Securing the Majority? 4) Getting more Conservatives appointed to public bodies

3 Sep

After the 2019 election, we suggested five ways that Boris Johnson could help to secure the Party’s electoral position as part of our Majority series. This was the fourth. Eight months on, how are they doing?

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Securing The Majority? 4) Getting more Conservatives appointed to public bodies

The thorny question of public appointments is one in which the Tories have only shown intermittent interest over the past ten years.

David Cameron, whose freedom of manoeuvre was restricted by the Coalition, did not really start to take action until late in the day, before the issue was neglected again under Theresa May’s leadership.

Yet with a huge range of responsibilities vested in New Labour’s ‘quangocracy’, the question of ensuring proper representation for Conservatives is not just about fairness – it has real implications for delivering and bedding in the broader Government agenda.

As Paul noted in his original piece, there seems to be no appetite for a full-on fight to wrest control of senior appointments away from the Civil Service (alas). Instead, as we reported in March, the plan appears to be a hard push to increase what Michael Gove called “regional diversity, and diversity of thought”. Alex Hickman, the Prime Minister’s business adviser, is now the spad responsible for appointments.

Ministers are apparently more across this issue too, compared to previous administrations. Appointments are now recognised as an important legacy issue, as many of the appointees will considerably outlast the Secretary of State who appointed them or, indeed, the Government.

Work is also underway on the political side to create more CCHQ support for would-be appointees, with the goal of building a ‘talent pool’ and helping to steer suitable candidates towards particular appointments as they emerge, as well as to be a bit more strategic about when appointments are made (some think one reason Toby Young was forced out of the Office for Students was because the story broke at a quiet point in the news cycle).

It will take time to tell if this process is bearing fruit. One indicator will be how frequently the Government is accused of ‘cronyism’, as it was when Patrick McLoughlin and Nick de Bois landed jobs at Visit Britain and Visit England.