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Tory sleaze scandal continues, an ex-workers' MP responds
Parliament has been embroiled in turmoil surrounding Tory MP Owen Paterson's rule-breaking lobbying, and Boris Johnson's failed attempts to contain the fall out. Johnson was even compelled to tell press at the COP26 summit the UK is not "remotely a corrupt country". With public trust in parliament and capitalist political representatives at an all-time low, we print an edited extract from Dave Nellist, Socialist Party member and Labour MP from 1983-1992, from Socialism the podcast.
Paterson was paid over £100,000 a year on top of his parliamentary salary of £82,000 a year - three times the average wage in Britain. The Times recently revealed that one of the two companies he was working for, over the last 18 months, got £500 million of Covid contracts from the government. There's now been a new document released which names another ten Tory MPs who over the same period lobbied the government and got preferential treatment for £1.5 billion worth of Covid contracts.
It's an illustration of how Tory MPs in particular use the position of being a member of parliament, not only to make themselves lots of extra money, but to make the private firms they're working for a huge amount of money.
Johnson's attempt to protect Paterson was such a blatant rigging of parliament that even the previous Tory prime minister John Major described Boris Johnson as "politically corrupt".
When ordinary families are facing wages that have fallen behind rising rent, fuel, energy and food prices - and MPs on three times the wage of well-paid workers, are then earning tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds a year extra - it has caused a huge amount of anger amongst working people.
In the 1980s, three Labour MPs were supporters of the Militant newspaper, the predecessor to the Socialist Party: Pat Wall in Bradford, Terry Fields in Liverpool Broadgreen, and myself in Coventry. We all agreed with our local Labour parties before we were elected that we would not make a personal profit by going to Parliament.
We took the average wage of skilled workers in the areas we represented. The easiest to explain is Terry; Terry was a firefighter for 27 years before he became a socialist MP, he stayed on his firefighter's wage as an MP.
For me in Coventry, the engineering union used to do a survey of wage levels every three months. With them, we picked the ten biggest engineering factories in Coventry and got a quarterly assessment of a skilled worker's rate. That's what my family took as a wage. In addition, we produced five reports a year for nine years showing my income and how it was distributed, and on what I was doing as an MP.
There's the idea which is definitely promoted by capitalism and the capitalist media that somehow MPs are special, and they're better if they have outside interests. That somehow taking on directorships and consultancies, or if they're lawyers to carry on with a law practice and so on, gives them a wider view of society.
As socialists we have a different view. We actually think it would be a lot better if elected representatives in public positions, like MPs, were made up of ordinary people like HGV drivers, cleaners or nurses.
We treated getting elected as an MP like being elected as a shop steward or a union rep in a workplace where you wouldn't get three times the wages of the people you worked with! You wouldn't be insulated from their problems. You'd be sharing in those day-to-day problems.
Dave is the chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which the Socialist Party is a part of alongside the RMT trade union and others. TUSC is preparing to stand candidates in the council elections in May against councillors - Labour, Tory or others - who continue to carry out austerity attacks on working-class communities.
We invite trade unionists and community campaigners, who are prepared to pledge to oppose the council cuts, to stand with us as part of TUSC. We hope this can be a step towards building a new, mass working-class party to fight in our interests, not those of the bosses.
In The Socialist 17 November 2021: