A fair assessment of management in Government

As a successful businessman Digby Jones should know a thing or two about management. A former GOAT – part of Labour’s Government of All Talents – Lord Jones recalled on his time in Whitehall by saying that some ministers were not fit to govern. After Jacqui Smith’s confession that she lacked any knowledge of running a large organisation, Lord Jones offered a definitive assessment:

"By her own admission, Ms Smith had never run a major organisation. Actually, as a former teacher from Redditch she'd never run anything at all. With no training or experience, she had taken up the reins of the third great office of state. Expecting her to deliver in the post of home secretary without a scintilla of experience or training was not only unfair on her but damaging to all of us.”

His comments resonate with The TaxPayers’ Alliance Better Government position paper – ministers are too often inexperienced and lack the credentials to take on such important jobs:

“Politicians have little or no management experience. Typically their experience is as lawyers, teachers or professional politicians…It is unthinkable that Barclays Bank, ICI or Rolls Royce would recruit a chief executive who had no management experience…”

If a person is inexperienced in managing a large organisation, how can they be expected to control a huge Government department? As Lord Jones said, this is unfair on all parties, including the unfortunate individual who is promoted beyond their experience and talent.

He also believes that the all-too-frequent cabinet reshuffles do nothing for stability:

"With the average length of service in ministerial jobs being 18 months, is it any wonder that our civil service runs the country with 'here today and gone tomorrow ministers' merely ambitious, confused, frustrated, worried and overworked spectators at the feast?"

This is a sensible evaluation, and again echoes our Better Government stance:

“It is unthinkable that a company could be successful if it replaced its leader every two years. Yet this is the system of government.”

Government departments carry out vital work. It is therefore essential that competent and experienced people run them appropriately.

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