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I agree. Without political appointments the civil service will delay, misinterpret, bureaucratise and otherwise frustrate a minister's agenda.

The quality of people surrounding some of our lead MPs is nothing short of appalling.

The thought of some of them being allowed to do anything is awful.

Yes, Ministers need twice the staff. I know Australian ministers have a lot more (hence why there are so many unemployed Liberals at the moment!).

Absolutely spot on Editor. The gap between what the electorate has been promised and what happens in reality has surely never ever been wider.
However I am not at all sure about allowing party appointees to have authority over civil servants. Alistair Campbell did and look what happened!!
Don't know much about Bush's faith based programme but I do remember Margaret Thatchers governments radical ideas being pushed through by force of personality and intellectual rigour against a somewhat sceptical civil service. That can be repeated surely.

MikeA: I may not have been precise enough. I don't want political appointees to implement everything themselves but to maintain an active interest in everything for busy ministers.

Malcolm Dunn: It's true that Margaret Thatcher achieved many things but huge parts of Whitehall were untouched by her. Throughout the Tory years we also kept appointing left-liberals to the key quangoes from the National Council for One Parent Families to the Arts Council. Labour are ruthless at putting their people in the right jobs. We must be, too.

Well perhaps I'm being naive but I would hope that we appointed people to quangoes because of the experience they bring to the job not their political affiliation.
You must admit Tim, Alistair Campbell and Jonathan Powell damaged the government, the civil service and politics in this country.Most people are cynical about politics and many do not vote, I'm not sure how appoinying political apparatchiks to executive positions will help change that.

Good idea from CCHQ to have an Implementation Office, although what Nick Boles is supposed to know about the inner workings of Whitehall is beyond me. We have plenty of people around who were capable of running their departments well - Steve Norris and Kenneth Baker spring to mind, as well as former senior civil servants like Douglas Hurd and Andrew Lansley (and no doubt many more in the party who never tried to be MPs).

However, the Editor is simply wrong if he believes that the Civil Service still operates a la 'Yes Minister' trying to stand in the way of Ministers. Speak to civil servants nearing retirement and they'll tell you the place has changed beyond all recognition and there is no attempt to 'block' Ministers at all. The problem is one of effective management. To quote John Redwood talking about Ministers in his blog: "Few of them seem to understand how to motivate civil servants and quango staff. Few of them seem to manage the spending of money and the use of other resources in the way they should. Most seem to concentrate on press relations and trying to manage the reporting of unsatisfactory outcomes, instead of concentrating on creating more and better outcomes from the spending, the legislation and the other decisions they make."

Enthusiastic ideologically charged politicians apparatchiks who weren't able to get elected to Parliament will be no better at managing Departments than the Ministers who did manage to get elected.

Drop this absurd idea now please.

Adam in London at 17.44; absolutely correct when you say:

"The problem is one of effective management".

Thank goodness the Party is now waking up to the fact that process underpins government and I have been battering away at this point for a year or more on ConHome (I expect Tim is fed up with reiterating it).

The problem as I see it with the civil service is now twofold (i) Blair's government politicised it and (ii) the introduction of PC attitudes has largely ruined the quality of service (vide The Home Office).

DC once promised a Civil Service Act a - laudable enough idea - but it won't in itself make staff more efficient or reintroduce the requisite standard of care in dealing with highly confidential information.

Only half jokingly did I suggest recently setting up a parallel civil service cabinet comprised of hand-picked top civil servants who would be independent of government but duty bound to serve the elected government of the day to the best of their ability.

It would be their function to select, train up and manage the performance of lower grade civil servants to run the various ministries with far fewer staff than at present and with far greater accountability than obtains at present.

That would reduce numbers over a period and then maybe the work of government could proceed rather more smoothly again.

I don't think having political appointments means that the civil service would just become the home of failed politicians.

In the USA, the President appoints members of the Supreme Court. George W. Bush has appointmented John Roberts and Samuel Alito - two men who are both well qualified for their role, and favourable to conservative political views:

"..[John Roberts] is described as reliably conservative and some of his judgments on the appeals court suggest that he takes a traditional view of the law and the constitution. But he is also acknowledged to be extremely able, with a sharp analytical mind...." -- Gerard Baker in The Times

"...Judge Alito was unanimously rated "well qualified" to fill the Associate Justice post by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, which measures the professional qualifications of a nominee. The committee rates judges as "not qualified," "qualified," or "well qualified."[20]...

...In his first Term, Alito voted fairly conservatively.... While Alito's voting record is conservative, he does not always join the most conservative Justices on the Court...." -- Wikipedia

Sorry to be a bore but can I suggest that part of the problem Cameron will have in convincing the electorate he can implement policies is the impression most voters have of poor government during the 18 years. Most of it is myths but Labour push it all the time (even yesterday Brown wriggled at a question by going on about Cameron's connection to Black Wednesday) and will continue until the Conservatives start defending their record. "Decontaminate" these myths and the job of looking as if you can implement will become much easier.

Gordon Brown's mantra is:

consultation, consultation, consultation

What we need is another Bernard Ingham!

Does the Editor wish for a return to the dark days where the Alistair Campbells of politics can give orders directly to civil servants?

The chain of command is:

\ /
Civil Servants

and should be no other way. certainly have political appointees working alongside, maybe even scrutinising and reporting back to ministers, but not direct control

Regarding Bernard Ingham, I loved the way he took on Zac Goldsmith over nuclear power the other day (Newsnight I think). Zac being in a debate about nuclear power is simply asking for trouble and whoever put him forward needs to be shot post haste...

The Conservatives should pledge to abolish these Regional Ministers (if they havent already). I was flicking through a list of these RMs and some of them are already hold significant Ministerial positions (Liam Byrne and Caroline Flint for example). Apart from the clear bias that that could put on their proper Ministerial roles (at a national level), surely this would harm the amount of time they have to spend with their families? Labour cant be thats strapped for numbers that they are forced to hand out two Ministerial posts per MP?

Blair came into government without a clue what to do or how to do it. Cameron et al will have to convince voters that not only is he a serious politician, his policies are properly constructed, affordable and will make a genuine difference to our lives. That is a lot more than Blair ever had to do, so the shadow cabinet will have their work cut out on this one.

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