Mayor’s new £63k-plus ’head of press’ is a party political vanity post and abuse of public funds by Tracy Brabin – Tom Richmond

LABOUR has previously been quick to criticise the vanity of Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss for making the most of a taxpayer-funded photographer to portray them in a more flattering light.

They called it propaganda before the term was weaponised by Russia dicator Vladimir Putin’s inhumanity over the Ukraine invasion.

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Yet it will be interesting to see if the party quibbles the decision of its own Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire’s mayor and the former Labour MP for Batley and Spen, to create two new posts to replace the previous head of communications, marketing and digital role.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin is advertising for a head of news - but should taxpayers be expected to foot the bill for a political activist?

The first is a head of marketing and campaigns – on a salary of at least £63,058 per year and rising to £73,015 after three years – to support Brabin and the wider work of West Yorkshire Combined Authority promoting the area.

Yet the successful applicant will find themselves working alongside a ‘head of news’ on the same salary to “magnify the voice of West Yorkshire” according to the long-winded job spec.

Now read the accompanying jargon carefully. They will be expected to be “a key strategic communications adviser to the Mayor” who will also be expected to bring along a “little black book of contacts and networks within the national media”.

A “key strategic communications adviser”? That’s political-speak for a special adviser. ‘‘Little black of book of contacts” with the national media? That’s longhand for a publicist.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin is advertising for a head of news - but should taxpayers be expected to foot the bill for a political activist?

Now Brabin, who never misses a chance, rightly or wrongly, to plead poverty to the London Government, will disagree – her spokesperson stresses that “the Mayor is determined to engage with our communities about the things that really matter to them, which means listening to the public and keeping them informed about our work”. They say that the “accountability and transparency of the Combined Authority” will improve.

Sorry, not only is ‘head of news’ role spurious when there’s a team of press officers in place, but its remit is a political one for reasons of personal vanity. And, if Tracy Brabin wants an activist working for her, Labour be footing the bill instead of West Yorkshire taxpayers.

THE timing could not have been more unfortunate. As MPs saluted the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, taxpayers were coming to terms with the announcement that the pay of backbenchers will increase from £81,932 to £84,144 – a 2.7 per cent increase.

This sits uneasily in the midst of the Ukrainian war, and a cost of living crisis, but it was determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and, for what it’s worth, the pay of MPs has not kept pace with what voters expect of them on a 24/7 basis.

Shipley MP Philip Davies with Chris Grayling, the now former Transport Secretary.

However this announcement might have been made more palatable if Parliament had tightened the rules on second jobs, outside interests and lobbying – Boris Johnson’s difficulties began last autumn when former minister Owen Paterson was found guilty of ‘‘egregious’’ lobbying and Downing Street tried to ride roughshod over the disciplinary rules.

And then the contempt that a handful of MPs – Shipley’s Philip Davies being a prime example – demonstrate for their constituents which does the reputation of Parliament no favours whatsoever.

Take the Ukraine crisis when Jerry Diccox, a constituent of Davies, emailed his MP this week and asked: “Tell me please, why do we not have a peace-keeping mission on the ground, defending key locations in Ukraine?”

Yet, while Nato’s influence is curtailed by the fact that Ukraine is not a member of the security alliance, Davies chose to reply by accusing his constituent of being a war-monger: “I appreciate that you want us in effect to join in the war and declare war on Russia but I suspect you would see an ever bigger massacre if that were to happen.”

As tactless and disrespectful as ever.

I HAD my doubts when Tory grandee Patrick McLoughlin was named as Transport for the North’s chair – I thought he’d be a Government poodle.

Quite the opposite. The former Transport Secretary appears intent on making the most of his past experience to secure a better deal for the region.

Take his intervention in the House of Lords when he called for the various grants for bus services to be merged into one funding pot in the name of efficiency and transparency.

As Baroness Vere of Norbiton said, funds can go “to operators directly, or to local authorities — some of which comes from the Department for Transport and some from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities”.

I agree. What the regions do not need is a new funding competition whenever the London Government decides to act – it means good money going to waste in the bidding process. What helps, though, is existing funds being spent more effectively.

SNEERING peer Daniel Moylan – who demonstrated his unique diplomatic gifts during his recent Yorkshire holiday – is at it again. Boris Johnson’s ally has now told the Metropolitan Police to “butt out” of the Downing Street ‘partygate’ scandal into lockdown breaches.

What right does Moylan, as an unelected peer, have to be ‘judge and jury’ on a matter that remains outstanding while the country, rightly, focuses on the Ukraine crisis in the meantime?

FINALLY the honours system is bankrupt after Gavin Williamson was knighted this week for his rank incompetent stewardship of schools. I guess this insulting reward for failure is a Boris Johnson ploy to buy his silence in an abuse of privilege akin to Putin’s Russia. I wonder if those knighted on merit will dare to speak out? I very much doubt it.

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