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Friday 15 February 2013

Reading East – Where’s Your MP?

I’d hate to live within the Reading East constituency. No, not that I don’t think the area is any good, or that the people aren’t welcoming, or that shops, bars, eateries and transport are lacking, but because the serving MP gives the impression that his attention is elsewhere. Every time Rob Wilson pops up, it’s to stick his bugle in on matters that have sweet jack to do with his home turf.

The latest example of Wilson playing the self-promotion card has come with his objection – duly briefed to the Maily Telegraph, in the person of Peter “Dominatrix” Dominiczak – has been to whine about the hated BBC, who have given a job to former Labour minister James Purnell. He has been appointed “Director of strategy and digital on a salary of just under £300k.

Wilson is outraged at this news, not so much for his constituents who mainly couldn’t give a flying foxtrot about it, but on behalf of Himself Personally Now. He has declared that the Beeb are guilty of “leftist bias”. Purnell was declared not to be an “appropriate choice”, although Wilson was not involved in the selection process. Perhaps his household has a crystal ball to hand.

Many have long had suspicious about a metropolitan, leftist bias to the BBC’s output”, he went on. “At a time when household budgets are under pressures ... BBC ... wasting peoples’ money on lavishly paid non-jobs ... it has learned nothing”. That line sounds familiar, so it is no surprise that the Tel also has a quote from Matthew Sinclair, chief non-job holder at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The terminally humourless Sinclair droned on predictably “extortionate amount of licence fee payers’ money to splash ... fantastic pay deal ... corporation ... get a grip of its salary bill ... must ... provide better value for money”. Anyone might get the impression that the same person had written both sets of comments. And this ignores a few inconvenient facts.

Purnell had a career in broadcasting before becoming an MP: he was the BBC’s head of corporate planning. Others have moved between politics and TV: Christopher Chataway from the BBC to Conservative MP and minister, Austin Mitchell from ITV to Labour MP, Brian Walden from Labour MP to ITV, for instance. Robin Day and Ludovic Kennedy both stood for election as Liberal candidates.

And it was seemingly OK for a former Tory minister – Chris Patten – to chair the BBC Trust. Wilson’s whinge is the latest in a long line of “look at me” initiatives, which in the past have included a wrong-headed attack on Labour MP Tom Watson, and a slew of deliberate leaks to the rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog. Meanwhile, he does not seem to be generating quite so much publicity for his constituency.

At the next election, one hopes the voters will pass their verdict on that shortcoming.

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