The Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley has sparked a furious backlash after he suggested that MPs living on an £82,000 salary have it “desperately difficult.”
The Father of the House of Commons, who earned that title in 2019 due to being the longest-serving MP in parliament, made the comments about wages during an interview with The New Statesman.
Bottomley, who has served as an MP since 1975, believes that the salary of £81,932 that he and his colleagues earn is “grim” and should be of the equivalent of a GP’s.
“I take the view that being an MP is the greatest honour you could have, but a general practitioner in politics ought to be paid roughly the same as a general practitioner in medicine,” said the 77-year-old.
“Doctors are paid far too little nowadays. But if they would get roughly £100,000 a year, the equivalent for an MP to get the same standard of living would be £110-£115,000 a year – it’s never the right time, but if your MP isn’t worth the money, it’s better to change the MP than to change the money.”
The MP for Worthing West admitted that although he is not struggling financially he believes his newer colleagues are finding it “desperately difficult” on the current salary adding: “I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.”
Bottomley’s comments, which come during the same week that the government are stripping £20 from universal credit claimants, have been widely ridiculed on social media, with many people asking if they can have the £82k salary instead.
Oh to experience the grim reality of living on just £82,000 a year https://t.co/zryEVvzoPo
According to the Office for National Statistics, the median UK salary weekly pay for full-time employees in the UK is £586 a week, which would work out at around £31,000-per-year.
The talk of wage increase has been on the government’s agenda this week with Boris Johnson reportedly said to be on the verge of approving a minimum wage boost of 5 per cent to £9.42 an hour “within weeks”.
Joining the wave of criticism was Labour MP Wes Streeting who told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Yesterday the Government implemented its £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit, which is going to clobber five million people, millions of whom are in work, on low pay, really struggling to get by.
“The charities are warning that 200,000 children are going to be plunged into poverty so excuse me for not asking your listeners to kind of get the world’s smallest violin out for MPs.
“We are perfectly well paid, and unfortunately too many MPs on the Conservative side, at the same time as whingeing about very high – relatively high – levels of pay that MPs get in this country, at the same time they are clobbering people who are losing over £1,000 a year, which is 10% of their income in some cases.”
He added: “This is my problem with the Tories – it’s not that they’re evil, bad people who go into work every day thinking ‘How can we plunge more kids into poverty?’ but, as Peter Bottomley’s comments show, they just don’t know what life is like for a hell of a lot of people in this country and they make policies that are actively hurting people who are going out, working hard, trying to make the best for their family and are really struggling.”
Responding to the criticism on LBC Radio, Bottomley defended his remarks by saying that “a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official” would be “significantly worse off” if they took up a career in politics.
He added: “In a debate in the House of Commons in 1977 Enoch Powell interrupted me, but I was making the point that you could have a Parliament full of church mice and you could have a Parliament full of independently wealthy, but what about the people in the middle?
“What about the person who’s deputy head of a large, comprehensive school? What about the person who has been a Royal Naval captain? What about the person who may be your solicitor, your accountant?”
He added: “The real point is, do you want to say that the deputy general secretary of the College of Nursing should be able to come to Parliament without a major sacrifice? Should your GP be switched to Parliament for a Parliament or two, without a major sacrifice? The answer, in my view, clearly is yes.”
Bottomley stopped short of calling for an immediate pay rise for MPs but felt that the number of MPs in the Commons could be cut by 10 per cent to cater for the pay increase which would “attract into the field of competition good people, not just those who are prepared to do it for nothing, not just those who can afford to do it for nothing, but the people in between.”