SPEAKER WATCH: Split the Role of the Speaker

In the FT yesterday, the Speaker developed his project to paint the outgoing Clerk Robert Rogers as a dusty old reactionary with his nose in Erskine May and wholly unsuited to managing £240m worth of public money. Therefore, his argument goes, the managerial functions of the Clerk should be taken away and given to a professional.

The Clerk’s management record will doubtless come out in the Back Bench debate but there’s no question Sir Robert put a lot of runs on the board, even for those modern teams of Inclusion and Diversity.

By contrast, the Speaker himself has never managed anything.

His staff turnover has been high, and at least one ex-employee, it is said, took six months off recovering from post-traumatic stress. His Public Engagement committee was ridiculous (see Guido passim). He is by many accounts an intrusive, mercurial, politically-driven meddler in every aspect of Palace life.

The one project we know he has managed – the appointment of a new Clerk – has been so spectacularly badly-done it may result in two or three law suits, a seven-figure compensation claim, and a complete re-run of the process from the beginning.

So, experience tells us that it isn’t the Clerk’s role that should be split but the Speaker’s. He should remain as the guarantor of parliamentary process, privilege and probity but all his management functions should be passed over forthwith to an existing in-house official who knows what he or she is doing.

A foul-mouthed bully with a penchant for megalomania and who contravenes all seven Nolan Principles of Public Life is not the model of a modern manager.

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