Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner has announced that he we will refuse the proposed 10% increase for MPs’ salaries until public sector pay freezes are abandoned and free collective bargaining is reinstated. At a time when real wages continue to fall, MPs are once again showing themselves to be, with few exceptions such as Skinner, completely out-of-touch with the people they are meant to represent.
Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner has announced that he we will refuse the proposed 10% increase for MPs’ salaries until public sector pay freezes are abandoned and free collective bargaining is reinstated. Skinner, speaking on the eve of the TUC conference was seething over the proposed increase and maintains that the announcement was timed to coincide with the conference. Skinner stated the move was “intended to insult and designed to get a reaction.”
As Marxists we of course applaud Skinner’s stand in this instance; but the £7,000 pay increase itself is not the most important question. This Tory-led government has presided over the biggest cuts to working class living standards in recent memory. At a time when real wages continue to fall, MPs are once again showing themselves to be, with few exceptions, completely out-of-touch with the people they are meant to represent. They hypocritically take from the Westminster gravy train whilst enacting legislation such as the bedroom tax.
For the Labour Party in particular, the issue is delivering real working class representation. If Parliament is to reflect and enact the demands of workers, Labour MPs must be drawn largely from the working class and remunerated with the average worker’s wage; they must live like the working class they are supposed to represent. This of course is a radically different proposition to the current situation which encourages the adoption of career politicians.
Our proposal isn’t a new one. We’ve seen Marxist MPs elected to Parliament on a workers’ wage before. Dave Nellist along with the late Terry Fields and Pat Wall were all elected in the 1980s as Labour MPs on a Marxist programme. Funding for offices and staff must of course be provided, but this must be quite separate from the MP’s salary. Payment should of course be made for any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, but with proper audit and control by the trade union movement, not the sickening fiasco of expenses abuse we’ve seen in recent years.
What we’ve seen under the present system is quite literally theft. While workers are forced to struggle on reduced incomes and cope with austerity measures, their so-called representatives ‘flip’ second homes, quite blatantly avoiding taxation and in most cases escaping prosecution. According to figures published this week, the changes introduced with cross-party support designed to end the expenses fiasco have in fact increased the amount being claimed!
In addition to proper controls over remuneration, we also demand the right of recall. Where elected representatives no longer act in the interests of the workers electing them, they should be recalled and made to answer for their actions to their electorate. It should come as no surprise that such a policy, proposed in largely ineffective watered-down form by the Liberal Democrats, was abandoned as ‘unworkable’ earlier this year. Time and again we see the ruling class closing ranks and protecting its interests.
So the comments and actions from Dennis Skinner, while entirely welcome, merely bring more substantive issues to the fore and we must go forward with the demand: “a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage with full right of recall!”