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Does Francis Maude still plan to appoint BP's Lord Browne as a Whitehall chief?

3.15pm update: This profile of Lord Browne from The Spectator has just been brought to my attention.Key quote:

"Browne’s casualties included BP’s engineers. Hundreds were fired and replaced by subcontractors. Just as ExxonMobil was hiring engineers because ‘drilling is the core of our business’, Browne was ditching BP’s in-house expertise, which could second-guess every technical operation on land and under the sea. This saved money but changed BP’s culture. Instead of oil engineering, Brown pursued financial engineering."


ConservativeHome understands that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has caused the Government to stall plans to recruit former BP CEO Lord Browne as a Whitehall supremo. Fairly or unfairly, Browne's reputation for cost-cutting while at BP's helm has been blamed for many of the oil company's safety lapses.

Francis Maude - then co-ordinating the Conservatives' preparations for government - approached Lord Browne before the election as part of a worthy ambition to use private sector CEOs to assist the re-engineering of Whitehall.

Sky News' Mark Kleinman reported that other business leaders in Mr Maude's sights included Richard Baker, former chief executive of Alliance Boots; Sir Roy Gardner, former boss of Centrica; John Gildersleeve of New Look; Anthony Habgood of Reed Elsevier; and Sir Nigel Rudd of BAA.

Lord Browne, who was appointed by Gordon Brown to examine the future of university funding, may now be too hot too handle. In any case, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has insisted - according to the FT's Sue Cameron - that these appointments must all be properly advertised.

4603476014_8e276d31d4 Mr Maude, now Minister for the Cabinet Office, does not have a good record in this regard. He appointed his friend and ally Nicholas Boles to run the Implementation Unit without advertising the vacancy. With Mr Boles now an MP Maude has appointed TV presenter Kris Murrin as head of the Prime Minister's Implementation Unit. Again without the post being advertised, Ms Murrin will pick up a taxpayer-funded salary of up to £150,000. Her '?What If!' consultancy, reports Ms Cameron, "talks about creative behaviours including “freshness, greenhousing and realness”. She also goes in for role playing, where people are asked to pretend they are beansprouts and oil in a wok." She's clearly the best beansprout for the job.

Because of the strict limit on Special Advisers, friends of the Cameron circle are being appointed to the civil service. Last week, for example, the Tories' head of new media, Rishi Saha, became Deputy Director of Communications at Downing Street.

Tim Montgomerie


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