THE forthcoming General Election is likely to be dominated by the cost of living crisis and an impatient desire to get rid of the self-serving Tories.

It will inevitably be sprinkled with homilies from prospective MPs claiming to know how it feels to face financial hardship and promising to faithfully execute the wishes of the electorate.

But why should we believe them? And what remedies are available to us if they fail to do so?

In a truly representative democracy, the “Mother of All Parliaments” would speak for all the people and voters would not feel that MPs are all in it for the money.

Today’s MPs receive an annual salary of £91,346, and MSPs receive £72,196.

You might ask how many of them live in social housing? How many rely on state benefits to make ends meet? How many of their children must stay behind in school while their classmates go on extracurricular activities and outings?

How many understand the way grotesque inequalities blight the lives of future generations in 21st-century Britain?

We all know the answer, of course.

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Yet such division undermines democracy and contributes to the reason politicians are so poorly regarded by society at large.

There also appears to be one law for them and another for the rest of us – as Boris Johnson thought during Covid!

Politicians are generally held in low regard. But that is not right given the important responsibilities we, as a society, delegate to them.

The Scottish Socialist Party believes that one way to repair their reputations would be to pay them the same wage as those they represent. We see it as part and parcel of a truly representative democracy.

The principle behind the demand for “MPs on workers’ wages” is as old as democracy itself.

The National: A painting of Robert Burns

Robert Burns, for example, advocated it eloquently in his revolutionary poem The Ballad Of Mr Heron’s Election, written in 1795:

‘Wham will we send to London town

To Parliament and a’ that?

Or wha’ in a’ the country round

The best deserves to fa’ that?’

... he asked before answering:

‘We’ll hae ane frae ‘mang ourselves

A man we ken, and a’ that’.

His vision was expressed more than a century before working people even had the vote. The same sentiment was championed at the turn of the last century by Edinburgh’s great revolutionary socialist James Connolly, who advised those seeking to represent working people to “rise with your class, not out of it”.

The meaning inherent in both messages is clear: the day-to-day struggle of working people is too important, and the changes required too urgent, to leave to middle-class charlatans, carpetbaggers and double-dealing careerists. I have always understood the lines above to be about trust, accountability, integrity and serving others. For me these are core socialist values.

And before you conclude that “it’s a fine idea, but no-one will ever do it” … I did. And so did the five other SSP MSPs who were elected between 1999 and 2007.

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We lived on the same wage as those we represented. Month in, month out, I was paid the average full-time salary in the Lothians. The remainder went to further the socialist cause. No other party followed our example.

Some defend the high wages that MPs get by pointing out the insecurity of the job and the elections they face. Yet theirs is hardly the only post with the threat of the sack hanging over it!

Others insist we will only get talented people to stand for parliament if we offer substantial financial inducements. The intensity of the job – the scrutiny, demands on their time, the mental strain – is also used to justify the £90,000 salary. But this again ignores the same pressures millions of others face and yet they are paid, on average, less than a third of the amount an MP receives.

Keir Hardie (below) demanded that MPs were paid – as they were not in his day – to effectively represent the interests of the working people who were his constituents.

The National: Keir Hardie								Picture courtesy of Newham Heritage Service and available to purchase from and

Nowadays, most Labour MPs retire from a life of “public service” as wealthy men and women, on lucrative pensions, and are congratulated for having “done very well for themselves”.

It’s a shame the same cannot be said of their constituents.

What then can be done to hold those who fail voters to account? As things stand, very little.

Recall petitions are a welcome new development, but they are plainly not enough. Annual parliaments, first demanded during the revolutionary upheavals of the English Civil War, may be excessive, but in principle the proposition offers one way to more promptly replace MPs who mis-serve the public.

Those who put themselves in front of the electorate need to be more aware of the low regard in which they are held, and nothing would improve that situation as effectively as having them live on the same wages as the rest of us.

Colin Fox is the national co-spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party and a former Lothians ‘MSP on a workers’ wage’ (2003-07)