This is not the first time that William Hague’s choice of Special Adviser has raised questions. Back in December 1995, when Hague was a Minister in the Welsh Office, eyebrows were raised about the appointment of another young Special Adviser with no experience of policy in relation to Wales. Although in the case of Barnaby Towns he at least had some policy development expertise having worked in a Westminster think-tank.
Even so, the appointment of a young, openly gay, relatively unknown figure led to pointed questions being asked by the opposition in the House:
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what were the requirements for candidates for the recent appointment for a political adviser to the Secretary of State; what factors determined whether this post was advertised; and if he will list the previous experience, the current pay and length of contract of the successful candidate.
Mr. Hague: With the approval of the Prime Minister and after interviewing a number of candidates I appointed Mr. Barnaby Towns personally as my special adviser. His salary has been negotiated individually and in relation to previous earnings and is confidential. It is on a salary spine of 34 points ranging from £19,503 to £67,609; appointments are non-pensionable and the salary reflects this.
The appointments of special advisers terminate in the circumstances set out in the model appointment letter for special advisers. A copy is in the Library of the House.
Barnaby Towns had certain similarities to Christopher Myers, though in many ways Towns was better qualified for a SpAd’s job than 25 year old Myers. Myers has a second class History degree from Durham University, the Foreign Office press release announcing his appointment describes him as “a lawyer”. If you imagine this might somehow qualify him to assist with treaty negotiations or in matters of international law sadly this is not so. He is not a qualified solicitor nor does he have any experience having only just completed a law course.
Considering that the prestige of the Foreign Office attracts the cream of Britain’s graduates his appointment does seem a strange choice given that Hague could have chosen a foreign policy specialist from CCHQ or the staff of a think-tank. To instead hire an inexperienced, poorly qualified young man over and above more qualified candidates does raise the question: what special talent, unseen by the rest of us, does Mr Myers possess?
The existence of the government car pool rather makes Mr Myer’s experience as Hague’s driver during the election campaign redundant…