The 15th July will always be a reshuffle that I will remember. At 11.45am that day I was about to host a lunchtime event with a Minister. When I saw my guest doing ‘the walk’ down Downing Street at 10.30am, it became somewhat apparent to me that my event might just take second billing!
But in all the noise and chatter surrounding that reshuffle, most commentary has rather missed the point. You had many looking at the clothing of the recently promoted. Often you heard the mantra of culling of the ‘male, pale and stale’. And most of all you heard about how the Prime Minister was promoting many women into the Cabinet, thus giving better representation and reflecting better the UK population as a whole.
On the whole I hate quotas and would have hated to think that I was ever picked for a role or job because I was gay, because I was left handed, because I was northern, or because of my dazzling good looks. This tokenistic approach should be confined to the 20th Century, where it belongs and people of worth, so today talent and ability should be the only benchmarks for promotion, simply because they can do the very best job. When I myself was a Leader of a Council, in my leadership team I had many talented people. Some Muslim, some women, some gay, some men but not one of them chosen because of these tags. I chose them because I knew they would do a great job for me.
And so it was at the reshuffle, with the current obsession regarding these demeaning tags placed on the people promoted. What does it matter what the new Minister wore on the way to his/her promotion? Did anyone enquire about the sourcing of Michael Fallon’s suit or David Gauke’s shoe wear?
The real point missed was that what we saw on Tuesday was a true generational shift in the lineup of Tory Ministers.
It is probably the third such shift that I have witnessed in my lifetime. I can remember the team around Margaret Thatcher, many of whom like Lord Whitelaw, Lord Carrington, Jim Prior and Sir Keith Joseph, were directly influenced by the Second World War, which often was part of their mindset in the policy development. You then had the Major/Opposition Years team, where the likes of Ken Clarke, Andrew Landsley, Sir George Young and David Willetts were prominent. Now most of them exited Government last week.
There is now no one in the Cabinet, I think, who can directly have had topline experience of working with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and most certainly will not have the backdrop of the Second World War to help form their thinking. This matters, as it provides a new environment for new thinking, freeing the new leadership team to make policy and come up with ideas relevant to Britain today.
A generational shift took place last Tuesday in the Leadership of the UK Government, a new tone in where it takes our country will ensue.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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