Conservative Diary

Quangocracy et al

12 Nov 2012 07:30:40

We already have OFFA. Now its time for OFUC - to boost the number of Conservatives on public bodies

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-11-09 at 09.19.18

Quoting figures from the Public Appointments Commissioner's Annual Report, Tim Montgomerie recently highlighted the worsening under-representation of Conservatives on public bodies.  Look at the table above: ten times as large a percentage of appointees are declaring a Labour political background as a Tory one (and the Liberal Democrats are doing even worse).  The trend over ten years is clearly worrying from a Conservative point of view.  Some signed-up Tories blame Downing Street for not getting a grip; some Ministers blame signed-up Tories for simply not applying. ConservativeHome is doing its bit, running pieces by Roger Evans and our own Harry Phibbs on how to apply for appointments.

As I read them, something began to nag at my memory.  A fact?...A figure?...A name? A name!  That was it. Les Ebdon!

Continue reading "We already have OFFA. Now its time for OFUC - to boost the number of Conservatives on public bodies" »

26 Oct 2012 14:51:53

What Ministers should do about appointments

Screen shot 2012-10-26 at 13.05.37
By Paul Goodman
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Tim Montgomerie and Fraser Nelson both wrote this morning about trade unions, charities, funding and appointments.

I want to concentrate on that last item - on the Government and patronage.

The failure of Conservatives to apply...

From the point of view of Tim, Fraser, and the Taxpayers Alliance (the source of the illustration above), the careless with patronage by the Government is a serious problem.

But there is another side of the story.

Continue reading "What Ministers should do about appointments" »

26 Oct 2012 08:23:52

In the last year five times more Labour people were appointed to public bodies than Tories

By Tim Montgomerie
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Since the Coalition was formed David Cameron has been remarkably keen on appointing political opponents to positions of power and influence. The most notorious example was the PM's decision to appoint Will Hutton to oversee a Coalition inquiry into public sector pay differentials. Again and again good Conservatives (including Tory MPs) - who served the party so loyally in opposition - have been looked over. An analysis of publicly available appointments data by the TaxPayers' Alliance suggests that Mr Cameron's failure to grip public appointments is a widespread problem:

  • In the last year in which John Major was in office 57% people who were appointed to a public position and had a known political allegiance were Conservatives*. 32% were Labour and 5% were Liberal Democrats.
  • One year after Tony Blair came to power he reversed this situation and some. The percentage of Labour appointees was up to 75% and the Tory percentage slumped to 13%.
  • In the last full year of Labour's time in power 70% of people with a political allegiance winning public positions were aligned to Labour. Just 16% were Conservative and 11% were Liberal Democrats.
  • The latest data suggests that we may have a Tory Prime Minister but you wouldn't realise if you looked at the ratio of Labour to Tory appointments. 77% of people who have political backgrounds who are getting appointed to public bodies are allied to Labour. The Tory percentage is at a miserable 14%. The LibDem percentage is even worse. After hitting 12% in the Coalition's first full year the LibDems are down to 4%.

Continue reading "In the last year five times more Labour people were appointed to public bodies than Tories" »

27 Sep 2012 11:05:17

The Coalition is not doing enough to end the equalities industry - tackling it would be a social and economic good

By Matthew Barrett
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Amidst all the talk of "going for growth", Lib Dem "hate taxes on the rich", and difficult decisions for Ministers having to reduce their budgets, there is one large, flabby area of government which has been insufficiently tackled, but which could be cut down to size easily, popularly, and with huge benefits for society: the equalities sector.

As people working in the private sector - the real economy - knows, hundreds of millions of pounds are wasted on having to comply with equalities regulations, and millions more are spent on funding equalities professionals - unproductive individuals. The Treasury ought to see cutting down on this pernicious aspect of the Whitehall establishment as a priority, not just to save money on those employed to collect meaningless data, but to create the conditions necessary for small and medium-sized businesses to power the recovery.

The idea of having an equalities sector is out-dated. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, when race relations were considered poor, and legislation like the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and '68 were passed, one could see there was some logic in ensuring government adhered to the principle of racial equality it had legislated for. Race relations improved in the second half of the 1980s and 1990s (when, un-coincidentally, a Conservative immigration existed), but, perversely, the 1980s Labour left saw "diversity", "equality", and other such Guardian buzzwords, as a fundamental part of what Labour should believe in, which led to the expansion of the equalities sector when Labour entered office in 1997.

Continue reading "The Coalition is not doing enough to end the equalities industry - tackling it would be a social and economic good" »

17 Jun 2012 09:32:50

The Cabinet Office note that bars Ministers from attending Olympic freebies

By Paul Goodman
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Do you believe that being a Minister is a passport to a life of soaring pay and unending freebies?  Think again.

  • Ministers have had their pay cut by 5%, and it's to be frozen for five years.
  • Most Ministers no longer have an allocated car and driver.  The first line of the meritable Nick Herbert's interview with the Times (£) on Saturday was: "'I’ve got two jobs, one salary and no car,'” he says.  The detail was lost amid the frenzy about the Home Office Minister's remarks on gay marriage and an EU referendum, but it was a sign of the times (small t).

“The presumption for all invitations should be that they are declined. Should you feel there is an exceptional case to justify attendance it will need to be supported by a business case and to come to the Cabinet Office for approval (who in turn will liaise with DCMS).”

Continue reading "The Cabinet Office note that bars Ministers from attending Olympic freebies" »

9 Jun 2012 07:43:22

Special Advisers mustn't become pawns on Sir Jeremy Heywood's board

By Paul Goodman
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The head of the civil service wants Spads to report to mandarins as well as Ministers...

Screen shot 2012-06-09 at 07.01.34In his subversive account of the fall of the Conservative Party during the 1990s, "Guilty Men", Hwyel Williams draws a verbal cartoon of the special advisers (Spads) of the period, comparing them to dogs which look like their masters.  In doing so, he makes a serious point which is as true now as it was then: namely, that since Spads are by definition political appointees, and no Secretary of State can be quite the same as another, they can only be pasteurised and homogenised up to a point. Some will do serious policy work (among these he names David Ruffley, who worked at the time for Ken Clarke). Others will deal with the media.  Many will be somewhere in between.  The only task they will all have in common is to guard their Secretary of State's back.

The civil service has never been comfortable with Spads.  Some mandarins welcome them, because their presence can minimise disagreements about what is and isn't political work and, therefore, rows about what civil servants should and shouldn't be asked to do by Ministers.  But most have always been suspicious of Spads, for the bottom-line reason that they don't and can't control them.  This is exactly what Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, apparently wants to change.  To cut a long story short, the Times (£) has reported that he has seized on the errors of Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt's former, over the BSkyB bid to push for Spads to report to mandarins rather than Ministers.  And hey presto, the problem of those pesky political appointees answering to Sir Humphrey rather than Jim Hacker would thus be solved.

Continue reading "Special Advisers mustn't become pawns on Sir Jeremy Heywood's board" »

20 May 2012 11:00:47

The uses and abuse of Steve Hilton

By Paul Goodman
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Every boy and every girl, That's born into the world alive...

HILTON STEVEThere are as many ideas about what politics is as there are people to conceive them, but here are two.  The first is that the reach of politics is unlimited: that it is capable of ushering in the perfect society, or something very close to it.  The second is that the reach of politics is limited: that it doesn't transfigure the depths of the human heart, and thus can't bring about that perfect society.  It can only make things a little bit better, or a bit less bad.  The first sees politics as a form of social engineering; the second as a kind of human artefact.  The first sees it as a science; the second as an art.

Socialists, international and national, tend to lean in the first direction and conservatives and liberals (classical ones, anyway) plump strongly for the second, but what shapes the flavour of a person's politics is less belief than sensibility - temperament, taste and, in the Burkean sense of the word, prejudice: I have known libertarians so dazzled by ideas that theirs have come to have the smell of ideology.  Steve Hilton is not a libertarian, but his politics has about a religious flavour, a messianic zeal, unique among the Ed Llewellyns and Andrew Coopers and Patrick Rocks and other worldly creatures who make up Team Cameron.

Continue reading "The uses and abuse of Steve Hilton" »

17 Feb 2012 08:00:02

It's Day Two of Maude's axe-swinging exploits (as the Mail questions his claims on Day One)

By Paul Goodman
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Today's Times (£) reports the latest exploits of Mad Frankie Maude, the crazed axeman of Whitehall:

"More than £5 billion of efficiency savings will be made across Whitehall by this April through cutting spending on property, IT and consultancy, ministers will announce today. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will disclose that during the first eight months of the year, the Government has found £3.25 billion of savings."

Maude says that projected savings for the full year are now anticipated to be about £5 billion and that this sum will dwarfed the £3.75 million savings made last year.

The Daily Mail, however, suggests that the Cabinet Office Minister is deeply sane and that his axe has as much bite as a toothpick:

"While it is true that civil service numbers – those working directly for government departments – have fallen in recent years, the numbers working for quangos and national agencies has mushroomed...In fact, the true figures reveal that the number of people working for central government is still far higher than it was when Tony Blair took office."

Could the Mail be miffed because the Telegraph had the original story yesterday (together with a comment piece by Maude)?  This is the way it sometimes goes with newspapers, I'm afraid.  More importantly, what's the truth of the matter?  Is the Cabinet Office Minister really cleaving through the red tape or not?

Continue reading "It's Day Two of Maude's axe-swinging exploits (as the Mail questions his claims on Day One)" »

17 Dec 2011 07:37:51

Francis Maude gets new powers to speed up the bonfire of the quangos

By Matthew Barrett
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MAUDE FRANCIS AT LECTURNThe Daily Telegraph reports today on Paymaster General, Francis Maude's bonfire of the quangos, which followed the Government's review of all public bodies in October 2010. So far, progress has been as fast as expected. The Telegraph says:

  • Of the 199 quangos that were set to be axed, just 53 had been abolished.
  • Only one of 120 bodies which was due to be merged – postal watchdog Postcomm – has been merged.
  • Only a single quango out of another 176 bodies which were set for reform has actually been reformed.

However, the Telegraph's story also contains good news: the bonfire of the quangos has been given some much needed petrol, in the form of the Public Bodies Act, which was granted Royal Assent on Wednesday. This Act (which can be read in full here) was made necessary because quangos that were established by Acts of Parliament needed new legislation in order to reform, merge or scrap them - a process which has now been made much easier. 

Continue reading "Francis Maude gets new powers to speed up the bonfire of the quangos" »

3 Nov 2010 20:52:32

There's a link between today's mudslinging...and the Coalition's special adviser cull

by Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 20.36.10 Billingsgate filth-slinging at Westminster today.

Splat!  Ed Miliband hurled a handful of mud at David Cameron today, accusing him of putting his personal photographer on the Government payroll.  Paul Staines agreed.  Paul Waugh pointed out that Downing Street claimed that it had tried to put him on a CCHQ salary.  Olly Grender said the arrangement shouldn't have been made.  Paul Waugh came back with news that a videographer was on the payroll as well, that Downing Street said that this arrangement was cheaper than hiring freelance workers, and that Michael Dugher, a new Labour MP and former Downing Street spokesman was pushing the issue.

Plop! By the late afternoon CCHQ was slinging back, pointing out that Gordon Brown hired an image consultant.  Roughly an hour ago, it put a figure on Labour spending on photographs and videos - £500,000.  Sayeeda Warsi issued a press release to that effect, also stating that Brown's image consultant cost some £40,000.  Michael Crick recently posted an blog entry stating that "In the past political parties would have retained some of their staff simply by...appointing them as special advisers. That's more difficult now, however, as the government has committed itself in the Coalition Agreement to "put a limit on the number on Special Advisers" [sic]."

Grender and others were concerned that Labour's gambit of turning the "personal photographer" into a totemic image of Cameron's Downing Street might work.  I suspect that it won't, and that Downing Street/CCHQ have enough mud in the locker to turn this into a no-score draw - another Westminster village story that most voters will greet, if aware of it at all, with shrugs of cynical indifference.

Crick's viewed by some Conservatives as a hostile commentator, but I think there's something in his point about special advisers.  Tim has argued previously that the restriction on their number is politically foolish and economically marginal.  I referred to the move as a form of unilateral disarmament, while he said that reversing the decision should be the Coalition's first U-turn.

All in all, exchanges of epic squalor.