This week’s two voices asks what our MPs need to do to win back the public’s trust?
Abigail Jacobi says…
With less than two months until the UK goes to the polls, it seems we’re heading straight for another election cycle tinged with lies, scandal and questionable candidates.
But far from discussing the wrongdoing of senior members of parliament exposed in “cash for access” scandals, discussion seems to have veered towards analysis of MPs’ salaries.
Numerous articles this week have highlighted the fact that more than half of the MPs who entered the House of Commons at the last election took a pay cut in order to do so.
Malcolm Rifkind MP – one of those embroiled in this most recent scandal – was recently quoted as saying that it was unrealistic for MPs to have to live on their parliamentary salaries alone. And yet, MPs are paid a basic wage of £67,060 plus expenses.
That is three times higher than the national average salary and significantly more than the £288 a week (equivalent to less than £15,000 per annum) earned by the bottom 10 per cent of full-time employees.
To my mind, the only way for MPs to gain public trust is for them to spend more time with constituents – learning to understand how best to represent their interests and needs. While “cash for access” might not prevent MPs fulfilling their responsibilities, a lack of understanding of their constituents absolutely will.
•Abigail Jacobi is outreach co-ordinator for Liberal Judaism
Andree Frieze says…
Another month, another case of MPs accused of lining their pockets – this time heavyweights Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw.
No wonder people are fed up with politicians. This further loss of trust has wider implications: many people already feel politics is not relevant to them; that all the parties are the same, it doesn’t matter who gets in; or “What’s the point? Nothing ever changes.”
But, politics does count. The changes to how our children are taught, the private companies running sections of the NHS, the food banks feeding people caught out by welfare sanctions – all these happened because of what politicians did in parliament. It is essential, therefore, that people trust MPs and political parties.
So I suggest that no MP has a second job, directorship or consultancy role while in Parliament; no MP should serve more than three terms in office and all salaries, pensions and expenses must be decided by an independent body.
Finally, to clarify for those who believe that all political parties are the same, the Green Party is already different.
We have an ethical policy over those from whom we take donations and we refuse money from those who do not pay their tax properly.
•Andree Frieze is a member of Kingston Liberal Synagogue and the Green Party candidate for Richmond Park