Andrew Webster

The benefits of ministerial continuity 

So, Jacqui Smith has admitted that there is more luck than skill involved in being Home Secretary. Here is what she told Total Politics Magazine:

‘I think we should have been better trained. I think there should have been more induction,’

‘When I became Home Secretary, I’d never run a major organisation. I hope I did a good job but if I did it was more by luck than by any kind of development of those skills.’

This raises the bigger issue of whether ministers are actually qualified for their jobs. It’s an issue which cropped up during Ken Clarke’s speech yesterday. In the Q&A session afterwards, a businessman pleaded with him to stay in the job long enough to ensure some sort of continuity. Clarke agreed with the concern, saying: “I hope David Cameron stops the frequent reshuffles…By the end of two years you are beginning to understand what you are doing.”

But do any ministers hit two years? Sure, some do – but a report from Demos discovered that the average minister spends just 1.3 years in their post. This is compared to an average tenure of 6.2 years for a CEO in a private company. The think tank recommends a three year fixed term for ministers.

Given the task that faces the Tory government, Cameron might want to rely on some front-bench continuity. 

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