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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Does Blair deserve his salary?
Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided to take his full pay for the first time - boosting his salary by 40% - and allow his cabinet increased entitlements.
The move, which bumps up Mr Blair's earnings by £47,000 to £163,000, has been branded "hypocritical" by unions and some opposition politicians.
They say that the government has acted against its own stance on restraint in public sector pay.
And as PM, Mr Blair is entitled to free accommodation, chauffeured cars and other perks. But many company executives are paid much more than he is and they don't have to run the country.
So does Tony Blair deserve his salary? Are opposition politicians right to call him a hypocrite?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
We have a pretty good man doing a generally good job. Many who begrudge him a level of pay commensurate with his status (assessed not by him but independently) don't flinch at the levels of pay of footballers, media stars and others doing far less onerous jobs.
We have become such a whining, whingeing nation.
What's wrong with increasing your salary by 40%? Maybe he did it because he couldn't stand the fact that his wife gets paid more, maybe his election campaign cost him out of his pocket or maybe he needs a bit of motivation to keep on doing his job. I sure wish I could increase MY salary like that!
David M, UK
My God, the UK has just discovered that Blair is a politician after all.
Of course he has to raise his income. After he has put up taxes so much he needs the extra just to be where he was when he came in to office,
If Mr Blair is going to increase his own and most, if not all other ministers' salaries by a reported 40% and then insist on pointing out the pay freeze he has imposed since 1997, isn't such a fact rather meaningless given that most British citizens would not have had more than a 15% increase in the same time?
This is typical of the Labour government in that they manage to defend the negative points with "red herring" positive ones.
An even sadder fact in my mind is that most of Britain accepts such comments as valid responses.
Let's not forget that the 'independent body' which recommended the pay rise for our magnificent MPs was very similar to the one which was scrapped by the Government a few years ago for suggesting that public sector workers (at the sharp end of course) were underpaid. The hypocrisy of Government never ceases to amaze me.
K.C. Khoo, Singapore
Why should we struggle to make a
living with a measly pay increase
of around 3.5% when people like
him can give themselves a 40%
increase?; when tax increases and
tax on tax kills our income before
we have even managed to pay our
bills? It's young people like myself
that are looking to buy property
and they are pushing our resources
to the limit before we start.
He still gets much less than many company directors and was voted back in with a large majority so it was probably the best time for him to catch up.
Allan Rankine, Beds
I still don't
understand how a man
can justify awarding
himself a 40% pay
rise when he is
already on a huge
salary, the like of
which those of us in
the public sector
will never see, especially
with a 3% annual pay rise.
Mike Rose, UK
It's not a matter of whether he deserves the pay rise, its the moral precedent. Politics must not be a profitable enterprise, it should be based on the desire to change society for the better. I think Mr Blair should look at his underlying reasons for wanting to become Prime Minister. To earn such a considerable amount of money diminishes the post and would encourage corrupt politicians.
Mr Blair runs the country. How does his salary compare to newsreaders and breakfast TV presenters I wonder?
Many people have commented that Tony Blair's salary is low compared to some company bosses. Very true, however any company boss who had presided over the Dome, Wembley and London Underground fiascos (to name but three) would have been out of a job a long time ago.
I have no problem with someone drawing their full pay. Comparing the worth of the job, to other fields is very difficult to determine. What I would like to see here in the USA, would be a constitutional amendment that basically would state that no government officials could give themselves a pay raise, specifically, that only the people (whole nation) would have to approve any and all pay raises and other perks of the job. Especially for the upper echelons of government.
The point is not that MPs and Ministers require high salaries in order to attract talented people (anyone recall the notion of public service), it is that to hike the salaries immediately after an election campaign that included no mention of pay rises for Ministers is an example of breath-taking arrogance and a disgraceful disregard for honesty and clarity.
Instead of comparing Tony Blair to heads of large corporations let's compare him to other people in the public sector, nurses, teachers, civil servants, even doctors. Most have had to settle for somewhere between 3% and 5% and even if the PM has had a pay freeze for the last four years it still equates to over 10% a year, when was the last time staff in the public sector were given this as a rise?
I am no fan of Tony Blair, but I think people ought to realise that he is actually very good value for money. Think about how tough being PM must be - 24hour media attention, very little free time, threat of terrorism, strain on family life - can anyone therefore think that it's unreasonable to pay him annually what some sportsmen earn in a fortnight?
Neil Halliday, UK
How else is he to pay the transport costs to send his kids to school outside of his local education authority?
If I smile a lot, spout a lot of waffle and break all my promises can I get £150,000 or more courtesy of the taxpayer?
Does he pay his 40% tax on this? Does his wife pay her tax? Or are they both exempt? This is the main issue here as Blair has raised taxes so much since coming to power.....
This whole attack has been staged by spiteful Tory die-hards who aren't gentlemen enough to accept defeat. Mr Hague would have had the same salary, had the people been stupid enough to vote him in, and nobody would have protested. The only hypocrisy is theirs. The plan is to fan the flames of discontent among the underpaid, as if all these teachers and trainee nurses would benefit if the PM decided not to get his entire salary. Most of them should stop and think who got them into this position in the first place.
Politicians knew the terms and conditions of their employment well before they were elected and to vote themselves massive increases when they are paid well over the national average wage already is simply hypocritical. At the end of a successful political career they are well rewarded with peerages, book deals and a place on the after dinner circuit. You don't see many teachers or nurses or other underpaid hard working employees in the private and public sector spending their twilight years in this lucrative pursuit.
Someone needs to let these people know what it's like out here in the REAL world.
Charles Smith, England
Those who think that what Tony Blair gets by way of salary is excessive should see how much the PM and the cabinet in Singapore get by way of salary (about US$1,2 million for the PM and about US$600,000 for a Cabinet Minister)! Yes, more than the President of the US or PM of the UK! The argument is that it takes the best to run this tiny state with US$140 billion in reserves and therefore you need to pay for the best!
The President of United States makes about E290,000. The Prime Minister of Britain makes about E160,000. That's a big difference in money. I don't understand why people are making a big deal about it. People in United States don't care how much the President makes. We have better things to debate about rather than debate about the salary of the President or Prime Minister.
Yes he deserves to be paid, but the rise in pay is obscene.
Roy Haynes, UK
How many other people would defer taking full pay for as long as these ministers already have? Would You? I think not. The pay was deemed fair by an independent body - if we didn't think the findings correct this debate should have happened a long time ago. Move on, people. Focus on the real issues instead of falling for red herrings such as these. It's a dead subject. Don't kid yourself that this money would cover better pensions or public service. That's a bigger issue and one worth the trouble of your energy. I hope you are all as vigorous in the campaign to improve pensions and public services.
Neil Jones, West Midlands, UK
The Prime Minister and ministers choose their vocation. Teachers choose their vocation. Neither vocation can be equated to industry but a significant difference between the two vocations is that the teachers cannot increase their salary at will or use their position as a springboard to much higher paid jobs. I find arguments that equate the Prime Minister's job with that of his industry counterparts spurious. The Prime Minister has made a mistake in increasing his salary just after winning an election. His increase serves to compound the lack of morale in so many other "vocational" professions!
Richard Barker, England
Our business went bust because of foot-and-mouth and the collapse in tourism.
I'm lucky to earn £100pw at the moment.
As if between him and his wife they really needed it.
What a greedy, insensitive thing to do.
He has shown himself in his true colours, and the people who put him there should be ashamed of themselves.
I won't forget come next election.
Ladies and Gents.
Remember this pay increase as the public sector pay awards come around as you're likely to receive 4% not 40%. If you want 10% then you're going to have to fight for it. The Labour Government had no policies for increased pay awards in its manifesto, so please ask Mr Blair how he expects to encourage more new nurses, teachers and police when the salaries are so low.
My only thoughts are, the Government looks after themselves but who will look after you?
Tony Blair works for the public. We pay his salary. We also paid for his very expensive advertising during the election. And as you can see from this Talking Point - the public is not happy. Why the British public didn't vote against Labour is beyond me. Why the vast majority which gave the signal that all his failings were "fine"? You voted for him, now live with his mediocrity.
The timing may be inappropriate and perhaps the increase should have been brought in gradually over a number of years. Having said this however, the PM is still paid a lot less than company directors whilst having much more responsibility
Tony Blair is the PM of the 4th largest economy in the world. Considering we pay Ken Barlow from Coronation Street £160,000, whose job is more important??
He does deserve his salary - no question. But since when does everyone in the UK get the salary they deserve? As an already wealthy public sector figure, he should be last in line to get what he deserves, behind all the teachers and nurses and other under-paid public sector workers who are doing vital work and struggling to get by.
Lisa, London, UK
I suggest his salary be performance related.
Voluntary workers would earn more!
People don't seem to realise how hard the Prime Minister actually has to work, the length of the hours, and the incredible responsibility he has. Every single decision he makes is important, and he definitely deserves every penny he gets.
Hands up anyone who thinks his job is easy.
I didn't vote for Tony Blair, because I wanted someone else to do the job. That doesn't mean I don't think he should be paid appropriately. He is entitled to his pay - so give it to him and don't be petty.
They'll have fun negotiating public sector pay rises this year
For losing all trace of a private life, for exposing your family to the glare of publicity, for having to be on call twenty-four hours a day, for being responsible for a nation, for all that and MUCH more the salary is far too low. However, how about making it a bit more interesting? Why not pay half of that amount as a salary, and half as a bonus IF the general public are happy with the PM's performance in a given year? Difficult to judge accurately, but surely an incentive to please the majority of people in the UK and perhaps it may even see an end to the inevitable tax cuts granted just before an election (might get them every year!!). Then again, in our fickle world, who on earth would accept that challenge?
How many of us would take less than that on offer for *any* job? Get real. A PM and cabinet ministers deserve something for the hours of effort and activity. No one is criticising David Beckham or Sol Campbell for £120,000 A WEEK?!
Of course he deserves his pay - in fact its not a raise - the pay rates have been frozen for 4 years - lets give him credit for that. I didn't hear many of the unions saying they were going to follow his example and suggest a four year pay freeze for their members - so lets use equal standards before we judge.
Peter Claydon, UK
Mr Blair claims to be a Christian Socialist! It seems more like champagne socialism to me with the emphasis on the champagne. How much more hypocrisy can the country bear from Mr Blair?
Tony Blair is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Tony Blair deliberately froze his own pay to set an example to public service workers - a move welcomed by them four years ago. Now the same group of people are using the media to criticise him for getting what reward he should have got in the first place. I am not saying that teachers and public service workers are also paid adequately, however it is unfair for them to draw a direct comparison with the Prime Minister's salary, and I don't want to hear this kind of unjustified moaning in the media.
John Buyers, UK
Perhaps it's worth bearing in mind that Mr Blair isn't running the country single-handed. The hard work is done by a multitude of civil servants. He may take the credit (or the blame) but it is them who do the work and recommend the appropriate policies and decisions. What about paying them for running the country, rather than giving the 'figure-head' a large increase in his pocket money (after all the perks of the job mean he doesn't have to pay for housing, transport and probably many other items the civil servants need to cover).
Before judging his decision, look at it this way - how many people would voluntarily NOT take the full pay offered when starting a new job. That's what he's done for the past 4 years. Give the guy a break - one of the hardest jobs in the world (i.e. pleasing the British public) deserves the remuneration.
Whether he deserves it will only come clear later. Should he be paid it? Sure. It's his salary, agreed by the independent advisory body, which he's denied himself for 4 years. In charge of a country, 24 hours a day, what should he receive? Congratulations? And as for the timing, when would be appropriate? At least he's proved himself over the last 4 years. And what about William Hague's salary as leader of the opposition: Doesn't look as if he deserves a penny of it!!
Lachlan McLean, UK
If Tony Blair was running any major UK company he'd be earning far more. So let him have his money, at the end of the day £163,000 only costs each of us 0.03pence per year. Get over it. And anyone who says that he shouldn't earn because Cherie already gets enough money, get real. Everyone has the right to earn from his/her job; lets see you work for free because the honour of doing your job is worth it alone.
If I was the PM, I wouldn't get out of bed for £163,000. There are people far less talented and qualified earning twice that and then some in the private sector. Good luck to him - and this is coming from a Tory voter.
I cannot see what the fuss is about. The PM has decided to accept the agreed rate for the job. He has not awarded himself an 'extra'. Rather than criticism he should get a bit of praise for refusing to take his increase for so long.
I think the PM's salary is well justified and it wouldn't matter what party the PM belonged to. The job is stressful enough and you also have to drag your family along with it. It is a well deserved pay rise.
Chris Green, Bristol, UK
Although perhaps he could have picked a slightly better time to do this, it is justified. A) He hasn't been collecting the full salary up to now, so it isn't really a pay rise, more just getting what he's entitled too. B) For the job of running the UK you only get £163,000? I imagine being PM involved a little more stress than some of those big businesses with wages in the multi-millions for their directors.
£116,000 was probably underpaid for the top job, but then so are doctors and nurses underpaid. Let's give them 40% as well. This is disappointing for all those who voted for him, but unsurprising for all those who didn't. It's the dishonesty of the timing that depresses me the most.
Good quality people should get paid well. If you peg MP's salaries, you end up with either talentless people, or millionaires who don't need the money anyway.
Emma Clark, UK
Somebody wake me up when this is over. All the old clichés about "underpaid compared to heads of business." Then go into the private sector and leave the job of Prime Minister to someone who will make a real difference to people's lives. The opposition, unions, teachers and nurses are up in arms - well what are they supposed to say? Congratulations? Do they expect Blair to lose any sleep over an issue that will be forgotten as soon as the next fat cat awards himself a huge salary increase, together with preferential share options on the back of making hundreds of staff redundant?
It is petty minded to say this is "wrong". Although a dyed in the wool Tory myself, the fact of the matter is that we lost and Mr. Blair is now our Prime Minister! As such, he deserves to be compensated appropriately.
Maybe he is worth that amount of money for a very stressful and demanding job, but its just typical in a week when I learn I'm not getting any pay rise this year.
Jon Chick, UK
Maybe now there might be some incentive to get some real talent into the government.
What a shame; I thought I had voted for a Prime Minister that was going to be more radical! The timing and the percentage rise are of course beyond words. And the implication is that now his job is safe for four years he's awarded himself a juicy £200,000 bonus. The Prime Minister of the people? I don't think so!
What does Paxman earn? What does the BBC Director-General get in bonus alone? It's time to grow up and recognise - if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Let's pay the rate for the job.
Van Martin, England
The timing of the pay award couldn't have been worse, following a worryingly low turnout at the election signalling public apathy and disillusionment. People feel increasingly alienated from politics and this gives them yet another reason to abstain at the ballot box, perhaps with good reason.
Whether his new salary is 'too much' according to people's opinion is a red herring. He is accepting the salary that comes with the job, just as it did with Major or Thatcher. That, for the last five years he has refused to take all of that salary is something to be praised. On the other hand, quite why he now decides on the full amount is anyone's guess, and while not morally wrong, it is really bad PR.
Rob Court, UK
This man runs the country. He makes decisions that affect millions of lives and he is ultimately responsible. The buck stops with him. I would not be willing to do his job for only £163,000.
There are a hell of a lot of other people getting paid an awful lot more to do far less stressful, and far less worthy jobs. I think the people that run the country should be paid in line with those that drive the wheels of industry. How else are we going to attract get the best candidates for the job.
First fat cats of industry now fat cats of Government.
Just think for an extra £50,000 a year we could have got Rory Bremner. Not only would he have been a better Tony Blair than Tony himself, but he would have been the entire Labour cabinet and opposition for no additional cost. Missed a bargain there I think.
Mr Blair's new salary is basically minuscule compared to those of top industrial managers. Good prime ministers tend to deserve a good remuneration and unpopular prime ministers don't! Personally, a man who can diminish the Tories into a spent unelectable force deserves every penny he gets!
Ministerial pay has not been frozen for the last four years: it has risen in line with inflation. People criticise business leaders' pay, but at least they have to earn it, through selling more, or better products. The Government merely has to collect more taxes. In this, they have been very successful.
In my view the Prime Minister's salary even with the pay rise is almost insignificant for managing UK plc.
Well deserved and easily justified.
12 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair under fire over pay
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