Imagine yourself offered the choice of four PR contracts today: the
Royal Ulster Constabulary; the Northern Ireland Tourist Board; the
English Rugby Football Union, whose entrepreneurial flair, otherwise
known as TV greed, has apparently succeeded in ending the Five Nations
Championship; and Members of Parliament. Which would you pitch for? Or
would you walk away?
All this goes to show what a mess we were in while South African
president Nelson Mandela was taking London by storm - if you ignore his
horrendous problems back home. I doubt whether there is much you can do
about the Northern Irish beyond trying to keep the lid on their
simmering cauldron of hatred. And since I would find Will Carling’s ‘old
farts’ at Twickenham impossibly trying, I would plump for MPs.
A lot of balderdash is talked about our Westminster representatives.
They have never stood high in public esteem, though often higher than
journalists. I take with a pinch of salt the claim that their quality
has never been poorer. It is never a good time to give them a pay
increase when the nation seeks to restrain pay generally, even when
rises are recommended by an independent body. And MPs make it more
difficult for themselves by having to vote themselves a pay increase.
I cannot bring myself to criticise Labour MPs for embracing higher
salaries. Most of them have never believed in pay restraint. This would
be a problem if they ever formed a Government. But I cannot see how Tory
MPs can justify endorsing increases nearly 12 times the level of
inflation when they have some responsibility for setting an example.
They have made it more difficult for their Government to manage the
economy - and in an election year - by voting for more than three per
Yet MPs are not well paid, neither relatively nor absolutely, if their
salary and allowances are to be regarded as their sole means of support.
But there’s the rub. What manner of person do we want to represent us in
Mere lackeys of constituents, much of whose detailed moaning would be
handled by local councillors if they weren’t preoccupied with playing
national politics? Professional politicians whose life is focussed on
constituency and Commons? Or honourable men and women of the world who
bring their judgement to the nation’s affairs on the basis of their
proven ability to earn their keep in a wide range of outside interests
which they always declare in conducting Commons business? We don’t know.
So, in pitching for the MPs’ PR account, I would tell them that the real
question is not how to package them but what they are as a product. I
might not win. But, by Jove, I’d feel better for telling ‘em. I do