Last week’s reshuffle left the Government with a cabinet that is 85% male, with female secretaries of state in mostly marginal positions covering 8% of departmental spend. This raised questions yet again about the under-representation of women in politics. But with a commitment from the prime minister to righting his 'women problem', can we expect better in future?
Recent departures of high profile senior civil servants for no obvious reason have perplexed those who like a good row or an indiscretion. Perhaps the answer lies elsewhere – in the grinding reality of downsizing, a dwindling sense of personal achievement and the continuous if low-level criticism from ministers, advisors and select committees.
George Osborne has suggested that an independent ‘Turner’ or ‘Browne’ style review might be asked to decide on the future of airport capacity in the south-east in a way which commands cross-party support. There are some potential benefits in inviting outsiders to break the deadlock on an issue which government cannot resolve internally – but the process needs to be designed properly.
The race to find Olympic metaphors – some more strained than others – is as competitive as the last lap of the 5000 metres. But even without asking whether the performance of Team GB offers useful guidance for Team GO on reviving the economy, there are some rather more direct lessons to be learned. Here are some immediate thoughts.
Team GB’s target of 48 medals at London 2012 was high profile, public – and, unlike so many other policy targets – achieved. But would it have made any difference if the Blair government had decided to put it into law? We looked at the recent phenomenon of legislated policy targets at a private roundtable with lawyers and policy advisers and have published a short discussion paper on the pros and cons.
One of Gus O’Donnell’s favourite claims is that under his watch women occupied half of permanent secretary positions. Recent changes suggest that may mark a high point – appoint underlined by an appointment and a departure since we first wrote about it.