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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The ComRes Survey. MPs don’t seem to think that communication skills amongst their staff are that important.

The results of a recent survey of MPs have just been released by ComRes, the London-based polling and research consultancy. The findings are a revelation. In April 2011, 154 members were asked for their top three desired traits when appointing Parliamentary staff.

Academic record, discretion, enthusiasm, organisational skills, personal presentation, political nous, political views and punctuality made up the menu. Inevitably, the data showed differences between party, gender and length of service – but the overall picture fascinates.

Organisational skills ( mentioned by 77% of respondents ), political nous ( 56%) and enthusiasm (57%) headed the pack. Not surprising perhaps, when these are support and backroom roles. And yet these staffers and interns are going to be dealing with constituents, pressure groups and stakeholders, as well as being a sounding board for their employers and potential speech-writers.

The eye-opener came when one looked for the status of communication skills. It was not highlighted as a distinct category in its own right. The nearest one came to it was “personal presentation”. This came a distant last and mentioned by a mere 8% - just 13 of the sampled MPs. Even punctuality rated 17%! One might assume this meant sartorial elegance and not having soup stains down the shirt. Contact with ComRes at Millbank for clarification, elicited the response that it was a category to be interpreted as the MP wanted.

Assuming that “personal presentation” did include verbal and vocal dexterity, then the figures are still horrendous. At a time when Parliament is still toxified by the expenses debacle, one would have thought that professional communication with the electorate would have been accorded higher status by our representatives. After all, whilst you are in the chamber, how your staffers connect to the electorate may have a major impact on your re-election prospects.

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