Who is Sir Peter Bottomley, the Tory MP who said living on £82k salary is 'really grim'?

·6-min read
New Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley in the House of Commons, London, after the Conservative Party gained an 80-seat majority in the General Election. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Peter Bottomley said MPs should be paid more. (Getty)

According to Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley, some MPs are finding it "really grim" living on a salary of £82,000.

The salary is considerably higher than the average UK salary of £31,461, but Bottomley thinks it should be even higher.

MPs are paid £81,932 a year, an amount set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

They can also claim expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London or their constituency, and travelling between parliament and their constituency.

Here is everything you need to know about the Tory grandee and what he said. 

Who is Sir Peter Bottomley? 

Born in Newport, Shropshire, in 1944, Bottomley was the son of a British army officer who later joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a social worker. 

After changing school several times as a child, he was educated in Washington DC and then Westminster School before working around Australia before going on to study economic at Trinity College, Cambridge, where his father and grandfather had also studied. 

Sir Peter Bottomley is awarded his Knight Bachelor medal by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.
Sir Peter Bottomley was knighted in the 2011 New Year's honours. (PA)

After university, he became a lorry driver and joined the Transport and General Workers Union, before moving on to industrial sales and industrial relations.

Bottomley co-founded the Neighbourhood Council in south Lambeth and also worked putting lights outside theatres and cinemas in London's West End, before going on to become an MP.

He had joined the Conservative Party in 1972, at the age of 28, and contested the Vauxhall constituency in the 1973 Greater London Council election and Woolwich West parliamentary seat in the February and October general elections of 1974, but failed to defeat sitting Labour MP William Hamling.

Read more: Sir Peter Bottomley is absolutely right – MPs need a pay rise

Following Hamling's death in March 1975, Bottomley was elected as Tory MP for Woolwich West in a by-election in June that year. He went on to hold the seat, and its successor Eltham for the next 22 years. 

He went on to serve in Margaret Thatcher's government, returning to the backbenches in 1990 and became MP for Worthing West in 1997. 

He was knighted in the 2011 New Year Honours for public service and became Father of the House of Commons after the 2019 general election.

He currently has the current longest continuous service in the Commons.

Watch: Keir Starmer says MPs' proposed £3,300 pay rise should go to key workers

What did Bottomley say about MPs pay? 

Bottomley's comments were made in an interview with the New Statesman, in which he said MPs should get paid as much as GPs. 

He said: "I take the view that being an MP is the greatest honour you could have, but a general practitioner in politics ought to be paid roughly the same as a general practitioner in medicine.

"Doctors are paid far too little nowadays. But if they would get roughly £100,000 a year, the equivalent for an MP to get the same standard of living would be £110-£115,000 a year.

Read more: Chancellor defends cut to Universal Credit amid personal finance strains

"It’s never the right time, but if your MP isn’t worth the money, it's better to change the MP than to change the money.”

While admitting he doesn't struggle financially, he said the situation was "desperately difficult” for newer MPs. He said: "I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim."

He later stood by his comments, telling LBC Radio that the number of MPs could be cut by 10% in order to cover any increase in pay.

Bottomley added that those who make money as "a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official" would be "significantly worse off" if they went into politics.

He said raising pay would "attract into the field of competition good people, not just those who are prepared to do it for nothing, not just those who can afford to do it for nothing, but the people in between".

How did people react? 

Given that Bottomley's comments came in the same week that the government withdrew a £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit introduced to help people through the COVID pandemic, leading some critics to suggest he needed to "get a grip".

Shadow child poverty secretary Wes Streeting told the BBC’s Radio 5 Live on Thursday that he was “genuinely infuriated” by the comments.

He said: "We are perfectly well paid, and unfortunately too many MPs on the Conservative side, at the same time as whingeing about very high – relatively high – levels of pay that MPs get in this country, at the same time they are clobbering people who are losing over £1,000 a year, which is 10% of their income in some cases.

He added: "This is my problem with the Tories – it’s not that they’re evil, bad people who go into work every day thinking ‘How can we plunge more kids into poverty?’ but, as Peter Bottomley’s comments show, they just don’t know what life is like for a hell of a lot of people in this country and they make policies that are actively hurting people who are going out, working hard, trying to make the best for their family and are really struggling."

Bottomley was also lambasted online, and a GoFundMe mocking him was also set up with the title: 'Please help feed struggling Sir Peter Bottomley!'

The page, whose funds will go to the Trussell Trust, said: "In light of Sir Peter Bottomley (conservative MP for Worthing) making the stark revelation yesterday that he finds it incredibly hard to live on his MPs salary of £82k a year, I've decided to try and raise some money so that he and others that are so in need of financial support to feed themselves and their families don't go hungry."

But broadcaster and former MP Michael Portillo defended Bottomley on Good Morning Britain, saying MPs get the same amount of money whatever age they are.

"So if you went into the House of Commons at 26 and you get £82,000 you think, ‘this is fantastic’ because you were stacking shelves the week before, or whatever," he said.

"But when you are, and I think Peter is, over 70 and you’ve all those years of seniority and you are making £82,000 pounds.

"Whereas if you’ve been in the private sector with his sort of qualifications you would be making much more. So I think there is a bit of a point there."

Watch: Is a UK state pension enough to survive on in retirement?

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