MPs just “don’t get” the minimum wage

David Wilshire has been hilariously telling any journalist who will listen that his £65,000 annual salary is “dangerously close to the minimum wage” – which means that he must be working a 30 hours a day, 7 days a week (or 24 hours a day, 9 days a week – take your pick). But he isn’t the only MP who doesn’t seem to know at what level the minimum wage is set at.

Throughout the week there have been noises off about Sir Thomas Legg’s retrospective limit of £2,000 a year to claim on cleaning, with MPs and trade unionists claiming that it would mean MPs being forced to pay their cleaners less than “a decent living wage.” As is the nature of such things, this “well known fact” has started to get parroted in passing uncritically.

This being British journalism, no journo I have come across has yet had the wherewithall to sit down with a calculator for five minutes to determine the veracity of that fact but it isn’t exactly difficult. First of all, what is a living wage? Well, the London Living Wage, as supported by trade unions, is £7.60 an hour. In my unforgiveably middle class household, we pay our cleaner £9.50. From my straw poll of people I know, rates paid have varied significantly. The most I’ve been heard about is £15, which is apparently the going rate in Kensington.

Let’s assume £15 an hour, which is roughly double the living wage and which amounts to more than I earnt when I started my current job even taking into account national insurance (in fact it’s more than I currently earn, but then I’m down to a four day week these days). Let’s also assume that MPs second home is, at most, a two bedroom flat (that’s a reasonable assumption isn’t it? Second homes are meant to be boltholes, not luxurious family homes. Luxurious family homes are first homes, unless you’re on the fiddle).

It takes five hours to fully clean our four bedroom home here; no-one I know with a flat pays their cleaner for more than two hours to clean it. So, even assuming the £15 hourly rate, that would cost MPs £30 a week, or £1,560. And that’s assuming they use a cleaner 52 weeks of the year – despite the fact that for much of the year they will presumably not be using their London-based flat as Parliament will be in recess.

So, after all that, can anyone explain to me how trade unions of all people have managed to establish that £2,000 is too low a limit to spend on cleaning? The problem, I suspect, is that the people at the top of trade unions these days are about as in touch with the reality of peoples’ daily lives as, well, David Wilshire. Unlike the average MP, they don’t even hold weekly surgeries. The rot in the political class is not limited to Parliament.


  1. As an (I hope) enlightened Liberal Democrat employer I pay our cleaning lady for five hours a week at (currently) £10.00 an hour in Camden, central London. I pay her 52 weeks a year whether we or she is on holiday – because good and trustworthy cleaning ladies are hard to find and should be treasured. Our flat is not huge, but it is full of knick-knacks, paperwork etc, and I cook a lot. The cleaning lady is slow, but thorough, and she gets £2,600 year before taking into account her expenses, travel costs and national insurance. I would certainly not be happy trying to maintain a central London flat on a £2,000 a year cleaning budget. There are two MPs, by the way, with second homes in our mansion block, but what their cleaning arrangements (if any) are I do not pretend to know.
    As regards the ludicrous and contemptible David Wilshire, though, you are absolutely right.

  2. This misses a more fundamental point, though.

    In what way is the employment of a cleaner ‘wholly and necessarily’ required to do the job of an MP?

    It isn’t.

    We had a cleaner for a while when we were both working full time – we paid for her ourselves as it was for our benefit, not our employers’.

  3. “In what way is the employment of a cleaner ‘wholly and necessarily’ required to do the job of an MP?”

    If it is required due to the maintainence of a second home. Having two keep two houses means an extra pressure which will not exist in the case of many jobs.

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