How does a Prime Minister get a recalcitrant minister to agree to something? Well, if it’s not going to make any difference to whether some legislation passes and the minister isn’t directly responsible for the policy, then he can always let them avoid a vote, as he seems to be doing on HS2 today. But what if the minister is the one who needs to sign off on a policy change?
I hear that David Cameron found himself in this situation late last year when trying to make some changes to the government’s counter-extremism strategy. Baroness Warsi (not his favourite minister) was refusing to accept the changes, which the Prime Minister ambushed her over. The dispute took place on a plane, with the Prime Minister apparently trying to force Warsi to agree to the change before she got off the flight and the minister refusing to do so. She claimed in conversations with colleagues afterwards that she had won the airborne dispute. The Extremism Task Force report was laid before Parliament on 4 December.
A government source accepts that there was a ‘debate on the Extremism Task Force’, adding: ‘That’s not surprising, that happens with everything.’ A spokesman for Warsi would not give a comment when contacted. Perhaps the Prime Minister will keep his ministers who are opposed to high-speed rail on a train until they agree to it too.