Having annoyed many you yesterday by explaining why I do want a referendum on the EU and how we would get that , let me have another go today at winding some of you up by telling you the background to the appointment of a new Clerk.
The Clerk elect for the Commons was chosen following an open competition. This was the first time the post had been properly advertised and open to all comers. As I understand it, a long list of 8 candidates was drawn up and all were interviewed, to create a short list of 3. These 3 were then interviewed again and asked to make a presentation as well. The interviewing panel was seeking to chose the best person for the job, taking into account the candidate’s ability and knowledge both as a potential CEO of Parliament and as chief adviser on Parliamentary procedure.
The panel doing the work of selection was the Speaker, Andrew Lansley (Leader, then former Leader of the Commons); Angela Eagle (Shadow Leader) John Thurso senior Liberal Democrat, Margaret Hodge The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
I know of no reason why this panel would either simply do the Speaker’s bidding or why it would wish to chose an unsuitable person. Nor do I see why the Speaker anyway would want a poor candidate to win. No-one can accuse the panel of party bias or special party angle in making the selection, as it comprised 1 Conservative, 2 Labour, one Liberal Democrat and 2 independent members. Nor would you normally accuse Margaret Hodge or Angela Eagle or Andrew Lansley of lacking independent judgement or confidence to make a decision of their own. None of the MPs on the panel had any reason to wish to please the Speaker by backing his choice against their own wishes or judgement.
I myself do not know if I think the candidate chosen was the best or the most suitable, as I did not meet any of the candidates. I do know that a proper process was undertaken. Only if Parliament insists on introducing an additional hurdle in the selection process with a Parliamentary hearing where the single candidate could fail could there be a change to this recommendation. This would be a discourtesy to the successful candidate who was not told to expect that.
I have no reason to trust the couple of critics who have emerged to challenge the appointment. I have no basis for believing that the MPs and Ombudsman we asked to do the job have failed to do it sensibly. In large organisations things do have to be delegated and you do have to trust the outcomes in most cases.