Reshuffles are a bad thing

 

            Labour and Conservative Prime Ministers have for many years undertaken reshuffles that can do more harm than good.  The way they are carried out is crude. Too often there is insufficient time spent on training, mentoring, career and succession planning. The good practices of personnel management, and some of the common courtesies of working with others, are ignored because we are told “government is different”.

              Government is different. It has  more power. It has the power to take money off people, sending them to prison if they refuse to pay. It has the power to make everyone do as it says, by changing the law. It operates on a  huge scale, affecting directly the lives of every single person in the country.  Those characteristics, you might have thought, would encourage the use of the very best techniques of personnel selection, retention and promotion.

            Instead, reshuffles are often seen as ways of disciplining MPs by idle threats and hints of advancement. We read of far more reshuffles than are carried out. We read of far more sackings than happen. Whilst some of the press stories on Ministerial changes are  planted by others which the government cannot control, some of the most persistent have under various PMs come from the centre. A Minister learns of his pending sacking from a paper, not from his boss.

            There are three  good reasons why some Ministers need to be sacked. If a Minister is not good at the job and lacks the Ministerial skills, he or she might need to be asked to stand down. This should only follow clear warnings, the offer of mentoring and training, and all the other usual efforts made in business to get an executive to perform. The eventual sacking if  the help fails should not be a surprise and should be managed by mutual private communication.

          If a Minister is becoming too detached from  the government’s policy, is becoming an encouragement for dissenting views, and is seeking to rally MPs or other outside forces to his cause, the PM may have to move him or her or get them to leave. This should also follow attempts to get the Minister to play by the rules  and to stick to the common line. Mr Clegg should be having these types of conversation with Mr Cable, who often seems to be a loose cannon seeking to  appeal to Lib Dems thinking of a different Leader by providing a running critical commentary on the government he is meant to defend.

         If a decent hard working Minister has spent a long time at a given level of government and is not thought suitable for promotion, there comes a time when his or her place might be needed for some new talent. This is the more difficult case for sacking. The sensible way to handle this would be for the PM when appointing a PUSS or a Minister of State to outline the options for the future. He could say that typically someone might be a junior Minister for up to say  4 years, but then it would be upwards or out. The regular reviews a junior Minister should have with a Senior Minister would cover the Ministers future eligibility and suitability for promotion. By the time the Minister was asked to leave without promotion it should be no surprise, as expectations would be managed accordingly.

               Quite often the need for changes to Ministerial ranks is forced on a PM. This government has had to find a new Chief Secretary to the Treasury and a new Energy Secretary following the enforced resignations of Mr Laws and Mr Huhne. More  recently the government has lost its Railway Minister to the ambition of becoming Deputy Speaker. If the government is following a good policy of career advancement and training there will be natural successors available to bring on.

                 Managing expectations and eliminating most surprises will remove much of the bitterness from sackings. If someone is sacked out of the blue they will feel the world is unfair and will resent the PM. If they have been through a long process of trying to meet targets and expectations but have failed at least they will understand why they have gone and will have had a chance to put it right. If they have not made it to promotion they will have some idea of why and may be more reconciled. It will not have been a shock.   Each category could also be given some flexibility on leaving date if that would help. We need to get away from the idea that many jobs have to be switched all at the same time. Occasional minor adjustments might be a better, less destabilising way.

               Equally important to the task of removing people without surprise or without too many feelings of ill will is the task of giving new Ministers clear instructions on what  they are expected to achieve. Indeed, you can only have a fair and effective system of personnel management if people are set achievable tasks and are judged by reasonable criteria on how well they have achieved those tasks. I will talk in a later blog about what the different levels of Minister should be expected to do, and how a PM and his senior Ministers can monitor, assess and encourage to get better results.

 

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70 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Indeed reshuffles just tend to increase the power of the bureaucrats relative to the elected officers. This as the minister are too transitory to have much influence. Not that, under Cameron, they are often trying to do the right thing anyway.

    I see that Cameron tells us that he his wife, Samantha Cameron said, “my wife likes to say that if you don’t have women in the top places, you are not just missing out on 50% of the talent, you are missing out on a lot more than 50% of the talent – and I think she probably has a point”.

    Well it is nice of him to tell us how sexist his wive is. I also see that that Alice Arnold Radio 4 newsreader thinks the BBC needs to show it takes sexism as seriously as racism. I assume Cameron’s wife will be banned from the BBC and Woman’s hour will be taken off the air for endlessly saying how much better woman are an multitasking and empathy etc. Needless to say she does not define what sexism is.

    It seems that for Cameron, there is also a fourth reason to fire a ministers:- if they are not female. Could we not just have the best people please. So many of the woman are very clearly in place for their gender, show choice or perhaps even their religion or northern accent. The quality overall is poor enough already we do not need it further compromised by the gender religion.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      sorry “shoe choice” not show choice

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      You obviously don’t understand that charges of “sexism” can only apply to men disparaging women; the other way around it would be harmless banter and we would all laugh, as I expect Cameron laughed when his wife said it (if she did) and his audience laughed when he repeated (or invented) it.

      Like the other rule that only white people can be “racist”, and in fact they can even be “racist” towards other white people; but by definition people who are not white cannot be “racist”.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Its the same when the public school crowd slag off folk with working class or regional accents, its always done with such a joyous laugh. When its done the other way its upsetting for some reason.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Oh sorry, I clearly had not followed all these subtle nuances. I am just a simple Maths, Physics/Engineering person. Is there some technical scale as to how white you have to be? Or how masculine you have to be to be deemed sexist? Or is it merely decided by who the BBC do not like at the time.

        If you say something that is clearly true (such as circa 4 times as many men choose to study Physics A Level as women do) is that still sexists or just true and thus allowable? Or are you only allowed to say it if you are a female?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          I know, it’s not easy to get a full grasp of these subtleties.

          But it’s all been proven scientifically, as uanime5 might say; only men can be sexist and only whites can be racist.

        • Hope
          Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

          No one moans about predominantly female jobs either like infant/junior school teachers, nurses, mid wives etc.

      • JoeSoap
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        This faux-fairness is hidden deep in the Cameron-Clegg psyche somewhere-it is somehow better for all concerned to spend time and effort to weaken the strong and try to strengthen the weak than to let everyone find their own level.
        We end up with rampant mediocrity, and the latest report into educational standards, showing that the over-45s are ahead of their international counterparts whilst under 40s are behind them shows us where we are heading.

    • Bazman
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      That ground down minority middle aged middle class men, oppressed by their woman. Are they also fighting a racist struggle too in your dreamworld? At least it focuses their minds on job losses even if they are their own. Will they be struggling with their P45’s and everyday life, confused by ticket machines and climbing into strangers cars? Welcome back to the real world losers.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

        I’ve read this now about ten times and I’m none the wiser.
        Can you give us a simpler version of your post Baz so we “losers” as you so wittily put it, can understand what on earth you are ranting on about.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          I think a simpler and shorter version would be “Ram it”.

          But I’m never sure what that means, either.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            If this is rocket science how do you square of the fact that some of the taxpayers, are benefit claimants and work for private companies where the state is the customer? You do not the short answer like labtard libertarian cannot. Most of my money in recent years has been like earned like this. Private companies working on government contracts related to the building trade. Is this Socialism as without the government money I would be skint? Ram that if you can.

      • Dave
        Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        In generalising in a negative way against a particular group of society like you have done, that you would not likely do against any other group of society, while ready to pounce on anyone esle who does so makes you a typical bandwagon leftie hypocrite. Ram it.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          White middle aged middle class men do not need defending from prejudice so ram it.

          • libertarian
            Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

            Ah Baz but what if those white middle class men work in a supermarket on minimum wage or even worse if they are like your mate Uanime5 reckons and are bank workers relying on welfare benefits to help them survive. Surely then you would defend them wouldn’t you?

          • Bazman
            Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

            White middle class men work in a supermarket on minimum wage? LOL!? Working in a bank on 15k a year does not make you middle class.

          • Dave
            Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            White middle class men do not need defending from prejudice says the person displaying prejudice towards them.

            If that’s the case then it also applies to white middle class women, non-white middle class men, and non-white middle class women too. In fact white middle class women are the most pampered and looked after group of people in western societies, but it would be un-PC for you to display prejudice towards them wouldn’t it, so ram it.

          • Edward2
            Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

            To say what you are saying about this particular minority social group Baz, could well be thought of as discriminatory and racist by some.
            Be careful there is a minefield of legislation on this topic.
            A good test is to switch your words “white” and “men” to other more provocative alternatives and see how it then sounds.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            Maybe you could tell us what prejudice white middle class men face Dave and what society could do to improve their lot in between getting a kicking from pampered middle class woman?

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you for letting us know what parliament is like from the inside.
    You used two words of power: promotion and ambition. Ugly!
    What about the ideas of Service? Or of separating the executive from the legislature?

    I am not sure, myself, whether the model of a very large nationalised industry with such a sprawling managerial team is the best way to govern a country. In the 19th century (when we ruled the world), for example, government was a sort of reward for successful people who knew what real life was like.

  3. Iain Gill
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry John it’s just as bad outside of government. Most of the big businesses I have seen pay lip service to the good practices of personnel management, and some of the common courtesies of working with others, but when it comes down to it they are all pretty bad at this stuff. Lots of reasons for it…

  4. Mark B
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The tragedy for the PM, Ministers’ and Parliamentarians such as yourself is that you are trapped in a gilded cage of you own making. You all really need to step outside the Westminster bubble. I think you will find it quite refreshing.

    I think the problem you have highlighted is one of a failure of ‘system’. ie Representative Democracy.

    We have come to consider that our form of Democracy (sic) is something to be admired yet, you have managed to find fault in it. Well, as they say, the first step in solving a problem, is to at first admit that there is a problem. The question is, what could be a possible solution(s) ?

    Currently, we have a Prime Minister who selects his executive from the Legislature. He relies on his powerbase and continued office from the same and they rely in turn on him for ‘career advancement’.

    One of the many problems that I see is that too many politicians’ enter politics for there own selfish ends rather than be willing servants to the people who elect them. And since they cannot be all PM’s, usually they are not given Ministerial positions’, they are left to the margins and have to suffer fools [think energy ;o) hint hint] who are clearly out of their depth and own their positions to allegiance and coalition quotas, rather than any ability to do their jobs.

    If the Government and Parliament were actually represent the views of the people in their constituencies, then maybe we would not get so many decisive policies. If the people, who are the ones who pay for all this, were to have greater control over what ‘their’ monies were spent on, we would have far better policies and legislation. Think about it ! No Minister or Civil Servant (the unseen hand in all this) is going to propose such things knowing the electorate and taxpayer may object and seek to block it. We would have much better and thoughtout and harmonious policies than we currently do.

    A Prime Minister would not need to worry about getting rid of nonperforming Ministers’ as he/she would not have to be looking over their shoulders. A Prime Minister who is elected by the people or Parliament, has their own mandate to govern, but constrained by an effective legislature and backed-up by a electorate that can override both if need be.

    If ‘we’ as a nation (UK) are to progress in the evermore competitive world, then we need to accept that the way we are currently governed, both nationally and ‘supra-nationally’, must change.

    Our ‘relationship’ with the EU must change is taken for a given on this blog and elsewhere. But we must also recognize that our membership of such an organisation came about because of the failure of the Democratic process.

    The EU, like much that ails us, is the symptom of the problem. Solving the EU question will not solve the democratic ‘problem’ that this Article basically covers.

    • Acorn
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      I used to think separating the executive was a good idea, now I am not so sure. Interesting that the UK rather than the US system of democracy, is the one that is copied. Perhaps this is as good as it gets. Two sites worth a read:-

      “In fact, most liberal democracies, including the many new governments established in the aftermath of World War II and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, have rejected the presidential model in favor a parliamentary system that features a balance, rather than a separation, of powers between the three branches of government. In particular, parliamentary systems do not observe any separation of legislative and executive power; the same persons hold and exercise both legislative and executive powers. In part, this choice reflects the lessons of history: most presidential systems failed when divided government gave rise to a constitutional crisis.” On the other hand
      “(5) A parliamentary executive has more or less complete control over the legislative work of the legislature. It initiates and pilots all the important measures in the House. A Bill moved by a private member has very little chance of success if it docs not enjoy the support of the ministry. In a presidential form of government, however, the executive has very little direct control over legislation.

      (6) The executive exercises powers of ‘delegated legislation’. The parliament makes laws in general broad terms and delegates the powers to the executive to fill in the details. The power takes the form of rules and regulations issued by the administration under a law of the Parliament. This power has become so enormous that Chief Justice Haldane described it as ‘new despotism.’

      (7) The executive controls the finance, prepares the budget and presents it to the Parliament. No money bill can be introduced in parliaments like those of England and India without the previous consent of the Executive.”

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      “But we must also recognize that our membership of such an organisation came about because of the failure of the Democratic process.”

      Absolutely, which is why I always blame our politicians much more than I do the politicians from other countries.

      There’s a story from yesterday here:

      http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2013/10/brian-monteith-the-government-wants-to-stem-the-flow-of-powers-to-europe-so-whats-it-doing-with-these-smoking-laws.html

      about a minister arranging for an EU Directive in flat defiance of the views of the European Scrutiny Committee.

      She should have been sacked, but apparently she’s been promoted.

    • Mark B
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Wow ! You edited out the bit about the Harrogate Agenda ! Why ?

      Demand Number 3 was not offensive in anyway.

  5. Hope
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Agreed, scrap the coalition as a waste of time and money and let us have an election. The red line for energy to appeaseth e Lib Dems was another folly of Cameron’s negotiation skills. We all pay for his stupidity. Today we learn that NO figures are kept of whether EU migrants claim welfare or benefits. If this is not a reason for sacking or removal what is? May should go, it should not take three and half years to find this out. Incompetence. In your musings when should ministers be held accountable and removed for incompetence, neglect or criminal activity such as corporate manslaughter? We know resigning is almost a thing of the past, early legislation for right to call, promised by Cameron, has not appeared after three and half years, no substantial legislation for cleaning up parliament has also not happened. So how do we get rid of politicians quickly?

  6. alan jutson
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    All commonsense stuff John.

    But perhaps the problem with so many MP’S is that they have had absolutely no experience of either commerce or management previously at all.
    Thus unless they are going to get very significant training (not organised or run by civil service officers) way, way before they are put into such management positions, they will surely fail.

    The answer therefore comes down to the selection of prosed MP’s in the first place, why select people who have absolutely no experience of management, commerce or who are not technical or proffessional in any relevent field.

    It has always amused me that one day you can be in charge of say health, and the next you are the defence or work and pensions expert with a budget of Billions and a workforce of hundreds of thousands, totally relient upon others for information who can easily pull the wool over your eyes, without you even knowing it.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Ken Clarke as Health Minister was never going to inspire confidence.

      • Mark B
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Max, but it would have been an honest reflection on the state of health* of the NHS at the moment.

        *pun intended.
        ….

        When the State calls for defenders, when it calls for money, no consideration of poverty or ignorance can be pleaded, in refusal or delay of the call. Required, as we are universally, to support and obey the laws, nature and reason entitle us to demand that in the making of the laws, the universal voice shall be implicitly listened to. We perform the duties of freemen; we must have the privileges of freemen …

        Extract from the original Chartist petition, 1836

  7. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Parliamentarians, particularly members of the cabinet have a job unlike any other . When they enter the job, it would be fatuous to suppose that they did not understand the terms ,conditions and fragile nature of their employment, but I do agree with you , those who are targeted as poor performers (whether it is true or otherwise) should be given help to execute the job to the best of their ability. Reshuffling means that ministers have to learn all over again and subsequently would take time until they got it any where near right. This is the same as any job though. Most learn by their temporary inadequacies and improve, by asking for second opinions , help or simply asking others do they agree with what line of judgement they have taken. This should be responded to in a positive way , as the request for any of these is a positive step in itself.
    In a clinical setting we do this on a regular basis, it is good practice( although recently there have been those who try to find fault with asking peers views ) We have lives in our hands and to some extent parliamentarians do .Everyone is entitled to help when it is needed and lack of support should not be boxed as inefficiency.

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Is the overt eurofederalist Kenneth Clarke still in the government?

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Yes it seems Clarke and Heseltine still play some role in trying to ensure the Tories are not returned to office. Worse still it seems and (the eurofederalist in his actions) Cameron is still there too but only for 20 more months.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Well, I don’t think they mind the Tories being in office provided that their own longstanding eurofederalist agenda is still advanced. Having lost a lot of ground within their own party, they must see the present coalition with the euromaniac Clegg as a godsend and they would no doubt welcome its continuation in the next Parliament. But I think that on the other hand they would also be reasonably content with Miliband as Prime Minister, which as things stand will be the outcome of the next general election.

        • Hope
          Posted October 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          Do not forget you do not have to be elected to in the cabinet, give the person an undeserving title and, hey presto, they are in government. How many times was Mandelson forced to resign before being given a job in the EU then a title- standards? Why does a press secretary forced to resign get so much time on the BBC? Royal charter has no impact on the BBC.

  9. Gary
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “Government is different.
    It has more power. It has the
    power to take money off people,
    sending them to prison if they
    refuse to pay. It has the power to
    make everyone do as it says, by
    changing the law. It operates on
    a huge scale, affecting directly
    the lives of every single person
    in the country.”

    Enough reason to abolish it. The largest looting machine ever devised has past its sell-by date.

  10. oldtimer
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    This all sounds very sensible, far too sensible to be expected from the greasy pole world of political ambition. The end result is the shambles that successive governments have made of providing or regulating the services that are essential to national life. The very real prospect of power cuts in the next several years is but the latest, scandalous example.

  11. Bryan
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    If the purpose of a reshuffle is to populate the positions with the best available people then the end result should be worth the initial problems.

    If, however, the purpose is to bring about a politically inspired balance of North/South, Black/White, Male/Female, plus ethnic minority interest then the outcome is invariably a disaster for the country.

    UK plc suffers and the populace pay!

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Indeed it is clearly the later, political flower arranging rather like on BBC political programs.

      Efficiency and competence do not seem to be a very high priority.

  12. Bob
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    According to Douglas Carswell “From 1701 until 1918, instead of skipping off to their new department with a grin, the lucky MP had to resign their seat, win a by election – and only then take up their office.”

    “The reshuffle tells us how diminished democracy has become”
    Read more: http://www.talkcarswell.com/home/the-reshuffle-tells-us-how-diminished-democracy/2721

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      From the article cited below, Douglas Carswell has not got it entirely right: according to that discussion of the history of “Office of Profit under the Crown”, from 1867 it was no longer necessary if a minister moved to another department, and the requirement was finally abolished in 1926.

      http://everything2.com/title/Office+of+Profit+under+the+Crown

      “The important point to note is that had the original restriction included in the Act of Settlement remained in force, then no member of the House of Commons would have been able to have accepted office as a Minister of the Crown, which would have enforced a strict separation of the executive from the legislature. As it was the effect of Clause 25 in the Succession to the Crown Act was that any member of the House of Commons who accepted government office was simply obliged to step down from the House and contest a by-election; if victorious at the by-election the individual in question could then continue to serve both as a member of the House and as a minister in compliance with the law. As a result there was a regular succession of by-elections triggered by the requirement for newly appointed ministers to submit themselves for re-election, and indeed between the years 1832 and 1926 there were 677 such by-elections at an average of about seven a year. Eventually the Reform Act 1867 removed the necessity of re-election when a member moved from one office to another, whilst the Re-Election of Ministers Act 1919 made re-election unnecessary within nine months of a general election, and the Re-Election of Ministers Act (1919) Amendment Act 1926 finally abolished the requirement altogether.”

  13. Bert Young
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Long before anyone is selected for a task they should be checked out against carefully chosen criteria . Those responsible for highlighting and agreeing the criteria must be previously experienced and successful individuals ; references should be taken face to face and NEVER by a paper record . Once an appointment is made the same referees should continue to monitor for a reasonable period afterwards and report their findings to the “Chief Executive” . The appointment , once made , should not be changed for at least five years ( unless there was something akin to “misconduct” ). If such a system were in place , it would not be necessary to have the reshuffles that happen in a five year parliament . Having acted in the appointment of Chief Executives , Senior Specialists and a host of other key personnel over a period of 25 years without a “mistake” , I think I can claim I know what I am talking about . Experience does count .

  14. chrisS
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Most of what you suggest is just standard management practice ( often lacking in previous governments, particularly under the last PM )

    However replacing a white, Southern Male minister who has done a satisfactory or good job in post because the PM thinks it would be electorally better to have a Northern Female or a person from an Ethnic Minority in the job would, if it happened in a business, result in legal action and a massive fine. Rightly so.

    But then, hypocrisy and double standards are no strangers to Whitehall, are they ?

  15. Alan Hill
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that most MPs are manifestly unsuitable to be in charge of anything and particularly a department of state.

  16. English Pensioner
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    This reshuffle seems to have been an attempt to please the feminists by putting more women into ministerial posts. But who other than the politically correct minority cares? Certainly my wife and two adult daughters’ take the view that they want the most competent people available to fill the posts and don’t care about sex, racial origins, etc. They just want the best. I am always amazed how individuals can hold high posts, without any grounding in the subject whatsoever, as their Civil Servants, who have the knowledge, can so easily bamboozle them if they wish.

  17. Roy Grainger
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    It is my impression that this government has had less major reshuffles than previous ones with Obsorne, Haig, Duncan Smith and Gove likely to serve out a full 5 year term in their respective major jobs ?

  18. Terry
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Sound comment with good ideas, all from experience in the Private Sector. Alas, the modern day politician has none of this experience and knowledge and doesn’t it show!
    It seems over the past 20 years we have seen the birth of the professional politician who leaves Uni and goes directly into politics. Their feet touching neither a High street nor a Back street in the simplified process.

    I await the day when basic qualifications AND Private Sector experience will be mandatory for a prospective parliamentary candidate, especially those who have Cabinet ambitions.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Some understanding of engineering and science would be good too. And certainly no one with Oxford PPE or Law Degree far too many already. Those with a double first in arts subjects are a rather dodgy too I find, a bit unbalanced, obsessive and out of touch with the real world.

  19. a-tracy
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    When they get demoted is there a bill to the tax payer? Do they get pay in lieu of notice for example, if so how much is it per person? How many reshuffles have there been this parliament and in the case of say Mr Huhne do they get paid compensation for loss of position or not it is through their circumstances?

  20. lojolondon
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Wise words, indeed John.

    Unfortunately this shows there is clearly another case for dismissal of a good Cabinet minister – not female, disabled, brown, young or ‘Northern’ enough….

    • chrisS
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, It’s both racist and sexist.

      But when the victim is a white male nobody cares……………

      Just imagine the outcry from Polly Toynbee and the lovvies at the BBC if a black female minister was being replaced by a white male because the PM thought he would be more electable.

      • lojolondon
        Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I guess you are referring to the unfortunate situation in the Labour party announced yesterday, where the leader of the opposition did not respect one person’s minority status – although she has undermined him pretty effectively, right from the beginning –

  21. uanime5
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    The problem with some ministerial appointments is that people are chosen not because of their skills in a particular area but because of party loyalty or their loyalty to a faction of the party. These ministers usually produce poor policies but are unlikely to be removed.

    In other news the UK has slipped down the OECD literacy and numeracy tables; so now only Spain and Italy have worse literacy rates, while only Spain, Italy and the United States have worse numeracy rates. Most commentators seem to be blaming teachers for this but have missed out two other groups that share responsibility for this.

    Politicians

    Politicians are responsible for setting the national curriculum, which control what is taught in schools, so it’s hardly the fault of teachers that it isn’t rigorous enough. They also tend to change it for political reasons so they can claim they’re fixing education.

    Given that girls have been doing much better than boys for many years this may indicate that the current curriculum is disadvantaging boys in some way. However if politicians don’t investigate this or modify the curriculum there’s little the school can do to try and fix this.

    Politicians have increased class sizes and teacher’s workloads to save money, even though it drastically reduces the quality of the teaching.

    Politicians created the system which trains teachers. At present you need to spend 3 years getting a degree, pay for a teacher training course, then work for free for a year. So it’s no surprise that most graduates don’t become teachers since it will cost them so much money, whereas any other job will result in them earning money as soon as they start.

    Politicians judged schools bases on a narrow criteria, which discourages schools from teaching anything other than the test.

    Businesses

    Employers tend to demand that people follow a career path from low paid jobs to better paid jobs irrespective of education. So once a person has the minimum education they need to get the basic job they have no incentive to learn anything more because it won’t help them get a better job. As long as getting an education isn’t considered as valuable as work experience people have no incentive to get an education.

    The 1 million unemployed 16-24 year olds aren’t using their literacy and numeracy skills, so these skills will decline. Forcing them to pick up litter and job search all day won’t fix this problem.

    Conclusion

    As long as politicians only blame schools but don’t change their own faulty behaviour or change how businesses operate to encourage education, rather than discourage it, the UK’s educational standards will continue to decline.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      You are quite right. It is never the mass of plodding job-for-life mediocrities masquerading as teachers who are to blame is it?

      • Edward2
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

        Indeed Max all teachers need for perfection in education to be achieved is more and more money, less hours and no performance analysis nor performance related pay.

      • uanime5
        Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

        Well the given that the curriculum is controlled by politicians; along with all the teacher training and performance reviews for schools …

        • Edward2
          Posted October 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          Fortunately in private schools (and to a lesser amount in free schools and the new acadamies) they can develop their own curriculum and employ teachers who have not been through the usual State organised teacher training waste of time.
          And pay their staff more than the union negotiated national agreements.
          The results are very good. Perhaps there is a connection.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      Uanime5 – At least you now admit that our educational standards are falling. You admit that the inexorable rise in top GCSE results is bogus and that Labour inflated grades.

      Thank you.

      Your post is far too analytical. This was a measure of basic literacy and numeracy. What has basic literacy and numeracy to do with businesses and politicians ?

      Are you seriously suggesting that teachers nowadays can’t teach basic literacy and numeracy ?

      “Forcing them to pick up litter won’t solve this problem.”

      Let’s put them back in classes then. And incentivise them to learn within a given timescale or else they lose benefits.

      What bothers me most is that we are not going to be fit enough to pay our way and maintain our standard of living – because softies like you, Uanime5 have held too much sway.

      Mr Redwood. Perhaps a post explaining to us that it is not over for us and that there is hope might be in order.

      • uanime5
        Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        At least you now admit that our educational standards are falling. You admit that the inexorable rise in top GCSE results is bogus and that Labour inflated grades.

        I never admitted any of the things you claim. It’s entirely possible that the increase in better grades is due to better teaching and that other countries have simply had greater increases due to greater improvements in their teaching. Think of it as a sprinter shaving 2 seconds off their best time but still losing to someone who shaved 5 seconds off their best time.

        Are you seriously suggesting that teachers nowadays can’t teach basic literacy and numeracy ?

        16-25 year olds will need to know more than basic literacy and numeracy if they’re to compete with 16-25 year olds in other countries.

        Let’s put them back in classes then. And incentivise them to learn within a given timescale or else they lose benefits.

        You can’t claim benefits if you study for more than 16 hours per week and classes cost money, so the unemployed will suffer two detriments if they go into education. Unless they’re offered free education and benefits they won’t go into education.

        One of the reasons people live on benefits all their life is that you’re often punished if you ever try to do anything that will make your more employable.

  22. Mike Wilson
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Talking about results, I am intrigued as to why this government has done NOTHING to curb public spending.

    On LBC the other night, Nick Abbot (DJ) read out a list of salaries earned by managers in the NHS. It made depressing listening.

    There is a huge raft of public sector managers earning huge salaries and pensions – yet not one single thing has been done to cut spending. In 2010, after the election, you could have said:

    ‘We are borrowing 150 thousand, million pounds a year at the moment. This CANNOT continue. Salaries for senior managers in the public sector have been allowed to explode – we HAVE to reverse this. We are not a company, we are a government. People think a government cannot become bankrupt. What do people think will happen if people decide to stop lending us money because we cannot control our borrowing? Answer, the government will go broke. We CANNOT allow this to happen. We have to reduce spending within (say) 2 years to have a balanced budget. The gravy train is over. We can’t afford to give some public sector workers 60% final salary, indexed linked pensions – allowing them to retire in their 50s and, perhaps, pick up their pension for another 40 years. WE JUST CANNOT AFFORD THIS ANY MORE.

    So, this is what is going to happen …

    Yes, you’d have had a fight with the unions. But you’d have had the country behind you. Everyone knew we were in a hole and that belts had to be tightened. You could have used this to take an axe to the bits of the public sector we don’t need – the famous ‘non jobs’ and the quangos. (I know of one quango that has gone – the staff have all been absorbed into another organisation.)

    Pathetic.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      “In 2010, after the election, you could have said:

      ‘We are borrowing 150 thousand, million pounds a year at the moment. This CANNOT continue … ”

      If that had been repeatedly said, very loudly and clearly, and in different ways, during 2009 and early 2010 then voters would have gone into the election with some understanding of just how economically and financially disastrous the Labour government had been; and the Labour party would have been punished with the loss of far more seats, and the Tories would have got an overall majority; and then the LibDems would not have been able to prevent the Tory government making the boundary changes; and so the Tory party would now have some chance of winning the next general election, as it would no longer need to be about 6% ahead of Labour in the polls just to get a majority…

      But it would also have been necessary to explain to the public that the Labour government had hit on the cunning plan of using the QE “money-go-round” to fund its budget deficit, and without the Bank of England rigging the gilts market it would have been unable to borrow as much as it needed, and so it would have been forced into immediate and drastic public spending cuts rather than putting the pain off until after the election so that the next government could take the blame.

      I did warn about this at the time.

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Mike

      Agree

      So much Pussy footing around, may as well have No10’s cat in charge, at least he would have an excuse.

  23. John Eustace
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Well written and not a word that any sensible person could disagree with. Given the importance of the topic I hope you will continue to make these points at every opportunity.

  24. Antisthenes
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    What you are advocating here is already practiced in the private sector. The government, politicians, quangos and public sector organisations generally do not have much incentive to do as you suggest. And generally speaking those chosen to be in charge do not have the expertise, impartiality or intellect to manage them properly certainly those on the left do not and only a few on the right do. The Royal Mail for example is being privatized because of EU pressure (not many people know that or at least admit it) but also because most sane people, which of course does not include those on the left, recognize that it will run more efficiently in private hands. For your ideas to work then politicians should not be in charge of government. The executive and parliament should be separate, not based on the US model either, but with an executive that owes their position on how good they are at their job not what bribes they have offered to gain them.

  25. Acorn
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    “The Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s official forecaster, said that the compensation [Payment Protection Insurance] was so big it would provide “some short-term support to household consumption growth.” One economist, Alan Clarke at Scotiabank, says the compensation payments have been more successful at stimulating the U.K. economy than quantitative easing. U.K. lenders have already paid £11.5 billion ($18.7 billion) to millions of customers, and have set aside another £7.3 billion for future payments. (WSJ)

    Strike one for the little guys I say, whoopie. Unfortunately,this £19 billion of what is diverted QE courtesy of the BoE, will in no way compensate for the billions Osborne has taken out of the economy via deficit reducing Austerity. Or the billions taken out by the BoE collecting all the interest payments on its QE swaps, that have ended up substituting for non-existent capital on banksters balance sheets.

    PPI compensation is effectively “fiscal stimulus” it has worked exactly like an increase in government spending. It has gone directly into households; a lot of it will get spent buying stuff which directly stimulates shops and factories; exactly what the UK needs, now, if not sooner. We are in a “demand side” recession, not a “supply side” recession, monetary stimulus, that is QE, does not relieve a demand side household economic constipation; due to fear of unemployment and not being able to pay off your debts.

    The UK has the rest of its life to reduce its, so called, national debt. Not that anyone would care if we didn’t. All of the governments debt is held by we the people, pound for pound, as financial assets in our pension funds and a hundred other depositories. Frankly, I would like to keep my share of it as it is paying a nice bit of interest, in a currency that some would consider is currently overvalued.

  26. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I must admit that the prospect of having Teresa May as permanent Home Secretary is pleasing. She is one of the regiment of women who is not monstrous.

  27. philip riley
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Well it clearly isn’t working under Cameron, if it was, you would be in Government yourself, you have knowledge, experience, and I don’t know for certain , but I’d guess you’ve forgotten more than what a lot of our present ministers know.
    Very depressed about the present Government.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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