Editorial: Cabinet cats are relatively slender

Stories this week that Tony Blair’s top three political advisers are to be paid more than members of the Cabinet under a pay deal announced by cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham have once again raise the temperature of the media.

Stories this week that Tony Blair’s top three political advisers

are to be paid more than members of the Cabinet under a pay deal

announced by cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham have once again raise the

temperature of the media.



Cunningham has confirmed that the Prime Minister’s press secretary

Alastair Campbell, will draw a salary of pounds 91,014, compared to the

rest of the Cabinet who get a total salary of pounds 90,087.



This far from outrageous figure, coupled with the fact that the planned

overall pay rises for special advisers, including press, outstrip the

2.5 per cent pay rises awarded to the Cabinet has prompted Conservative

Party Chairman Michael Ancram to label Campbell and Blair’s senior

advisers as ’Labour’s new fat cats’. He claims the pay rises are proof

that the real power of New Labour lies with the ’army of political

henchmen brought in to Government at the tax payers’ expense’.



But putting aside the hysteria, let’s look at what these advisers would

be earning if they worked in the private sector. First of all Campbell’s

salary doesn’t look quite so inflated when you compare it with that of

communications directors working in far less volatile environments.



According to the 1998 PR Week Salary Survey the top 10 per cent of

in-house PR directors take home between pounds 68,000 and pounds 70,000,

while top level consultants command between pounds 64,000 and pounds

78,000. However, this survey does not take into account the salaries of

high profile individuals such as consultancy head Lord Chadlington whose

remuneration including benefits ran to pounds 547,083 last year, or

former Citigate CEO Simon Brocklebank-Fowler who was taking home a

pounds 200,000 pay packet, plus pounds 50,000 of share options.



Many communications heads of FTSE 100 companies take home at least

pounds 100,000 and even those on more modest salaries received an

average increase of, at last review, 6.3 per cent.



Campbell’s salary is also not typical of the vast majority of special

advisers whose average salary under Labour according to Cunningham is

pounds 45,378. When compared to an overall industry average of pounds

50,678 for a PR account director - around 50 per cent of whom also

receive performance related bonuses - the comparison with fat cats

begins to lose its bite.



In addition, what these in-house and consultancy personnel don’t have to

deal with on a daily basis is the vulnerability of knowing that their

job is only secure as long as a minister is in government.



To make comparisons with industry ’fat cats’ is erroneous and

misleading.



By comparison to some of the worst public utility corporate excesses, Mr

Campbell appears hard worked and well fed, but hardly obese.



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