Poor Public Servants, Tony Blair Wants You Paid More

The UK’s former prime minister laments the current state of democracy, claiming politicians should be paid more to compete with the private sector.

Photo by Andy Mettler

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair penned an op-ed for the New York Times late last week under the headline “Is Democracy Dead?” In it, Blair lamented the “general state of malaise and disillusionment” plaguing democratic politics these days, rooting this vague sentiment in the fact that people all over believe change isn’t happening quickly enough. Essentially, Blair says, democracy is facing “an ‘efficacy’ challenge,” where “its values are right, but it is too often failing to deliver.” And a big part of the problem has to do with the brass at the top.

“It is effective decision-making through strong leadership that is the missing element,” says Blair, who goes on to note that the public sector and its antiquated formalities should be taking notes from the ever-evolving private sector.

Ouch, Tony. Apparently the holiday season isn’t enough to prevent Blair from shaking his finger at political leaders everywhere, but at least he’s offering a solution: pay them more.

Blair writes, “and only an ex-politician can say this—politicians are not really well paid by the standards of those who are successful in the private sector. This restricts the attractions of a political career, at exactly the time when we need the gene pool of our politicians to be varied, vibrant and vigorous.”

Invoking the good old Field of Dreams “If you throw cash at it, they will come” theory (that’s it…right?), Blair thinks a more competitive salary for public servants will lure in promising potential politicians (say that five times fast). And “vigorous” ones at that.

The BBC reported that members of parliament “are currently paid £67,000 a year but the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which now sets the level of pay, has said their salaries should rise by 9% to £74,000 next year.” In contrast, the Guardian analyzed financial reports released by the British treasury in March and found that “the top decile of single adults earn a median income of £60,500.”

Perhaps using taxpayer money to line politicians’ pockets will curb their need to generate income through blatant corruption, and the state of democracy will start shaping up. Or, at the very least, they’ll be able to splurge for some better holiday cards—right, Tony?

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