Maude survives, Kerslake doesn’t. And you’re mad if you want to be “Government CEO”

So Francis Maude, our UK “Minister for Procurement” survived last week’s Cabinet re-shuffle, unlike many middle-aged men, moved to make room for a new cohort of woman. Great news for the Daily Mail who can devote pages to discussing exactly what shade of beige tights Liz Truss is wearing. My local member of parliament, Michael Gove, was the centre of attention, being demoted and moved out of the Education position where he has been radical and controversial.

We predicted that Maude would survive, as a man very much on top of a complex brief, and as we said a week ago, probably the right decision even though his officials are still ignoring my latest FOI request. Interesting to see that Michael Dugher, Maude's shadow in the Labour Party, was the main opposition voice pouring scorn on the Tory re-shuffle. Dugher is someone to watch we suspect, whatever happens at the next election. But as perhaps the most active Labour shadow in terms of really opposing the government, he doesn’t seem to have much time for focusing on procurement issues within his brief, which is a shame.

I suspect my friends at MOD will be disappointed that their Minister, Philip Hammond, is moving to become Foreign Secretary. He has been a stabilising and sensible Minister, although that may leave the door open for the new Minister to kill off the "six strategic partners" idea without too much loss of face. Let's hope so. And last week’s non appearance of the new F-35 fighter jet at Farnborough Air Show because of a recent engine fire shows that MOD’s issues around equipment procurement have not disappeared under Hammond’s watch.

In the meantime, Health and DWP will try and stagger through to the election with their current Ministers (Jeremy Hunt and Ian Duncan-Smith) and hope nothing blows up too badly before next May. And of course Esther McVey didn't get her Cabinet post but she will "attend cabinet" which isn't' a bad consolation prize. So she may be well positioned to take over from Ian Duncan-Smith at DWP after the election if the Conservatives win. (There are now no less than ten people, including Maude and McVey, who “attend Cabinet” but aren’t formal members. Is this a clever way of rewarding people cheaply, or a sign of indecision from the Prime Minister)?

Also last week, it was announced that Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service, will stand down in the autumn and the top role, which was split between him and Jeremy Heywood (Cabinet Secretary) in 2012 will go back to one boss (Heywood). That is seen as a positive for Maude, who apparently feels that Kerslake has blocked some of Maude's desired reforms to the civil service. So bad news for men with beards – as well as Kerslake, it looks like Richard Heaton, bearded Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary (and very low profile externally) is losing that role. But he will continue as First Parliamentary Counsel.

Instead, Heywood will have a “Government CEO” as a deputy, once a private sector big-hitter has been recruited. Here’s some advice to anyone thinking of applying for it. Don’t. Talk to Ian Watmore first. He was doing a similar role back in 2010/11 but didn’t last long and found it very frustrating, I know. But no doubt someone will be seduced by the prospect of a knighthood and mixing with Ministers, only to realise that their influence over Departments will never amount to much as long as politicians are unwilling to change the basic structure of government.

And of course you may well get re-organised in less than a year's time after the May 2015 election, or have to deal with a new government who will perceive you as a stooge of the previous administration. Great fun!

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First Voice

  1. Public Sector Refugee:

    One of the most cyclic events in Government is splitting the role of Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. This one lasted a record short time. And just what changes in civil service management are doing in a political reshuffle is another question worth asking. Actually it doesnt matter much because the Civil Service has largely given up on people management: as the outsourcers have realised, the best way to make economies in hr is to stop doing it altogether.

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