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December 08, 2013




Why has your blog stopped providing a full RSS feed? It's a real pain having to visit it in the browser.



Yes we want the naïve and incompetent in parliament, and running the country.

No wait ... we already have that with the current shower.

Although I agree money has nothing to do with it!

A background if Eton, and PPE at Oxford are more reliable indicators of success, and been like Boris, a (corn) flake who talks like Ayn Rand helps!

Parliament has too much incompetence but access is controlled by the current incumbents who select their colleagues in their own image.

Ability or competence are not usually a factor, but who you know, not you know, certainly is.


To the managerialist mind, everything in life and politics become a managerial problem to be solved by expert managers.

I don't want MPs to be expert managers.

I do want them to be (a) of varied experience, (b) of good character (at least above the mean), and (c) of good intelligence (i.e. among the 50% who are above the mean 100IQ).

But, here's where I disagree with Chris, wanting the last on my wish list is not the same as being elitist and managerialist.


Bingo. You've just discovered what Plato said 2400 years ago.


By the way, Chris, you linked to an old post saying you didn't know your IQ. Well, blogging is (like life) an IQ test.

You are certainly in the top 5% and possibly in the top 1% of the IQ distribution.

Here's portrait of the top 1%:

"Bright the top 1% (100 in 10,000) They are the upper half of the brightest students at the most prestigious universities. They get better degrees, solve more problems, and gain the respect of those for whom the same tasks take lots of time to complete. They are more likely to get doctorates in hard subjects, more likely to publish, more likely to obtain patents and to own businesses.

Vocabularies are in the 35,000 to 42,000 range and most intellectual tasks are within their grasp, although they have many techniques to learn, particularly in maths and science. However, one should not get too precious about being “bright”. The United Kingdom has 650,000 such persons, most of them walking about unsupervised. In IQ terms they are 135. You can call anyone above IQ 130 the Two Sigmas, because they are two standard deviations above the mean."


Follow the link to find out about the other Sigmas, above and below the mean.


Public-spirited people might be less likely to become MPs, because they don't want the stigma of being seen to be greedy.

Such people always have the option of donating some or all of their salary to charity.

How much should MPs be paid, in your opinion? As much as a headmaster? A police constable? A shop assistant? Zero?

What about ministers -- why should they be paid any more than MPs?


Not so bothered by the pay rise - some at least do a decent job. However I do not expect any improvement whatsoever in the delivered results.

To my mind the system they operate is the problem. Grossly slow, opaque, liable to influence and too able to avoid inconvenient issues. As one small example, English law generally is much more verbose than French or German law allegedly in the interests of clarity. This clarity does not seem to be delivered. The defects lie at the very roots and I fear there is no desire whatever to change for many of the reasons expressed above.

A suggestion, upon winning an election the winning party gets to choose a new PM and 20% of new ministers - no more until the next election when a further 20% can change. After a few elections whoever is in No10 will at least have difficulty in 'blame the last lot' and have some incentive to take sensible decisions beyond the next election.


I don't often agree with Martin, but I find myself nodding as I read his comment and I'd take the argument further.

If we don't merely want "career politicians" then we have to pay people who have the general skills to work their way into the political machinery of parties and pay them enough to compensate for the fact that in 4-5 years time there may be a sea-change in the electorate and no matter how good an MP they were, they now need to go do something else.

Throw in that while the pay differential with City types is always going to be a problem from a bribery and social pressure point of view, you should pay MPs enough to live quite well in London, it reduces the chances that they'll get caught up in random conflicts of interest.

Which of course highlights part of the unseen problem. MPs basically end up as London dwellers at the moment (actually another reason to build HS2.) Given that, you need to look at London money - a middle aged man/woman working for KPMG or something. Which anecdotally tells me £74,000 is not even on the high side.

Tangentially, I'd advocate also a restructuring whereby they get a bigger pay rise and all parliamentary allowances are ended. But that's a different issue.


To agree with rogerh (another thing I don't do often) - tinkering with the individual status of MPs is unlikely to really improve things.

The real problems are with the system. Just like a lot of systems, there's a founding myth about MPs acting as individuals rather than party drones. It may have been true once (although there's little evidence of it) but it's clearly not true now.

If we want better governance, and better examination of the random crazy ideas that each government seems to come up with, MPs have to be more independent of the parties. "Better candidates" is only a small part of that. (Although I'd argue that financial issues are part of independence, so do need to be examined.)


Interesting. But if you're going to argue against the transferability of skills then surely you end up supporting the Oxbridge PPE model?

That is: the best politicians are trained and groomed via an elite education, relevant course, student union politics and a few years of wonkery.

In which case, the arguement for higher pay still applies: to attract elite students into political careers, which are inherently unstable, we must provide pay which competes with the alternative careers on offer, such as being a Partner in a law firm, Big 4 accountant or running any type of company.

I'm sure you'd like politicians to be vocationalists with convictions, but you'll attract the idle rich and the nutters. Still, neither of those groups will care about the money so at least it's a cheap form of democracy?

Joseph Wright

I would accept the argument that 'People who enter politics for the money are likely to do other things for money too, such as take bribes from lobbyists' if the salary and benefits on offer was increased to a level that could be described as 'attractive compensation' (as quoted in job advertisements). However, it strikes me that the current salary and the one proposed are still insufficiently attractive to pass this test.

The $174k plus allowances (and donations needed for campaigns) on offer to a US Congressman and woman is getting much closer and their behavior shows you're argument has merit.


Is there any lack of candidates putting themselves forward for selection? No.
Do candidates have to have certain essential skills and experience that benefit Parliament? No.
Are their tasks duplicated by others such as Civil Service, EU Parliament, Local Government, Citizen's Advice, the Media etc? Yes.
Do candidates put 100% of commitment into serving their electorate or the long term benefit of the country? No.
Do candidate scrutinise Bills so that they work well for the benefit of the country? No.
Do elected candidates regularly attend debates on issues of vital interest to their constituents? No.
Are elected candidates personally liable for any damage or loss caused to the Nation? No
Do elected candidates "run the country"? - Emphatically no.

On any rational basis, there is little demand or need for so many MPs. A zero hours contract model would seem to be more appropriate than a fixed salary for so little or no taxpayer benefit.

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