however, we still like to imagine that our leaders are just like us, keeping them working out of a small townhouse in London. Apparently, David Cameron would leave Cabinet meetings to go upstairs to make himself lunch because there are no staff at 10 Downing street beyond a cleaner. We imagine ourselves as a world power yet still treat the business of ruling as an amateurish game.
If we want a ruling class that can make us proud, we should treat them right. Pay them what they might get in the private sector and give them support in the form of staff and proper buildings and offices to work out of. Stop handicapping ourselves with pseudo-humility.