PUBLIC SECT0R: Commons set to increase Speaker profile

A campaign to publicise the work of the House of Commons will

include a profile-raising strategy for the Speaker, Michael Martin.



John Stonborough, newly appointed part-time PR consultant to the House

of Commons Commission, says Martin is unknown to the public compared to

previous speakers such as Betty Boothroyd.



Sonborough said: 'Nobody really knows Michael Martin the Speaker and we

are going to have to take care of that.'



Stonborough was hired by the commission last month, for an indefinite

length of time, to bolster its PR.



Better media relations are seen as crucial following the recent public

spat between the Commons and the parliamentary commissioner Elizabeth

Filkin.



Also, the power of the Commons is traditionally under threat in times of

a large government majority.



Since Martin took over from Boothroyd last autumn, he has attracted

arguably more criticism than praise.



Late last year he was forced to apologise after making what was regarded

as a party political remark when he backed Home Secretary David

Blunkett's plans on asylum-seeking policy.



Stonborough does not believe this incident will hamper attempts to

improve Martin's image.



Next month Stonborough will be assisting in PR efforts surrounding the

appointment of Filkin's successor. An announcement is expected within

weeks.



Last year Filkin was not offered a second three-year term in her post. A

letter she had written to Martin was then leaked in which she complained

of a whispering campaign against her.



Stonborough was involved in last month's controversial decision to

publish all correspondence between the commission and Filkin.



He added: 'It's important that we are open. It does break from

convention, but it was necessary so that the public can see the facts.'



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