Hands up all those who believe it essential that MPs who scrape by, before allowances, on an annual salary of just £64,766 should receive a 1.5 per cent increase. Well, I can't see too many hands and I can also hear some distinctly unparliamentary language emanating from the cheap seats. But, as Unison general secretary Dave Prentis points out, there is a case to be made for payment, since awards by pay review bodies should be honoured. However, MPs have, as a body, not signed up to that principle, backing government decisions in recent years to "stage" - in other words, reduce - pay review body awards for NHS professionals, prison officers, civil servants and other workers. In short, MPs lecture others on sacrifices to rescue the economy but believe that they should be a special case, as with their gold-plated pension scheme and barely regulated allowances; it's a difficult situation but one that calls out for a meaningless grandiose gesture and who better than Gordon Brown to make it.
The Prime Minister announced solemnly that neither he nor any other minister will accept this year's award, encouraging Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Vince Cable to leap on board the SS Voluntary Hardship and the Tories to trump all policy aces by pledging a 5 per cent cut in ministerial salaries as part of their Vote for Us campaign. Let that be an example to all you whingeing civil servants, teaching assistants, school meals staff, social care workers, road sweepers and other public-service ne'erdowells whose salaries will be frozen this year. Of course, some sacrifices are more easily borne than others, as the aforesaid list of malcontents may be inclined to suggest. Our esteemed Prime Minister is currently paid a total of £194,250, while Cabinet ministers in the Commons get £141,866, ministers of state £104,050 and junior ministers £94,228.
And, despite his failed efforts to get the taxpayer to swallow the cost of trimming wisteria from around the chimneys of his country pile, multimillionaire David Cameron knows that most members of his front bench are so rich that they could live well enough without picking up their pay cheque at all.
On the other hand, the civil servants and public-service workers condemned to a pay freeze while the retail price index annual inflation rate leapt to 3.5 per cent in January will not be so fortunate. They will have difficult decisions to make about how to eke out their meagre salaries and the situation will be harder still for those facing redundancy to pay for the consequences of finance-sector greed and adventurism. Each of the three main parties has committed itself to attacking employment levels in the public sector, having seen the government sink £800 billion into its Alms for Starving Bankers scheme. All three have signed up to a bankers' agenda and have conscripted the working class to finance it. Labour-affiliated trade unions have hitched their wagon to the Labour Party, more in hope than expectation that Labour will be the least worst option in the general election. But it is surely time that the unions began to consider whether the resources that they give to Labour represent value for money when the best that they can hope for is that a Brown government might not fleece their members as much its alternatives.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.