Thursday, April 10, 2008

Matt Sellwood: A Worker's Wage

A guest post from Matt Selwood on a worker's wage for the London Mayor.

Representing the people?

One good thing about electoral campaigns which (lets be blunt) have no chance of winning, is that they have the capacity to raise interesting issues and spark debate. Despite the numerous issues I have with the SWP, Lindsey German's recent call for London Mayoral candidates to take a wage closer to the average Londoner has made me think.

Historically, only the Communist Party and Militant MPs in Parliament have taken a skilled workers wage - but the SSP MSPs did so more recently at Holyrood. Originating in the Paris Commune, the concept of 'rising with the class, not above the class' is an alluring one - and also has a practical, political impact at a time of increasing anger over MPs expenses and the remoteness of 'the political class'.

When stripped of Marxist jargon, the basic idea is a strong populist one - when claiming to represent us, politicans should be *of* us, and not the elite. With so many temptations towards corruption (even in its mildest form of sympathising more with ones own class, which is almost inevitable), a countervailing pressure may well be needed to enable elected representatives to understand the lived reality of the majority of their constituents.

MPs and MEPs currently earn £60K (before expenses) per annum. GLA members earn £50K. In contrast, the average wage is under £25K. Is it time to re-examine the call for our elected representatives to more closely live the experiences of their constituents?

Cllr Matt Sellwood is Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council Green Group


Jack Ray said...

hey Jim, don't suppose you know anything about the Green Party candidate in my ward Richard (Gerry) Gee? I know you lot are mixed bunch, but I might be tempted if he's say, as left-wing as you are...

Jim Jay said...

As left-wing as me? Be careful what you wish for!

I'm afraid I don't know him - but any Green reading this who does - please do comment.

Graeme McIver said...

"Is it time to re-examine the call for our elected representatives to more closely live the experiences of their constituents?"
So if we represented a rich constituency we'd take more money than if we represented a poor constituency?
I've always thought MPs relatively underpaid. My manager at BT (at a relatively junior level) used to get paid more than an MP which I thought was wrong. Either you get MPs who find money in other ways (the current speaker of the HoC with his nose in the trough springs to mind). Or the adage "if you pay peanuts you get monkeys". A voluntary arrangement to pay your money to your party is fine, but it should be voluntary on the part of the individual. I do applaud the money that the Green Party MEPs plough back into their party and campaigns.

Matt Sellwood said...


No, since the MPs mandate is national, they should take the national average wage, I think. GLA members should take the average London wage. Council leaders should take the average wage of their council area. And so on.

I'm really not convinced by the 'pay peanuts get monkeys' argument. We already have lots and lots of monkeys, there because they couldn't earn 61K anywhere else, except in a system where they are rewarded not necessarily for ability, but for sycophancy, long service and toeing the line.....

Or are we saying that Green MPs/MEPs etc would only do the job for a pay packet way in excess of what normal people earn in this country? I'd hope not.


Leftwing Criminologist said...

Socialist Party councillors still take a workers wage.

Matt Sellwood said...

I don't see how councillors can take a working wage (unless they are a leader or prominent cabinet member in a large authority) as allowances are substantially less than a workers wage anyway.

Jim Jay said...

That's right Matt, although I'm 100% certain that should they get an MEP or MP again the would take the workers wage (or Welsh AM, etc of course)

Which makes me think - the Socialist Party MP in Ireland - does he take the workers wage? I was told once that this was a peculiarly British left demand, which surprised me, but it might be true.