NEWS: MPs must tear off their packaging and prove their worth as products

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?

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

cent.



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

Parliament?



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

already.



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