Recently I did something that I have never done before. I got in touch with my local MP.
I was initially driven to do so by the announcement that the ‘independent’ body which had been formed to set MP’s pay rises was going to recommend a pay rise in the order of £7000-10000 per annum after the next general election. BBC Article
I was so disgusted by the idea that this might take place (the backlash was furious at the time, and party leaders have already disowned the idea entirely, knowing that to do otherwise is likely to be electoral suicide), that I decided to drop my chosen representative a line to voice my opinion.
I like to think that I was as balanced and measured as I could possibly be. Rather than challenging the value of our politicians I asked whether he felt that the increase was justifiable. I wanted to know whether a job which has longer breaks than higher education students (students often only have classes for 24-30 weeks in a year, depending on their institution) deserved a pay packet so much higher than the average in the population.
The final point that I chose to make was regarding the number of politicians who have other jobs. These other ‘jobs’ are usually in the form of non-executive directorships in companies. The problem that I, and most people have with such roles is fundamentally the conflict of interest that they are likely to represent. Politicians have directorships in private health care companies, but are still able to vote on legislation which helps nudge us ever closer to privatisation of our health care system. They have directorships in arms companies who benefit from the waging of poorly defined wars of aggression, sales to dictatorships and tyrants and stockpiling of weapons that we will never be able to use but which costs us each mind boggling amounts of money.
I was warned when I had sent my message to my local MP that he was a very busy man and I may have to wait a while for a reply. However, I was impressed at just how quick his reply was. Only a couple of days later I got an email.
Unfortunately, the answer was the sort of mealy mouthed nonsense that I should have expected. The pay rise wasn’t one that MPs had decided for themselves, so it wasn’t their fault. And they hadn’t had a pay rise for a couple of years. But there is a mechanism for letting the powers that be know if we didn’t like the idea (he pointed me in the right direction).
He had nothing to say about whether the rise was deserved (the question that I had asked).
On the subject of second jobs, he wanted me to know that there are no plans to privatise the NHS. The fact that Hinchingbrooke hospital has been privatised already seemingly having escaped his notice.
The unfortunate thing is that I know that in my part of the world, the politician with the blue rosette is, in all likelihood going to win. My anger at his complacency, the lack of a real, substantive response to questions of exactly who our politicians represent are not going to overturn the sort of majority he gets in a semi-rural, largely affluent southern county.
It is worth noting that it is cathartic writing these messages though, so I may do so again in the future. And as my MP has announced he will be standing down at the next election I will have to make sure I let my feelings be known to his successor!