I have fairly mixed views on the way Parliament is run. It is probably reckoned bad form to be anything other than effusive about the senior bureaucracy that supports the Commons but it has never struck me as especially Rolls-Royce.
Remember this was the outfit whose accounting officers allowed the preconditions for the appalling expenses debacle. That deeply traumatic, slow-motion train crash five years ago severely dented our democracy. Whilst MPs rightly took the rap, I’m sorry to say officialdom was asleep on the job.
So I have no objection to finding a ‘Clerk’ (the lowly title is misleading) to run the place from outside even, like the Governor of the Bank of England, from overseas. It could be an invigorating breath of fresh air.
However, before making a very senior and expensive appointment like Clerk of the Commons I would ask whether the position is actually needed at all.
If Wiltshire Council can abolish its Chief Executive, saving tax payers loads of money, why not the Commons? Have you noticed any deterioration in the service you get as a result of the decapitation of Wiltshire’s bureaucracy? No, neither have I. But I do appreciate WC freezing my council tax for five years.
If it really is essential to fill this vacancy, as with any vacancy, you must assure yourself that the person in mind possesses the necessary skill-set and attributes. Finally, remember that it’s the public paying and the public wants to curb senior management overhead.
So, you should explore how to manage downwards the cost of the post. The incumbent, a very nice, affable public servant, enjoys a truly eye-watering pay and pension package, superb central London accommodation and a knighthood thrown in. Nice work if you can get it.
To my knowledge, none of the strictures I have offered have been applied in making the appointment that Mr Speaker Bercow is apparently intent on. I do so hope that he has not sacrificed ability to do the job for political correctness. Time will tell.