This post originally appeared on Charlie Beckett’s blog on June 1.
Charlie Beckett is the Director of POLIS.
The British Prime Minister has one of the toughest jobs in the world but is not particularly well-paid. To deploy another journalistic cliche, the salary is about the size of a football pitch when it should be the size of Wales.
Like those well-worn comparators of geographic size, the PM’s pay packet has now become an over-used measure of public rewards. In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal we now are now turning our attention to well-paid civil servants.
Anyone earning more than David Cameron is seen as a potential Fat Cat living off the public purse.
It doesn’t make sense because Prime Ministers – and not just well-endowed millionarie Old Etonians – should only do the job for love and duty not lucre. And anyway, they all make squillions afterwards in books, speeches, consultancies etc.
Even the most pious like John Major have made a fortune post-office by touting their worldly nous and contacts books to any bank willing to pay.
So it really is time to stop using the Prime Minister’s annual salary (not counting free accomodation and travel, of course) as a measure.
Of course, that should not stop us applauding transparency in public finance. Should it also apply to journalists?
BBC hacks aren’t civil servants but they are paid for out of a form of taxation. Perhaps we should know. As to those in the private sector, I suspect it’s their own business.