The public deserves a mature debate on MPs' pay rises

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Sir Ian Kennedy, bright and feisty, is defiant that MPs' pay should go up.
Sir Ian Kennedy, bright and feisty, is defiant that MPs' pay should go up. Photo: Press Association

I met and interviewed Sir Ian Kennedy months ago when he was about to embark upon his Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) review of MPs remuneration and was struck by what a bright yet feisty soul he was.

And so, months on, he was adopted that celebrated adage of "publish, and be damned". Published he has; damned he is.

I am not sure it has been journalism's finest hour, or hours this morning, listening to the reporting of, and reflections upon, this weighty tome. Many reporters have fallen into the trap of bellowing "the public won't wear it".

Many mean "they" won't wear it, or "their editors" won't wear it; or their unscientific hunch tells them someone won't wear it.

Kennedy's research tested, with the public, a number of models and the winner was a mix of phased-in higher pay, lower and tighter expenses (the genesis of this whole exercise), and curtailed 'golden bye-bye' packages.

It was the winner in the sense that is the mix the public found acceptable.

Read: MPs' pension contributions to go up under new pay plan

Sir Ian Kennedy has defended his controversial plans to give MPs a pay rise of 11% Credit: PA Wire

The party leaders angst is steeped in a similar sense of how the public might take it and how they themselves would be viewed if they were seen to support it let alone accept it.

It has not been their finest hour, either.

The thoughts of people like Jack Straw MP, not seeking re-election, have been more uplifting and wise.

More: Jack Straw says MPs pay must increase to attract people of modest backgrounds into parliament

Does the country not need remuneration of legislators pitched at a level that allows those from a less wealthy back-ground the means to do the job?

It should be pitched at a level, too, that means some of our best and our brightest might think it is worth their while serving their country rather than serving capital, oiling the wheels of commerce and finance.

Don't MPs need an expenses regime that doesn't tempt stupidities like claiming for 'tea & biscuits' or obscenities like duck-houses?

And when electors chose to reject these men and women? Well life is like that: a reasonable 'redundancy' package is fine but not a gold-braided parachute.

MPs will have to contribute more to their pensions under new pay proposals that will see salaries rise to £74,000 in 2015. Credit: PA Wire

Many of the best trade union negotiators give a little and take a little to find a compact acceptable to both worker and employer. It is common sense. Ergo, take from expenses and golden farewells, give to basic pay, but keep it financially neutral.

Read: MPs' pay hike 'would not cost taxpayers a penny more'

All of that, I think, is in Kennedy's package. Most of what I have heard this morning is: "11%! Outrageous".

It is some of the journalism that is "outrageous" more than it is Sir Ian's recommendation.

As a democracy we deserve a more mature debate about how we get a legislature of good men and women; not fiddling their expenses, not beholding to outside interests and not feathering their nests on retirement.

And a decent debate rather than "ya-boo-sucks" from all sides, including our own.

More: MPs' pay rise 'unacceptable'