Interviews on how to be effective in Government

This Institute for Government archive records – in former ministers’ own words – what it takes to be an effective government minister, the challenges they face, and what more can be done to support them.

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Minister Conservative

Gregory
Barker

Gregory Barker

"I found the fact that the civil servants changed so frequently really frustrating"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Jeremy
Browne

Jeremy Browne

"When I started the week of the election in 2010, my ambition for the week was to try and get re-elected"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Paul
Burstow

Paul Burstow

"I suspect no Liberal Democrat minister would say that they were well prepared, no"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Vince
Cable

Vince Cable

"The legitimacy of the Coalition rested on the fact that there was a sense of an emergency"

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Minister Conservative

Kenneth
Clarke

Kenneth Clarke

"I didn’t bother with the grid and asking permission and all this rubbish"

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Minister Conservative

Jonathan
Djanogly

Jonathan Djanogly

"I had a very reforming role... in two and half years we had a significant court reform"

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Minister Conservative

Alan
Duncan

Alan Duncan

"You get no tuition in how to be a minister... it means some are good at it and quite a lot are not"

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Minister Conservative

Iain
Duncan
Smith

Iain Duncan Smith

"The artificial divide... over policy and implementation now needs to be broken down"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Lynne
Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone

"You have to lead an insurgency if you are a Lib Dem in your own department"

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Minister Conservative

Liam
Fox

Liam Fox

"We were able to restructure what was an utterly dysfunctional department and continue operating"

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Minister Conservative

Edward
Garnier

Edward Garnier

"...the role of the law officer is not to say 'no' but ‘Why don’t we think about doing it this way?'"

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Minister Conservative

Damian
Green

Damian Green

"One should never underestimate the importance of personal relationships in government’s decisions"

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Minister Conservative

Lord
(Stephen)
Green

Lord (Stephen) Green

"...the experience of the trade minister is different from being the Lords minister in other departments"

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Minister Conservative

Dominic
Grieve

Dominic Grieve

"The Attorney has to have a broad back – there is no doubt that is one of the necessary attributes"

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Minister Conservative

Stephen
Hammond

Stephen Hammond

"Junior ministers tend to be the workhorses of the department"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Nick
Harvey

Nick Harvey

"I was very impressed by the calibre of people in the Civil Service and in the Armed Forces"

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Minister Conservative

Oliver
Heald

Oliver Heald

"We can give very good legal advice, the definitive view pretty quickly"

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Minister Conservative

Mark
Hoban

Mark Hoban

"You can do quite a lot as a minister and quite a lot as a junior minister"

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Minister Conservative

Lord
Howell

Lord Howell

"You have got to be working with people in Parliament and you’ve got to have them on your side"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Simon
Hughes

Simon Hughes

"We had controversial legislation and lots of other controversial issues in the MoJ"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Chris
Huhne

Chris Huhne

"There were a couple of big departmental crises while I was the Secretary of State"

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Minister Conservative

David
Jones

David Jones

"As a Wales Office minister, you’re essentially involved in a constitutional exercise and a PR exercise"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Baroness
Kramer

Baroness Kramer

"We pretty much made collective decisions on HS2. Decisions really were based on analysis and evidence"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

David
Laws

David Laws

"you want a system where civil servants are confident enough to bring you ideas, to challenge ministers"

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Minister Conservative

Lord
Livingston

Lord Livingston

"...it was a shock and a surprise to me...every time I stood up in the House of Lords"

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Minister Conservative

Tim
Loughton

Tim Loughton

"The biggest challenge I think was challenging the Civil Service in the way they did things"

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Minister Conservative

Lord
Marland

Lord Marland

"The very easy bit was running the department... The difficult bit was standing up in the House of Lords"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Lord
McNally

Lord McNally

“Whitehall is a jungle and you’ve got to be able to stand up for yourself and take people with you”

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Minister Conservative

Andrew
Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell

"We needed to justify the fact that this department had a ring-fenced budget"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Michael
Moore

Michael Moore

"You can’t escape the fact that there needs to be more accountability for ministers to their peers"

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Minister Conservative

Robert
Neill

Robert Neill

"You can't stop making the argument for what you're doing"

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Minister Conservative

Mark
Prisk

Mark Prisk

“It’s about setting the direction rather than trying to run everything”

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Minister Conservative

Hugh
Robertson

Hugh Robertson

“The Olympics is probably a test case in how you ought to do these things”

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Minister Conservative

Caroline
Spelman

Caroline Spelman

"We had to come up with spending cuts of the order of 30% within five weeks of taking office"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Jo
Swinson

Jo Swinson

"There is no one way to be a minister and the best thing is to use your skills and your own strengths"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Lord
(Jim)
Wallace

Lord (Jim) Wallace

"If you’re appearing in the House, the Commons or Lords, or Scottish Parliament, be well prepared"

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Minister Liberal Democrat

Steve
Webb

Steve Webb

“For me, an effective minister has dialogue; is not a dictator, is able to hear challenging voices"

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Minister Conservative

David
Willetts

David Willetts

"Part of the job at the beginning was to keep the Coalition on the road"

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Minister Conservative

George
Young

George Young

"If there is a problem, tell the Prime Minister. They don’t like being caught on the hop"

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