To begin with, I want to make clear that I consider Mr. Simmons a personal friend of mine. Also, I have not yet had an oppurtunity to speak with him concerning this appointment of his. I quite like Mr. Simmons, and prior to his departure from the UBP I had viewed him as a potential leader of that Party as compared to Mr. Furbert.
All that being said, I really find it quite amazing that he has been appointed as the Premier’s Chief of Staff. I have issues with this position in and of itself and do feel that it is an example of ‘creeping presidentialism.’ I can see the need for modernisation of the existing infrastructure that the position, along with a bodyguard and the press room represent. There are certain justifications that can be made for them. At the same time there are duplications of existing infrastructure caused by their creation. As I understand it the Premier’s office comes complete with at least two administrative assistants, and I have not yet been able to figure out what a ‘Chief of Staff’ does that was not and is not done by the existing administrative assistants. I’m also curious to know how and if this job was advertised, what the job description is, and how does this job description and pay scale compare to similar positions already existing? Somehow I get the impression that the pay scale for the admin assistants is not quite at the same level as the $102K salary of the Chief of Staff, even if it appears they are the ones actually doing the work. I mean, what are the qualifications necessary here?
Apart from that, it seems clear that this position is largely a political appointment. This is itself causes problems, none the least of which is couldn’t this money go towards something else of actual necessity (use value) within the government service? Pretty much every government service is short-staffed and underfunded (perhaps I should say mismanaged instead), and those workers in the trenches are getting somewhat disgruntled with hearing that government doesn’t have the money to meet demands of living wages, justified standard of living increases, and adequate resources to do our work well, while we keep hearing of money suddenly being found for various luxuries and superficialities, not to mention positions such as the one in question.
If this isn’t enough, being a political appointment this particular appointment is bound to ruffle some feathers within the Party rank and file itself. Similar to Mr. Thaao Dill’s appointment to the Senate, some are going to ask whether this appointment is justified. While Mr. Dill will no doubt be an excellent Senator, many of those who put in the hard work behind the scenes, over time and actually were willing to run for election, but lost, are no doubt wondering why Mr. Dill was chosen and not those who actually invested heavily into the Party and its goal of winning the election. Mr. Simmons’ probably will be a good Chief of Staff, but what is the message here? Defect from the Party, defect from another Party and finally defect from one more Party and return to the PLP and you get a huge reward? Perhaps more of us should defect just to be rewarded in the long term.
The message being sent here is quite frankly contrary to the long-term strategy of progressive labour. Not only does it totally render any defence of this position as being a justified and necessary one by making it clear to all that it is simply a political cronyist appointment, but it also sends the wrong message of what leads to rewards and what doesn’t. From a tactical point of view it, along with Mr. Dill’s appointment makes sense. But tactics are for short-term purposes only, and too heavy reliance on them leads to winning battles but losing wars.
With all due respect to Mr. Simmons’, his acceptance of this position will only serve to further damage his reputation and cement the perception by many, mostly outside the Party but also growing and substantial within the Party itself, that he is an oppurtunist and not to be trusted.
I think he was wrong to accept the position, and I think the appointment will in the long term lead to greater trouble than its worth for the Party.