Arise, Lord Cummings of Barnard Castle!
The No10 advisor will form a critical part of the new-look Government
The Department for International Development (DfID) is to be returned to the place from whence it came (the Foreign Office). But will it be the only bit of Whitehall for the chop?
Dominic Cummings wants to reform the machinery of government — and that needs to start at the top, by shrinking the Cabinet.
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Counting all its members and semi-members, it’s roughly the size of a pre-Covid classroom — and too unruly to be an effective decision-making body. According to David Henke’s Westminster Confidential blog, Cummings would like to see it whittled down to just “six or seven key ministers”.
Is that even possible? A smaller Cabinet implies a smaller number of departments — if all areas of policy are to be represented.
I think we could get down to just eight departments and, thus, eight Secretaries of State, who, with the Prime Minister, would make up a Cabinet of nine. That’s not quite six or seven, but it’s still single figures.
Ok, then — who survives the game of musical chairs?
I’d keep the four ‘great offices of state’: PM, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. This would leave five places, three of which would be taken by the Secretaries of State for Defence, Health and Education — leaving just two empty seats.
We can hardly choose between the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so we should combine the responsibility for devolved affairs (plus decentralisation within England) under a Secretary of State for the Constitution. He or she would also serve as Deputy Prime Minister.
Only one seat around the Cabinet table now remains. This should be devoted to the Government’s levelling-up agenda and its green objectives. In other words, a super-ministry for sustainable growth or building a better Britain or whatever you want to call it. It would combine all the infrastructural, agricultural, environmental and science stuff — including housing, energy and transport.
Meanwhile the Foreign Office, having digested DfID, would also absorb Department for International Trade. The Home Office would take back the Department of Justice and the communities brief. The Education department would split the culture, media and sport portfolio with the infrastructure department (see above).
The one major department I haven’t accounted for yet is Work and Pensions. I’d devolve a lot of what it does to local government, and what remains should go to the Treasury — putting the tax and benefits system under one roof.
And that’s it, more or less: Eight departments represented by eight Secretaries of State, each answering to the Prime Minister. Based on the current ministerial ranks — and ensuring that at least a third of places go to women — this is what the new Cabinet of nine might look like:
Prime Minister — Boris Johnson
Deputy Prime Minister — Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Exchequer — Rishi Sunak
Foreign Secretary — Dominic Raab
Home Secretary — Priti Patel
Secretary of State for Defence — Penny Mordaunt
Secretary of State for Heath and Social Care — Matt Hancock
Secretary of State for Education — Baroness Evans
But who do we choose for what would be the most transformative role — Secretary of State for the whiz-bang, post-Brexit economy of the future? It has to be someone who’s really into it and sees how all the pieces fit together to build the high tech, zero-carbon New Jerusalem.
Well, there can only be one man for the job: arise Lord Cummings of Barnard Castle!
There must be easier ways of getting rid of Gavin Williamson, surely?
Please don’t put International Trade in the FCO, its arabist and Europhile sentiments will smother everything.
I agree. Liz Truss is quietly getting on with doing a very good job. Don’t disturb her while she’s doing well.
Top six, ok. Plus the Board of Trade. And a ministry for Business and Works (major infrastructure). That leaves 8 plus 1 per home nation = 12.
The article’s logic is faulty – cabinet offices should only cover ministries that serve UK-wide functions. Plus one cabinet minister for each of the four constituent nations.
Then all devolved functions must be omitted from Cabinet – so, for England, that means (i) Education; (ii) Health and Social Care; (iii) Planning and Communities (incl. local government); (iv) Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry; (v) Justice and Policing; (vi) Transport; and (vii) the Arts and Sport. These are carried out by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and should now be carried out by the very lowest level of government possible in England.
Get Whitehall and Westminster out of all of these functions. Where there may be some remedial functions (e.g., negotiating fishing quotas, or broadcasting policy) allocate those tasks to one of the top eight ministries.
“The article’s logic is faulty – cabinet offices should only cover ministries that serve UK-wide functions.”
So that’s just defence then and tax collecting….
But but what will Labour supporters and leftie peers do?
Why must places be allocated to women….seems the author wants second-rate women to be placed above first-rate chaps…
I thought the old Home Office was broken up because it didn’t work as a ‘mega ministry’?
Mind you, if the author had the stones, they’d be proposing binning off all ministries and just have No.10 run everything directly. Cut out the middleman so to speak…
More or less what I have been thinking for some time. Plus cut the Commons down to about 400, axe the Lords completely or replace it with a strictly limited upper house of no more than 200. Then similarly cut back on local authorities. A hugely popular reduction in the cost of politics. Should commend itself to any populist; and no need to elevate Dom Cummings to the peerage.
And it’s the left that (often rightly) get slaughtered for being delusionally utopian and doing impractical things for Purely ideological reasons.
That this would be an unmitigated disaster and is nothing more than a populist anti democratic power grab by a narrow elite who want to hoard even more power within an ever narrower executive all in the name of the ‘people’, should be obvious to anyone.
But then we’re dealing with people doing something utopian for purely ideological reasons.
If a country gets the politicians it deserves even with Corbyn gone, Britains should be cringing in embarrassment.
In any managerial and leadership position, a span of control over 10 different reporting lines is just about do-able.
The current cabinet and sundry hangers on has been driven by the need to bestow political largesse and keep different factions (within whichever party is in charge) in line. Introduce some proper lines of delegation and make junior ministers accountable for outcomes. Just as the civil service functionaries should be assigned to projects and strategies and then not moved until what’s been asked of them has been delivered and evaluated.
The reduction in size will be painful, but if it can’t be done with a majority of 80, it can’t be done at all.
And, whilst we are about the reform process, put more influence back in the hands of local constituency parties and reconnect the party with its members.
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