Elementary move for Clegg aide Neil Sherlock

The Lib Dem special adviser heads back to private sector

The Labour MP and shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett was seething. It had just emerged that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had spent £900,000 on special advisers after they had increased in number from three to 14.

This was, claimed Trickett, "total hypocrisy" after the Liberal Democrats had previously stated that special advisers should not be funded out of the public purse. One "spad" in particular provoked the ire of the MP for Hemsworth in West Yorkshire: Neil Sherlock, a former public and regulatory affairs partner at Big Four accountant KPMG who had donated £88,000 to the Lib Dems.

By the time the news of the salaries emerged, Sherlock was Clegg's trusted lieutenant for government relations, a key role that saw him act as a liaison to business. "Neil Sherlock should not be rewarded for his donations to the Liberal Democrats with a publicly funded job," fumed Trickett.

However, Clegg knew just how important the affable Sherlock was to his team. He was supposed to be with the Deputy PM for only 12 months, but at conference last year, Clegg persuaded Sherlock to stay on until after this month's Budget.

At a time when party grandee Lord Rennard has been accused of wandering hands and former environment secretary Chris Huhne faces jail over speeding points fraud, the departure comes at an unfortunate time for the Lib Dem leader.

However, it is understood that a return to the Big Four is on the cards, with suggestions that Sherlock is in negotiations with KPMG's rival, PreciewaterhouseCoopers.

The role is not clear, but someone with such political nous would be a timely hire for any of the biggest accountants at a time when they are under acute regulatory pressure. Last month, the Competition Commission revealed its interim findings into the audit market, which included recommendations to crack the domination of KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young and Deloitte over the audit market.

The four look over the books of more than 95 per cent of FTSE 350 firms, work that is worth more than £800m in fees. Recommendations potentially include forcing listed firms to change their auditors every set number of years, having found that 31 per cent of FTSE 100 companies had used the same accountant for more than two decades.

And it seems the big firms are listening, with a number of major audits having recently changed hands, such as insurer RSA. Last week, it emerged that KPMG faces losing corporate Britain's most lucrative accounting contract, HSBC, which is running a pitch process for the first time since 1991.

PwC and Sherlock declined to confirm the talks, but the move makes sense. Sharp as a tack – Sherlock gained a first-class degree and was president of the Oxford Union – he worked with then-KPMG chairman Sir Michael Rake on regulatory reform of the accounting industry in the wake of the Enron scandal in 2001.

No doubt Clegg is worried about no longer having that big brain nearby, but it might have been difficult for Sherlock to stay anyway. His wife is Lady Parminter, who was asked to run the whistleblowing system for women to report any acts of sexual misconduct, formed as a result of the lurid claims made about Lord Rennard.

As a result, there were mutterings that as Lady Parminter's husband was a key aide to Clegg, that system could not be considered truly independent. The role was only temporary, but many political opponents thought this was yet another Lib Dem gaffe.

This Sherlock has surely deduced that he will have a quieter life back in the private sector.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?