Fundraising pages have been launched for foodbank charities in a senior Conservative MP’s honour after he defended describing politicians’ £81,000 salary as “really grim”.
Sir Peter Bottomley, who is also known as the “Father of the House” as the MP in the Commons with the longest continuous service, suggested on Wednesday that the base salary of parliamentarians should be increased.
His comments came on the day that the government removed the £20 Universal Credit uplift for the country’s most vulnerable people.
Sir Peter suggested that MPs, who are paid £81,932 annually, should be paid the same sum as GPs whose average salary is £100,000.
The current pay packet an MP receives is more than £50,000 higher than the average salary across the UK, which is £31,461 as of 2020.
Parliamentarians’ salaries are set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) and MPs can also claim expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London or their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.
In the interview, published by The New Statesman on Wednesday, the Conservative MP for Worthing West in West Sussex said: “I take the view that being an MP is the greatest honour you could have, but a general practitioner in politics ought to be paid roughly the same as a general practitioner in medicine.
“Doctors are paid far too little nowadays. But if they would get roughly £100,000 a year, the equivalent for an MP to get the same standard of living would be £110,000-£115,000 a year – it’s never the right time, but if your MP isn’t worth the money, it’s better to change the MP than to change the money.”
Sir Peter said the situation is “desperately difficult” for his newer MPs, adding: “I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.”
The remarks sparked outrage, particularly due to their timing on the same day as the government cut a temporary benefit increase for the poorest in society.
Some individuals on social media jokingly suggested individuals should “chip in” to help “poor” Sir Peter.
And within 24 hours of his comments being published, a JustGiving fundraising page was created titled ‘Please help feed struggling Sir Peter Bottomley!’ – with all donations going to foodbank charity The Trussell Trust.
The page reads: “In light of Sir Peter Bottomley making the stark revelation yesterday that he finds it incredibly hard to live on his MPs salary of £82,000 a year, I’ve decided to try and raise some money so that he and others that are so in need of financial support to feed themselves and their families don’t go hungry.
“My heart quite honestly bled for him when I heard of the struggles of him and his colleagues, on the same day that they implemented a £20 cut to Universal Credit, affecting hundreds of thousands of families across the UK.
“I’m sure with the struggles these MPs are experiencing themselves, they must rely heavily on The Trussell Trust and the other charities that offer similar services to those facing hardship.”
Meanwhile, a separate GoFundMe page titled “Support struggling Tories” is also raising £20,000 for foodbanks.
The target sum is the difference between an MP’s salary and the average annual pay packet of a GP.
On the page, its creator Simon Harris writes: “Personally I think that the £20 Universal Credit uplift funding should be immediately redirected to MPs like Sir Peter who are clearly in dire straits, and I will even present him with a giant novelty cheque when we reach the total.
“The fact that some of these people could be forced to switch from Waitrose to Sainsbury’s has forced my hand – it’s time to step up and help those who are genuinely in need.
“Or I’ll just give the money to foodbanks because that’s where a lot of these working Universal Credit claimants are going to end up, and I don’t have the empathy level of a service station pasty.”
Justifying his comments on Thursday, Sir Peter told LBC he had not known when the interview would be published but that he stood by what he had previously said.
The Conservative MP said those including “a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official” would be “significantly worse off” if they went into politics.
He said raising parliamentarians’ pay would therefore “attract into the field of competition good people, not just those who are prepared to do it for nothing, not just those who can afford to do it for nothing, but the people in between”.
Sir Peter added that there should not be a pay increase now as the sum should never change “between elections”, but suggested politicians’ pay packets should be increased at the next general election.
He told the radio station that a pay increase could be achieved by cutting the number of MPs by 10%.