It is reported in the Daily Mail today that the new speaker John Bercow is hiring a new PR guy on approximately £100,000 per year.
Mr. Bercow's office have claimed that this pricey spin doctor is needed to handle the press fallout after the Kelly Commission delivers its findings on MPs' expenses, and also to help the new Speaker engage with the public.
It's no doubt true that there will be repercussions when Sir Christopher Kelly reports back, and Lord knows taxpayers could do with a bit more 'engagement' from the Speaker, but its unclear to me why we need to fork out for a swanky PR guru in order to achieve these ends.
You would have thought if the MPs' expenses scandal had made anything clear to our elected representatives, it's that what people want is more honesty. More direct answers to direct questions, more openness, more transparency. Previous Speakers have managed perfectly well with a civil servant as their spokesperson, and this role will be a new one on top of existing PR and media relations posts. So the whole premise of hiring for this position is flawed, but that's not all...
The other extraordinary thing is the salary for the post. This spin doctor could earn up to £107,000 a year. I find it staggering that at a time when people are feeling the pinch and think the cost of Parliament should be drastically reduced and the size of it streamlined, Mr. Bercow has seen fit to award such a high level salary for this position.
It's concerning because it's a lot of money, and a worrying trend. It's also concerning because it shows that, no matter how many times they are told, too many MPs still don't understand that all taxpayers want is more honesty, transparency and accountability, and if they really wanted to improve their PR they would deliver these things directly with no fudging, obfuscation or massive price tag.