Every now and then a headline comes up that becomes the basis of government policy, if it’s appropriate. The headline this week is how much are people paid, in particular academics, and whether this pay is justified, and whether they, or indeed anyone else, ought to be paid more than the prime minister. The argument is one that is being used to justify the row caused by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, that public sector workers are overpaid.
Academics of universities are paid as much as they are worth, their pay is set by government or independent bodies and a quick look on the website of any university will show that lecturers and professors are paid well below anything the Prime Minister is paid. A few years ago the same argument was levelled at doctors. Again, their pay is largely set by government.
The Tory government have subscribed to the church of the “free market” and “privatisation” of anything that moves or can be traded, bought or sold. Pay is set by what can be afforded and the level of skill required to perform the tasks required of any particular job. Therefore it is absolutely correct that an engineer, architect, highly skilled construction workers, doctors, lawyers and lecturers should be paid a premium as the level of training, skill undergone by individuals and the level of responsibility not just to their colleagues but also to society as a whole. This is regardless of whether they work in the private or public sectors. After all, I don’t see many government ministers moaning about how much bankers and insurers get paid. Even the governor of the Bank of England earns more than the prime minister and, apart from a few cusory questions asked as to why he commanded such a high salary when Mark Carney took office, his appointment went without a murmur. Does anyone think he should take a pay cut?
Other jobs ranging from nursing, building trades, fire officers, police, teachers, health professionals right down to sales people are paid according to their levels of qualifications, skill and levels of responsibilities they are given. Teachers and academics are important as they train up the next generations of workers and, if the UK still wishes to sit on its laurels and pretend it has good schools that turn out highly education young people and in turn, lecturers and professors that turn out highly educated people ready to take their places in the world of work then they had better pay them properly and give them the means to do this without let or hindrance or the UK will sink as certainly as the Titanic did when she ran aground over 100 years ago. If the UK wants to maintain and grow the great public services that have been fought for by our grandparents and so badly let down by this shambles of a government then it needs to pay them better money and allow them to do their jobs.
By contrast let’s take a look at the skills needed to become prime minister, or indeed a government minister. The UK is supposed to be a country where anyone who has the ability can stand for parliament regardless of their background or where they went to school. However, there are obstacles in doing so. If you come from a wealthy family or are in one of the professions then it is easier to do so. If you are in a trades union they will give you the skills you will need to debate your point, will put you forward to be chosen by the Labour party (the Labour party is the only party of the working people and was originally set up and funded by the trades unions to give a voice for working people across the UK, and continues to do so). As an MP you will need to be able to make your point succinctly in argument and, at least, know what you’re talking about. If you have other qualifications such as a degree or masters in economics then that may help if you’re put in a position where you can use this knowledge. However, the most important thing is to be able to toe the party line at all costs and lie through your teeth even when you know what you’re saying will do more harm than good. Slavishly following the party doctrine in the face of evidence to the contrary is more important than having a conscience or working for the good of the country, although working for the good of your constituents is always to be lauded, after all, those are the voters who got you your job and who can vote you out if you go too far.
Becoming Prime Minister is a matter of luck, being in the right place at the right time and having enough people who will back you. Thereafter any skill there is, is to be able to do the job well. I cannot recall a time when a real visionary was an MP or even PM. There are those who will cite Margaret Thatcher, however, her “vision” was myopic and totally ruined this country for decades afterwards The current bunch of incompetent fools are only trying to complete the job she set out to do and in the process are coming apart at the seams. I wholeheartedly wish they would go away and do it in private without subjecting the rest of the country to such a painful process. If government ministers truly wish to continue the fruitless discussion of who gets paid more than the PM they need to take a good long look at themselves and take a pay cut, because they are overpaid and woefully under performing in every aspect of their collective offices.