From setting an agenda to building a new Cabinet, the Political Editor breaks down the crucial manoeuvres faced by the next resident at number 10
Words Greg Taylor
In three weeks’ time we’re going to have a new Prime Minister. Voted in, not by the people, but by a mishmash of self-interested MPs and merlot-faced majors chuntering in the Shires.
It could be Boris (mono-monikered, like Madonna, but requiring a larger cone bra), the zip-wiring London Mayor, turned bolshie Brexit battering ram, turned flailing Foreign Secretary.
Or it’ll be Jeremy “Not with a C” Hunt, the affable technocrat whose general state of being is a mix of thoroughly startled and slightly puzzled.
Either way, beyond Brexit, the political equivalent of taking over a chess game with only a handful of pawns while the opponent’s Queen smashes her way across the board, there are some other issues that need careful attention. Small scale things like stopping young people turning to crime, helping the elderly live with dignity, and sorting out Britain’s gruesome transport system.
Four things, then, that should be top of the next PM’s agenda.
Building a New Cabinet
Some of the current Cabinet have been ensconced on their cushioned chairs for nearly a decade. Philip “Eeyore” Hammond, Chris “Failing” Grayling, and David “Who?” Lidington are all deeply associated not only with Theresa May’s miserable premiership but also Cameron’s coalition and all the austerity and acrimony that came with it. The new PM urgently needs new blood: energetic ideas machines who can churn out exciting policies quickly and deliver on them. Watch out for names like Andrea Jenkyns, Rebecca Pow, and Caroline Nokes skipping down Downing Street, as the old guard of big beasts slip quietly off to pasture on the backbenches.
Setting the Vision
You’d be forgiven for believing the future is bleak. For three years we’ve heard how the UK is destined for the international rubbish tip, led by bickering donkeys over a looming cliff edge. Now we need a hefty dose of optimism from our leader. Not blind, ridiculous optimism to be sure. But a clearly articulated, dazzling, convincing vision of our new place in the world. Blitz-spirit, gawd-save-the-Queen, Uncle Tom Cobley and all stories that kindle a sense of unity and pride even in the more gloomy of naysayers. It happened, to heart-warming effect, during the 2012 Games and, while Brexit is a different and injurious beast, it needs to happen again.
Whoever the next PM is, the arithmetic in the House of Commons is going to be brutal for them. They won’t have a majority, they’ll be reliant on the mercurial Irish, and they’ll be facing some crunchy no-confidence votes that could see them forced into an early general election. Quickly and openly working with the Lib Dems, with the new mob of ChangeUK and independents, and anyone else who’s keen on unifying and important efforts to tackle loneliness, improve mental health and renew faith in the political system will go a long way to building the relationships the government is going to need to, you know, govern.
Jobs for the Girls and Boys
Careers are changing, fast. The digital revolution, AI and automation are skewering the tradition of cradle-to-grave desk-based jobs. And LinkedIn stats suggest people will change not just jobs, but careers, 15 times over their working lives. The Government has been trying to work out what to do to help people succeed in this fast-moving churn for years, but without obvious success. The recent massive review of education has some fascinating ideas for supporting people’s choices across their whole working lives, and the PM will need to quickly set out what they want for Britain’s future, and get on and do it.