Chloe Smith resigns and GoCo odds lengthen

So Chloe Smith resigned from her UK Cabinet Office Ministerial post this week after just over a year in the role  to “dedicate more time to her constituency”. Who knows whether she jumped before she was pushed?

She is just 31 years old and was appointed Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform in September 2012, so she didn’t have much to do with the Cabinet Office efficiency agenda, although before that she was Economic Secretary in the Treasury, a role which gets involved in some matters relevant to our agenda. She is the Conservative MP for Norwich North, a pretty marginal seat, so she may not have a job at all after the 2015 election.

I have no clue as to whether Francis Maude (her Ministerial boss) hated her or doted on her every word. But you get the impression that people he doesn’t want don't stay around very long (see Ian Watmore...) and as we know he's populated his senior team of officials heavily with “connected” people. He also has a firm grip on the Cabinet Office , according to everything I hear, so it may have been hard for her to carve out her own identity. I feel slightly guilty now – the only time I mentioned her on Spend Matters was to say she “contributed nothing” to a press briefing I attended at Treasury!

But one general point. How can you be possibly be an effective Minister at 28 years old? At that age, I had just been promoted into middle management at Mars, a promotion that in all honesty was perhaps a year or so too soon for me given my level of experience and maturity. And that was “just” a role with responsibility for managing packaging buying in a confectionery firm! How can you possibly steer great issues of national importance after just 6 years out of University? Her experience – business, life, even politics itself – was perhaps simply not enough to prepare her for that role.

Her promotion to the Ministerial ranks seemed crazy at the time, and I feel sorry for Smith, although she is young enough I guess to make a comeback in politics. Or indeed stand down at the next election and carve out a no doubt hugely successful career in something else. Good luck to her.

And on an unrelated note (other than it is political) – the Labour Party seems to be taking a stronger line on the Ministry of Defence proposed GoCo outsourcing. We reported earlier this week on the RUSI paper, which suggested that the government should define which activities were “core” in effect. Now Labour may table amendments to the Defence Reform Bill to place more controls on how the GoCo would work, whilst the Minister is beefing up the work on defining the in-house “DE&S+” alternative option to GoCo.

Odds on GoCo happening now slipped to 2-1 against, from evens, in my book...

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Voices (3)

  1. Simon Walsh:

    I attended a meeting chaired by Chloe and also attended by Lord Young (the PM’s Enterprise Advisor).

    Chloe was welcoming,charming and very efficient. She chaired a challenging meeting very effectively and ensured all attendees felt valued.

    I was very pleased I met her.

  2. Paul Wright:

    Greater love hath no man than that he lay down another’s career for his own. George Osborne derailed her career by sending her to be beasted by Paxman.

    That aside I agree about her age, but point out that it is usually the old heads saying that people are too young – the young are willing to accept the challenge. Without blooding some people a bit early, how do you ensure appropriate succession? When I left ICI at the age of 35 my generation were still seen as the “Young Turks” because we were the last cadre of intake – clearly we were not young, and there should have been younger blood coming up and challenging us (let alone the “old guard”). Of course when the top bosses are only in their mid 40s then 30 somethings don’t feel quite so old.

    It is a tough call.

  3. Stephen Heard:

    Interesting that you should highlight the resignation of Chloe Smith who is the MP in the neighbouring constituency to me in Broadland in Norfolk. The view here locally was that Ms Smith was mortally wounded due to her dreadful experience at the hands of Jeremy Paxman last year on Newsnight where she was the sacrificial lamb when sent in to try and defend some government u-turn. The story is here including a link to the fateful interview:

    I also believe that Conservative Central Office have told all of the local Norfolk MP’s to concentrate on securing their seats for next year due to the awful record of Norfolk County Council and losing overall control in local county elections in May this year. A number of their decisions have been based on procurement related decisions around major development in and around Norwich, the ill fated decision to push ahead with a county incinerator at Kings Lynn despite 37,000 local people registering against this and the decision to bankroll a partial northern ring road around Norwich (the NDR) to the tune of £60m whilst trying to extract £185m savings by cutting front line services! All of these decision were made in the face a fierce local opposition which has really shaken the confidence of locals who believe that the democratic deficit in Norfolk has never been bigger.

    I used my procurement, commissioning and carbon management experience to launch a successful high court challenge against the growth plans which apparently set legal history (see The success was due to NCC and others not completing the Sustainable Environmental Assessment in accordance with EU regulations.

    So Ms Smith and others will really need to convince the local electorate that democracy is taken seriously in Norfolk hence her decision to return to the barricades in a marginal seat. I will keep you posted.

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