Skip to Content


It’s hard to find a minister who hasn’t messed up

1 May 2012

7:17 AM

1 May 2012

7:17 AM

Over the weekend I had some interesting responses to my rather flippant
tweet asking if there was a government minister not under pressure at the moment. The consensus seemed to be that William Hague was still looking pretty good, with Michael Gove a close second. No
one mentioned Eric Pickles, but it was interesting to see the substantial figure of the Communities Secretary sitting at the Prime Minister’s side during his appearance in parliament
yesterday. It would probably be too chippy, even for me, to point to the class origins of the government’s best performers. But the posh boys are certainly not at peak performance at the

One by one, members of the Cabinet have walked into disasters of their own making, usually through a mixture of hubris and right-wing idealism. The one lesson the Cameroons didn’t learn from
the Blair era was management of expectation. Remember Stephen Byers selling a modest hour of maths and an hour of literacy teaching as a revolution?

The full-scale overhaul of health, schools, university funding, benefits and welfare to work would have been difficult even for a government that knew what it was doing. Now we risk entering a
world where the reforms are half-completed, public confidence has been lost and no one wants to own up to having the ideas in the first place.

I first suggested that Ed Miliband should be concentrating on the competence argument on this blog last November.
Now it is a struggle to identify a Secretary of State who is running a genuinely tight ship. At the moment government policy risks looking like one of those deserted Irish housing estates —
something that seemed such a good idea during the boom years but now acts as a very public monument to bad management.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments


The Spectator Comment Policy

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.