Working to make government more effective


Becoming prime minister

Conservative MPs who want to become Prime Minister must face the practical challenges of being head of government. 

Conservative MPs who want to become Prime Minister must think beyond the immediate leadership contest and face the practical challenges of being head of government. 

There are no official guides to help prepare for the most demanding role in UK politics. This paper addresses that gap.

The paper guides an incoming prime minister step-by-step through the challenges of preparation to make a quick and successful start in 10 Downing Street. It will help the next PM to set expectations, make key appointments and understand how government is structured and how to get things done.

No amount of Cabinet experience or time in Opposition prepares any future prime minister fully. The next PM will take over in complex and challenging circumstances. Any serious leadership candidate must prepare now to make sure that he or she is not overwhelmed by the challenge and does not make ill-informed decisions. The first days can set the tone of an entire premiership.

The report says a future PM must:

  1. Make some decisions before walking into No.10

Make decisions now on key personnel, appointments to the Cabinet and the formation of ministerial teams.

  1. Get ready for the pace of government

Prepare for an unprecedented scale of decision making and level of urgency which will dominate each day as prime minister, and adapt to new power structures which will see trusted colleagues dispersed to lead departments across Whitehall. 

  1. Don't reinvent everything

Too much restructuring of government departments, Number 10 or the Cabinet Office will take up valuable time.

  1. Prioritise decisions and delegate

A new prime minister must organise the staff and structures, set expectations and be clear about when to delegate and when to intervene.

Prime minister
Number 10
Institute for Government

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