The Speaker’s Plan A, to split the role of Clerk and Chief Executive, has failed because it would require legislation to enable it.
His Plan B, for an outsider to come and be the new Clerk, is failing because no one is applying (in the same way, David Beckham doesn’t apply for lead dancer at the Royal Ballet). Hence, head hunters. And hence, Simon Burns in Business Questions asking what the cost would be of the head hunters’ services (estimate: £100,000).
Plan C is an internal appointment.
The rumour is that Liam Laurence Smyth (“Who?”) is pencilled in as the Speaker’s favourite for the next Clerk of Clerks. Amiable, anonymous, the Clerk of Journals. (“He’s done a lot of work for the Speaker in Burma.”) He has a number of advantages – he isn’t David Natzler, the old Etonian dauphin to outgoing Sir Robert. He is nice. He is pliable. He is junior. He fits in with the Speaker’s strategy of Diminish and Rule. Is the rumour true? It’s true there’s a rumour.
The advantages of Philippa Helm are very considerable. She has all the assets of Liam “Who?” but with added diversity. That is a powerful strategic asset in fostering Labour support. Machiavellian logic would put her as the Speaker’s preferred candidate, and all other rumoured favourites as a blind.
PS: Little Prince is obviously having difficulty fixing the panel of selection because when you ask who’s on it – nobody knows.