Last week The Institute for Government and the Health Foundation brought Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, together with three of his predecessors to discuss the “toughest job in government”. IfG Senior Fellow Nicholas Timmins asked the questions, drawing on his new book Glaziers & Window Breakers: the role of the Secretary of State for Health published by the Health Foundation.
Being a politician is hard work, but becoming a minister and getting to grips with Whitehall is a whole other challenge. Yet there is remarkably little support and advice in place to help them manage this transition.
British audiences love Aussie soaps. And a classic one is playing out down under right now as Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempts to fend off a leadership challenge triggered by the impact of some disastrous ‘captain’s calls’ which underline the importance of getting prime ministerial style right.
We tend to decry the modern focus on prime ministerial personality but panelists at our session discussing leadership from Disraeli and Gladstone to Brown and Cameron all emphasised the extent to which personality has always been a key factor in successful political leadership.
The maple leaves were out in force in Trafalgar Square earlier this week to celebrate Canada Day – the same day as the UK’s most famous Canadian import, newly appointed Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney gave his staff a shock by turning up for work before 7.00 a.m. But will we widen the search and pay what it takes for other big public sector jobs?
Much has been made of Mrs Thatcher’s status as the first woman Prime Minister – and the fact that since her time, many more women have been elected to the House of Commons. But she was also the only scientist to be Prime Minister. And on that she remains very much the exception not the rule.
Margaret Thatcher was, above all, an effective Prime Minister. In all the flood of tributes, both admirers and critics agree that she got things done. She did not just want to hold office, but to use it. She did not just hoard political capital, she risked it, generally to advantage. She changed the political landscape and the terms of debate not only during the eleven and a half years of her premiership but for nearly two decades afterwards.