About this project

Background

Ministers Reflect is a unique archive of interviews with former government ministers. It is designed to record – in their own words – what it takes to be an effective minister, the challenges ministers face, and what more can be done to support ministers in driving forward their policy objectives. Transcripts of the interviews are published in full. We intend this archive to be a valuable public resource for current and future generations of political leaders, advisers, civil servants and researchers.

The Institute for Government is dedicated to making government more effective, and promoting effective political leadership is an important part of that mission. As our earlier work on the Challenge of Being a Minister has shown, the role of ministers is often poorly understood and there is little practical support available to them. The Institute has tried to address this gap both through research and through practical learning projects.

The archive complements our comprehensive project on the Contemporary History of Whitehall 1979 – 2010, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will include many more interviews with ministers and senior officials from that period.

Ministers Reflect is a continuing project; we will be adding more interviews to the archive over the coming months and years.

Methodology

To start with, we invited ministers from the 2010 – 2015 Parliament who are now out of office to participate in this project. Their interview transcripts were published in December 2015. We did not include every minister: government whips and junior ministers who had served less than a year in a ministerial position were excluded. Well over half of those we invited agreed to participate. Since this initial launch we have also interviewed a cross-section of ministers from the 1997 – 2010 Parliament, in order to gain further historical perspective and political balance. In February 2017 we published a further round of interviews with ministers who had left the government since the David Cameron stepped down as Prime Minister. We will continue to add to the archive as ministers  leave office (for example in the event of resignations) and as any outstanding invitations to participate are taken up.

The archive is not representative of all ministers. It also reflects the wider lack of diversity among former ministers: women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds are generally under-represented among former ministers.

Interviews are carried out by Institute research staff and take place usually at the Institute’s offices, in Parliament, or in interviewees’ new workplaces. Interviews are semi-structured: we use the same outline interview guide but do not always cover all of the questions and allow interviews to explore additional topics where appropriate. Ministers from the 1997 – 2010 period were also asked additional questions that are more relevant to that time, and for ministers who left Government in 2016 we asked additional questions about the EU referendum.

Each interview is recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts are lightly edited by the Institute for readability – for example tidying syntax and explaining acronyms. Finally, interviewees are given the chance to check and edit their transcripts before signing over copyright to the Institute. Interviewees are able to edit for readability and sense, and in some cases to remove reference to remarks they feel are too sensitive or personal for the public domain. The recordings themselves are not available to the public. A small number of interviewees did additional, short video interviews.

Disclaimer

The Institute for Government is an independent charity working to increase government effectiveness. These interviews represent former ministers’ own views and memories. They do not represent the views or position of the Institute.

Citations

This archive is an open resource and we encourage you to quote from it. Please ensure that you cite the Institute for Government correctly:

  • In publications (e.g. academic articles, research or policy papers) you can footnote or endnote the interview you are quoting from as follows:
    • Transcript, [Name of Interviewee], [Date of Interview], Ministers Reflect Archive, Institute for Government, Online: [Web Address of Transcript], Accessed: [Download Date].
    • For example: Transcript, George Young, 21 July 2015, Ministers Reflect Archive, Institute for Government, Online: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/ministers-reflect/person/george-young, Accessed: 15 December 2015
  • On social media, please hyperlink to the site: www.instituteforgovernment.co.uk/ministers-reflect. You can also use #ministersreflect and mention us @instituteforgov if you are quoting from the archive on Twitter.
  • Journalists wishing to quote from the archive are free to do so, but we do ask that you mention the Institute for Government as a source and link to the archive in online articles. Please direct any media enquiries to Nicole@instituteforgovernment.org.uk

Feedback and contact

We hope that you find this archive a useful resource. We’d like to know how you’ve used it and hear any of your feedback and comments, so please get in touch at ministers.reflect@instituteforgovernment.org.uk