This report looks at how successive prime ministers have all had to grapple with the central machine to get a system that works best for them. It draws on insights from those who have worked inside the centre of government and makes recommendations that will help prime ministers and the Civil Service function more effectively at the centre.

Institutional memory is embedded in just a few long-serving civil servants and those coming into government from outside draw on imperfect views of what happened. People try to model the centre on what they knew last time their party was in government, when government has moved on – or react against what their predecessors did. Incoming prime ministers have proved reluctant to prepare and can be resistant to advice. While in post, prime ministers priorities and political circumstances change – and the centre needs to be ready to respond to those changes.

The Institute for Government’s analysis makes clear that there needs to be a stronger core offer to prime ministers, and that the Cabinet Secretary is responsible for making sure this is available.