|Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West in West Sussex has spoken out on low pay: ‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’ He spoke with passion on how ‘desperately difficult‘ it was for some managing on their salary.|
So who was Mr. Bottomley speaking of? Nurses, cleaners, care workers, or, perhaps public sector workers? No. Mr. Bottomley was concerned about MPs who were struggling to live on their salary.
MPs earn £81,932 for their roles in parliament, with the average salary in England standing at £31,461 as of last year.
His comments were made on the same day that the Universal Credit uplift of £20 came to an end, leaving tens of thousands of the most vulnerable in the UK under more financial strain.
Wes Streeting, the shadow child poverty secretary, told Radio 5 Live that he was “genuinely infuriated” by Bottomley’s comment.
Referring to the £20 per week universal credit cut being implemented this week, he said:
“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.
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.”
Mr. Bottomley subsequently told LBC that he had not known the interview would be published this week, but that he stood by his remarks.
He said he was trying to make the point that increasing MPs’ salaries from the current average of just over £80,000 a year would make it easier to widen the pool of people interested in changing careers to become parliamentarians, without having to take a pay cut.
“If people can’t switch across to being an MP, you’re going to exclude a whole lot of people,” he said, such as headteachers and public sector executives.
Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Clearly the timing of the statements was unfortunate for Mr. Bottomley. Perhaps he was unaware that his comments would be published on the very day that Universal Credit was cut. He should have realised that was a possibility though and how it would be taken.
As to his argument about increasing the pool of MPs, I would argue that we need more people from a working-class background rather than more from higher-income backgrounds. I admired the Militant Tendency-linked MPs of the past who took only the average workers’ wage. That kept them more in touch with the people. It was principled. That’s what we need, principled leadership. Being an MP shouldn’t be seen as a career but a vocation.“