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November 02, 2012

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Cian

The conspiracy by the BNP was an angle I wasn't expecting. They're eliminating the competition presumably.

Doug

Good riddance to the Blairite warmongering lickspittle. Start the weekend with a good laugh.

Phil

He's "saddened"... that he's been suspended, and he "deeply regret[s]"... that his dicking about with bank accounts and fake names(!) has been "judged so harshly". But there is a scintilla of apology - he is "desperately sorry"... for any embarrassment caused to the Party or its leader. This is good (or bad) Old Labour stuff, really - it's just the kind of thing Bob Mellish would have said if he'd been caught with his hand in the till (heaven forfend).

Malcs

Won't somebody please think of the Jews?

gastro george

So what's the crack with the Labour neo-con wing coming over all anti-EU? Both MacShane and Gisela Stuart have been trash talking the EU this week - surely coordinated?

Alex

Gisela Stuart has been eurosceptic for ages, especially after she was one of the British delegates to the European Convention (remember that?).

gastro george

Oooo ... MacShane resigns as MP ...

Leonard Hatred

Good riddance. His time speaking to my college's politics society was possibly the most infuriating hour of my life.

Guano

"What 'we-the-taxpayer' were funding was Denis' struggle to be recognised as a pan European statesman, public intellectual and general figure of renown."

Unfortunately too many newspapers and politicians thought that he was an expert despite the lack of rigour in a lot of his arguments.

Phil

Hurrah!

Thing about MacShane, I've always thought he was in somebody's pocket - practically the day after he first became an MP he started banging on about the ICFTU and how the WFTU was still essentially a Soviet front (despite there not being any Soviets left for it to be a front for), which struck me as not the behaviour of a dedicated constituency MP, or (more importantly) of an ambitious party hack. What this story suggests is that he actually wasn't bought and paid for, which in some ways is even more shocking. I can understand somebody starting out by offering free samples to potential clients, but doing it for eighteen years?

jamie

The only time I met him he was pursuing the sensible objective of getting Taiwanese investment into Rotherham by means of the lunatic notion that the UK derecognize the PRC in favour of Taiwan.

Generally, yeah that's it: he was a cold war social democrat after the cold war was over and the infrastructure that supported that outlook vanished. So he had to fake it up himself, with a little work on the invoices.

Guano

I seem to remember someone commentingon a blog, a few years ago, that MacShane was a CIA asset; then someone else said "Surely you mean liabiity".

Phil

More MacShane, from the file marked "This Is OK, Isn't It? They Definitely Told Me It Was OK".

What gets me is how small-time it all is, relatively speaking. It reminds me of a quote from Mandelson in James Meek's recent LRB piece about electricity privatisation - Meek describes it as "the heart’s cry of New Labour – the agony that wells up in the soul of an ambitious, sensitive socialist who suffers because he can’t live like the hedge fund people, those people who are so much more charming than one has been led to expect."

I saw what others enjoyed and I wanted to share it. Not glamour, or luxury, or swank. Just comfort and smartness. I had absolutely no desire to show off. Social life was always secondary. Work always came first. But I cared about money because I didn’t have it. I wanted my own savings, my own ability to spend on myself and others.

Substitute the lecture circuit for the hedge fundies and that's MacShane, I think.

dsquared

I've always thought he was in somebody's pocket

Me too, and I'm quite surprised to find it was mine. He's kind of like the Benny Hill to Blair's Jimmy Savile, if that's not an absurdly tasteless analogy (and of course it is) - a basically comic and slightly pathetic figure in the same general genre, but without the danger and barely repressed sadism.

There is a MacShane dynasty, by the way. His daughter is a student politician who recently won a famous victory against a Newcastle bar that was offering free shots to women who showed their breasts.

Alex

The Mandelson quote is of course him apologising for borrowing money from a mate who was also a Labour minister in order to buy a house.

It is reliably astonishing how much moral outrage people manage to get out of that, compared to the kind of thing some other politicians get up to, including some of the people in the same cabinet.

john b

It's bizarre the way that the expenses stuff in general captivates the public attention in a way that the awful things politicians propose and vote for doesn't.

Particularly given that UK MPs get paid absolutely fuck all (yes, they get 4x minimum wage or whatever, but absolutely fuck all compared to a skilled job).

Phil

Really not true, John. The standard rate for an MP is £65K - most of the people I work with have doctorates and are on half that. Doing a few years as a SPAD and then getting a parliamentary seat is a bit like doing a few years as an academic researcher and then getting a professorship.

Richard J

I can sort of see where John is coming from, setting aside bankers and hedge fund types, £65k is about the going rate for a newly qualified lawyer in a City law firm (or a manager in the London office of a Big Four firm lucky in negotiating salaries), but what that excludes is the rather enormous number of accountants/lawyers who work in the regions/for smaller law firms, as well as the rather large number of folks in other skilled professions, most of whom will never see that much.

Richard J

[In short, people assess averages by who they see around them - work in the type of field I do, and a salary of £90k + bonus for being a property fund accountant seems high, but not outrageously so.)

CMcM

UK MPs get paid absolutely fuck all (yes, they get 4x minimum wage or whatever, but absolutely fuck all compared to a skilled job)

I fear John may be confusing the phrase 'a skilled job' with 'money-sucking City vampires who have inserted themselves in the value-chain in way that allows them to extract rent without providing anything particularly valuable'. £65K is a lot of money.

I can't be arsed to check ONS at the moment but here's a page of contextual stats.

Cian

Well what it excludes is the huge number of skilled people for whom £65K-75 is a perfectly decent salary. In fact for some of them, that would be something to aspire to.

Whereas backbench MP?

Igor Belanov

"There is a MacShane dynasty, by the way. His daughter is a student politician who recently won a famous victory against a Newcastle bar that was offering free shots to women who showed their breasts."

Sounds like she's already achieved more than her Dad.

john b

CMcM: no, I'm specifically not including FS. As Richard implies, I'm talking about skilled professional jobs. It's simply a fact that gbp65k is a salary available toward the end of your 20s in those sectors, if you're willing to take the lifestyle compromises associated with working in large firms in London.

chris y

I fear John may be confusing the phrase 'a skilled job' with 'money-sucking City vampires who have inserted themselves in the value-chain in way that allows them to extract rent without providing anything particularly valuable'. £65K is a lot of money.

Although I notice that according to your chart of average (mean? median?) salaries by sector, the financial vampires are roughly on parity with IT, at just over half a back bencher.

About twenty years ago, they tried to fix MPs' basic salaries against the Civil Service, with back benchers making the same as line managers. They've fucked around with both since then of course.

Jakob

If our elected representatives equate £65K with 'fuck all', no wonder we're in this kind of shit. Quite apart from considerations of public service, where do you stop - why not peg salaries to the Sunday Times Rich List?

Cian

Financial services includes people working in call centers, Chris.

Cian

It's simply a fact that gbp65k is a salary available toward the end of your 20s in those sectors, if you're willing to take the lifestyle compromises associated with working in large firms in London.

Which isn't what you originally claimed. You said skilled jobs, and most skilled jobs are not in the city, or the major law/accountancy firms in London.

And by no stretch of the imagination are MPs skilled workers.

CMcM

It's simply a fact that gbp65k is a salary available toward the end of your 20s in those sectors, if you're willing to take the lifestyle compromises associated with working in large firms in London.

The problem, of course, is that the City salary structure isn't based on anything except itself, and has no relationship to the universe in which the rest of us exist*.

£65k is what a assistant head in a large London comp or a third level manager in a London Social Services might earn. These are not typically jobs one reaches 'towards the end of your 20s'. Nor, I submit,it, would most people imagine they are any less emotionally draining or intellectually challenging, or typically involve much shorter hours, that working in most City jobs.


*Except of course in the sense that many of these salaries are, in some ultimate sense, stolen from the pensions and other financial products sold to us smucks.

dsquared

money-sucking City vampires who have inserted themselves in the value-chain in way that allows them to extract rent without providing anything particularly valuable

fuck you very much, I'm sure.

Nor, I submit,it, would most people imagine they are any less emotionally draining or intellectually challenging, or typically involve much shorter hours, that working in most City jobs.

This at least is an empirical question with a factual answer and they certainly do involve shorter hours.

Phil

Precisely which skilled jobs, excluding the financial sector, did you have in mind?

Barristers are on silly money; solicitors, less so. There are a lot more solicitors than barristers.

Head teachers, professors and FDA-grade civil servants do quite nicely. Classroom teachers, lecturers and lower-grade civil servants, less so - and again, there are a lot more B than A.

If MPs are comparing themselves with people earning significantly more than 65K, they're comparing themselves with a tiny minority of the population.

CMcM

The assistant heads at the inner London comp of which I'm chair of governors typically work a 60-70 hr week during term time (i.e. for 190 days p.a.). They tend to start between 7am and 7.30am and have evenings taken up with various meetings. Weekends are often for marking. The holiday periods do make a difference, it's true, but even then, at that level of management, they are rarely out of school for more than 3-4 weeks during the summer. How many hours a 3rd tier Social Services Officer might work depends on their particular role. Crucially, it depends on how often they have to meet with Councillors or attend Committee meetings, which tend to operate in the evenings.

It's true no one I've ever met in either Education or Social Care has ever literally brought two jackets to work to leave one over their chair, and it's also true that these professions exist in a sort of haze of doublespeak whereby they constantly extoll each other to adopt a healthy 'work-life balance'. But this has no noticeable effect.

I don't think this can possibly constitute 'much shorter hours' than most City jobs.

dsquared

If MPs are comparing themselves with people earning significantly more than 65K, they're comparing themselves with a tiny minority of the population.

I would also suggest that MPs probably should be compared with a small minority of the population - they are by definition unusually well-motivated, often really quite bright and prepared to put themselves through a really quite hellish selection process.

Richard J

This at least is an empirical question with a factual answer and they certainly do involve shorter hours.

I dunno. At my last job (which is one of the reasons I left), I was basically earning about that for a 9-5 job (and I strained to find enough work to fill that...) - the career path of gaining experience and then going inhouse for a nice wage and a better work-life balance is well known in my line of work.

dsquared

They tend to start between 7am and 7.30am and have evenings taken up with various meetings. Weekends are often for marking.

I start at 6am and leave around 6:30. I also do bits and pieces of work stuff at the weekend and in the evenings if I need to but I don't really add this to the clock as (like marking) it can be done while watching television. I also don't see how you get to 70 hours this way - even if I assume five hours of marking at the weekend, a 7am start and 65 hour 5-day week would suggest that these meetings last until 8pm every single day and I don't think that's true.

at that level of management, they are rarely out of school for more than 3-4 weeks during the summer

And two weeks at Christmas and at Easter. I'm sure it's not a cushy number - it's a well paid job - but I know plenty of teachers and I am not wrong on this one.

Phil

they are by definition unusually well-motivated, often really quite bright and prepared to put themselves through a really quite hellish selection process

I certainly think they should be compared with university lecturers, of whom all the above are broadly true. And let's keep this in perspective - anyone on a lecturer's salary of 30+K is in the top quartile of the full-time employed population, and probably in the top 10% of the population as a whole. Nobody (on this thread) is saying that an MP's pay shouldn't be somewhere in that top 10%.

But we started with John's assertion that an MP's salary of 65k is "absolutely fuck all compared to a skilled job", which I think is only remotely believable if you define "skilled job" very, very carefully.

Cian

But we started with John's assertion that an MP's salary of 65k is "absolutely fuck all compared to a skilled job"

Just asking around, this seems to be a decent salary for a 'good' and in demand computer programmer working in London outside the investment banks. Given that engineers (outside the oil industry) and industrial scientists do quite badly compared to computer programmers, I'm not really buying this claim.

On the other hand if bullshit is your metric, sure you can do very well as a management consultant/PR Flack.

Cian

Barristers are on silly money; solicitors, less so. There are a lot more solicitors than barristers.

Most barristers really aren't. Some do quite poorly - criminal law for example can pay very poorly.

Also while some GPs earn eyewatering amounts, others (generally those working in inner cities) scrape by on salaries comparable to teachers.

Richard J

It's easy also, once you're in, to forget how stringent the filter in getting inside the circle in the first place is - my current place has about 600-800 graduate vacancies and 15-20k applicants, and we're significantly easier to break into than, say, law or investment banking.

It's very easy to get sucked into the bubble - when I went back to my gaudy a few years back, it was a handy reality check to realise how (in terms of pure career progression) I was doing compared to most of my peers, and I've had an effortlessly average career for my line of work, really.

dsquared

Nobody (on this thread) is saying that an MP's pay shouldn't be somewhere in that top 10%.

But quite a lot of people seem to be saying, with varying degrees of vociferousness, that it shouldn't be in the top 5%, which is roughly what the £65k level delineates.

Also note that for about two thirds of MPs, it is practically an expat job.

Cian

Also note that for about two thirds of MPs, it is practically an expat job.

I've only been out of the country for a year, and they've already started outsourcing MPs to India?

Cian

But quite a lot of people seem to be saying, with varying degrees of vociferousness, that it shouldn't be in the top 5%, which is roughly what the £65k level delineates.

No they're not. They're saying that they shouldn't be complaining about their pay, when it's in the top %5. Though actually the main objection was John's ludicrous claim that they were underpaid compared to most highly skilled workers.

dsquared

in order to crank up the level of oppositionalism and bitterness, I will also pick up on Phil's:

most of the people I work with have doctorates and are on half that.

in order to vent my own prejudices about people who think they've got a right to be at the tip top of the financial and managerial tree (or at the very least, to join commercial or administrative operations several rungs up the ladder from anywhere supportable by their actual expertise) because they passed some exams once.

Richard J

aka most graduate trainees. One of the bitterly amusing things about this time of year is watching bright ambitious young and appallingly smug things coming into contact with the bitter truth that they have no clue whatsoever about what they need to be doing now.

CMcM

I don't actually have strong views on the level of MPs pay, if only because I think it very difficult to draw a line between what constitutes pay - in the common or garden sense of the wedge you get for going to work - and what constitutes allowances for personal or office use. There is an allowance for housing of up to £20K p.a. for accommodation for non London MPs for instance (with some add-ons if they have dependents for who they have caring responsibilities).

I'm not saying such emoluments are wrong or unnecessary. I'm just saying they make looking at the baseline salary alone a little misleading. But, yeah, they're definitely in the top 5% and thus hard to justify as being underpaid.

gastro george

At the risk of incoming wrath, but amid the macho tales of 25-hour working days, I was reminded of a colleague who said that somebody working those hours in Germany was either considered to be inefficient or working for the wrong company.

dsquared

There is an allowance for housing of up to £20K p.a. for accommodation for non London MPs for instance

If someone offered you £20k to work six hours' drive from your family (and that you would have to spend that £20k on your accomodation costs to do so), would you regard that as a "benefit", or as the sort of thing you would want to be paid an extra premium to tolerate?

I was reminded of a colleague who said that somebody working those hours in Germany was either considered to be inefficient or working for the wrong company

it is indeed because of this sensible, engineer-like attitude that the Germans not only turned Frankfurt into a financial colossus which puts New York to shame, but also avoided having an extravagantly bankrupt Landesbank industry and didn't end up being the largest lender to Spanish and Irish commercial property.

Only kidding. There are loads of really clever and hard-working German bankers. London's full of them.

gastro george

Considering the relative state of the German and British economies, they're probably quite pleased to have managed to export their certifiable employees as well.

Cian

If someone offered you £20k to work six hours' drive from your family (and that you would have to spend that £20k

Yeah, but you were arguing that one reason they're underpaid is that are working away from home. They're compensated for that (something I have no problem with, within limits). 65K is the base salary for MPs working within commuting distance of London.

Also, I realise that investment bankers have to be paid huge sums of money in order to motivate them to get out of bed. Are you really arguing that the only reason that MPs become politicians is the money?

Chris williams

I'd rather my MP's pay was fixed to a point at about 75% of earned income: that way the buggers have some incentive to raise this figure. I'd also give them a massive research, exes, and office allowance, probably about a quarter of a million, with strict limitations on employing family and lovers but sod all restriction otherwise. I realise that these positions mean that pretty much everyone here and in the country at large will hate me for advocating one or the other, but that's the kind of impossibilist contrarian I am.

dsquared

They're compensated for that

My understanding is that it's a housing allowance (ie you have to spend it on housing), not just extra compensation for the expat life. Isn't that one of the things that MacShane got tripped up on?

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