Working to make government more effective

Report

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.

Topic
Ministers
Position
Prime minister
Department
Number 10
Publisher
Institute for Government

Related content

22 JAN 2024 Report

Whitehall Monitor 2024

Our annual, data-based assessment of the UK civil service, how it has changed and performed over the past year, and its priorities for the future.

26 FEB 2024 Insight paper

Rebuilding trust in public life

The next government should start the difficult process of showing the British public that the institutions on which we all rely can be trusted.

19 JAN 2024 Report

Treasury ‘orthodoxy’

The Treasury wields too much influence across government and dominates strategic thinking at the centre.