Unlike angrier members of the blogosphere, I would be happy for a reasonable number of MP's to be paid a handsome salary. We have too many for the size of country and the scope of the role, given that 60-70% of legislation comes from Brussels. As electors make strange choices, I know this will mean a lot of overpaid oafs. It is certainly galling to contemplate the likes of Dennis Skinner, Michael Martin and Jacqui Smith on, say, £175,000 a year, when they have barely the talent to command a minimum wage between them in "real life." On the other hand, it would be sensible to make a career as a legislator an attractive option for non-oafs, and the salary enough to remove all temptations for corruption.
The expenses scandal has blown away the last shreds of the pretence that politicians are disinterested, noble souls. Many - perhaps even half of them - are clearly amoral chancers. The truth is, it's a job like any other and employers need to be alert to bent employees with their hands in the till. The electors, as employers, should really consider the qualifications of the candidate, not just to what political conspiracy s/he belongs. Perhaps the realisation that s/he would command a serious salary might make voters think before electing the more obvious media-friendly buffoons, with no talent for reviewing and amending complex legislation. Full CVs of all candidates should be available on-line in a standardised form, so that voters can compare and contrast what they would be getting for their money. I suggest all candidates should take psychometric and IQ tests and those results be published too.
MPs exist to serve their employers and should live in their constituencies so as to be accessible. Expenses for that should be their own. Everyone has to live somewhere, and people move when they get a new job. They should get a modest, public, equal allowance for a London apartment (which they can supplement if they want something grander) and travel vouchers for travelling between constituency and office. London MPs should not get even that. The allowance should pay rent, not finance a purchase. Office and secretarial services should be provided by the Civil Service and all other expenditure on parliamentary business should be published, as incurred, on a public website, so that electors can monitor their employee's conduct in relation to "jollies" etc.
The idea that they could monitor themselves as "honourable members" was a crock. So is the idea that they can create an "independent" body to monitor them. No-one can monitor them but their electorate and this should be made as easy as possible.
Damage is being done to democracy now. Not because the public is angry; we are entitled to be. It's because the MPs and the party leaders in particular are responding to this as a political, not a moral issue. Many more MPs should be expelled from their parties for the crooks they are. Party leaders should be informing the police of the conduct of the more egregious offenders. Their whingeing and moaning is destroying democracy. It's time for them to bite the bullet.
No pay rises, ladies and gentlemen please, until the stables have been cleaned.