Minister for Procurement Appointed, No Experience Needed

Peter, thanks for popping in to see me.

That’s all right – and congratulations on your promotion, I’m delighted you’ve stepped up to the CEO role.

Thanks. Now, how long have you been Procurement and IT Director?

About a year now. I think I’m really getting to grips with it now, just kicked off some new initiatives last week, all going well I believe.

Ah. Well, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’m moving you out of the job.

What? But why?

Well, you’re friends with our CFO aren’t you? Or should I say our ex CFO. So you can’t really stay now I’m in charge and I’ve sacked him, can you?

But he’s not even a close friend - and I do a good job! So who are you replacing me with?

Ben, I think.

What, Ben, that young middle manager in HR?

Yes, that’s him. I like Ben, bright young chap, double first in History from Cambridge you know.

But he’s never worked in procurement - does he know anything about it? Or IT?

No, I don’t think so. But I’m sure he’ll pick it up quickly enough.

So what’s happening to me?

Good news -  I’m not sending you back to the night shift, we’re putting you in charge of the staff drama club and the newsletter, I’m sure you’ll enjoy that. You won’t be attending the Board Cabinet any more of course, but that’s your fault – you backed the wrong horse really, didn’t you?


Imagine if leading businesses worked in the weird and wonderful way that our political system operates.  Matt Hancock, the closest we have (or had) to a Minister for Procurement in the UK was demoted last week as part of the Cabinet re-structuring. He becomes a junior Minister at the Department of Culture Media and Sport and is replaced by Ben Gummer, a super-smart 38-year-old who has never shown any interest that we can find in procurement or digital, two of his key areas of responsibility in this role as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Hancock paid the price for being seen as a supporter, maybe even protégé, of George Osborne who was fired by new Prime Minister Theresa May from his post as Chancellor. Osborne’s position was untenable after his “punishment budget” threat pre-referendum killed his credibility with many Tory Party supporters and indeed MPs. Hancock may come back to Cabinet level once memories have faded, and he is still young enough to overcome this setback, but we have a new leader for public procurement.

We heard nothing really negative about Hancock in his time as Minister, but equally he did not really try anything too ambitious. Someone well connected told me a year ago that Hancock would see this job purely as a stepping-stone to something bigger when (or if) Osborne became PM, so would not want to do anything too risky. That seemed to be the case.  He certainly did not make much of an impact in the procurement world compared to his predecessor, Francis Maude. (Not all of Maude’s impact was positive, we should say).

Gummer has shown absolutely no interest in procurement that we can find. He is “libertarian” by nature, socially liberal, in favour of transparency. But will he see this job as an opportunity to try and do some radical or interesting things, or just a stepping stone to the bigger jobs? We’ll have to see.  But we wish him good luck and success in the new role.

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Voices (3)

  1. Effwhitt:

    I had lunch with his Dad once in the mid-eighties, Felixstowe I think it was. I think young Ben probably had as much interest and knowledge in Procurement and Digital then as he does now…

    1. life:

      Interesting. He wasn’t the one made to eat the burger is he? We could be doomed if so.

      1. Peter Smith:

        No, it was his sister Cordelia who was then four and it does not seem to have done her too much harm (see link). All I can say is, perhaps we just won’t go there. She’s 30, economics degree and is now a Maths Tutor. Someone give her a proper ob in procurement, for goodness sake!

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