MPs with ambitions of being put in charge of a department must prepare, plan and set priorities now if they want to make an impact.
But there is very little advice for new ministers on how to do the job, what happens upon appointment and the early decisions they will need to make. This paper fills that gap.
Drawing on extensive interviews with former ministers, the report says that many secretaries of state will only have a short tenure in office, 18 months to two years if they are lucky. The break-neck speed and expectation that they hit the ground running leaves little time to adjust and consider how to do the job well.
The report says a future secretary of state must:
1. Devote time to preparations
MPs will not know what role they will get until it happens, but time spent thinking about what they want to achieve will be time well spent.
2. Have clear priorities
The civil service responds to clear instructions. Focusing on a few priorities will allow secretaries of state to make the most of their time in office.
3. Decide work practices
The private office runs the Secretary of State’s diary, office and ministerial boxes. Factoring in time for Parliament, constituency visits, home life and how the ministerial box should be prepared are all important things to consider.
4. Build a team
Secretaries of state have a say in appointing their political advisers, and in some cases their junior ministers. Being clear about who does what will shape how the department works, how policies get implemented and how the Secretary of State spends their time.