It’s equality, Jim, but not as we know it

The UK government plans to take away the right to a final salary pension scheme from nearly all public sector workers. The emphasis is on “nearly all”. According to one source*, about 650 public sector workers will escape this enforced change. Can you guess who these people might be? Ten points to the reader who said: “Members of Parliament,” and a bonus point for not saying it through gritted teeth.

I must come from a different planet, because this enrages me, but it seems to be unworthy of general comment in the media. Regardless of your political stance, or your views on the economic crisis and how to fix it, I can see no justification for such blatantly inequality of treatment. How can it be right to say, effectively, “everyone else has got to make life changing sacrifices, but not us.” Why? Are MPs a special case? No. Are MPs poorly paid? No. Is anyone forcing these individuals to choose the life of an MP with its uncertain employment? No. And, assuredly, many workers in UK are in jobs that won’t last, and are also constantly under threat. Job security, for many, is an old folk tale. If anything, apocryphal evidence suggests that being an MP opens many doors to lucrative post MP consultancies and the like, so there’s no need for any extra compensation.

I may no longer vote in the UK, but I paid tax there for a long time and (regrettably!) continue to do so. Therefore, I feel entitled to offer an opinion. (Now that I have typed that, I realise how daft it is. It doesn’t matter what I feel, I’ve expressed an opinion and you are stuck with it.)

The other point I want to make, for the sake of completeness, is a perennial challenge for the UK: how to get quality people into parliament. There are notable exceptions**, but the general quality of MPs is not impressive. Let’s just leave it at that. Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t believe that providing – or continuing to provide – a final salary pension scheme is any part of a well thought out, cohesive, package to improve the quality of MPs. If there’s too much money, you attract greedy people. Just look at what happened with MPs and their expenses…

To put it politely, what is proposed is theft of UK taxpayers’ money. If they had any honour, they would be leading by example. Instead, they are leading by stealing.

Notes

*I saw the figure in the 24 June 2011 issue of Private Eye magazine. I admire the high quality of the Eye’s investigative journalism. If you are interested in the UK, especially in seeing behind the mainstream press, the Eye is a must.

**I thought our previous local MP, Jim Murphy, was excellent. Smart, prepared to listen, and someone who worked hard for his constituents. All his constituents. However, in fairness, I know at least one local businessman with a strong contrary opinion.