How Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis helped bring about same-sex marriage

In an interview with the Institute for Government, the minister who secured same-sex marriage, Lynne Featherstone, explains the unintended roles that Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis played:

Newbie ministers [in 2010 had] a three-hour induction, part of which was probably the most valuable thing that happened to me. Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis came to give us a talk, being as they were obviously big and, I won’t say old, but experienced beasts of yesteryear.

And it is extraordinary actually, because Michael Heseltine basically said – I mean, he put a lot more round it – you are going to be swamped, you are going to have a tsunami of work cover you, you will run round, you will do orals, you will do speeches, you will do all the duties of government, read all your papers. Five years will go and you will be a good little minister and you will have done nothing you ever wanted to do in politics. And my advice to you, I am paraphrasing, is prioritise ruthlessly, find what you want to do and make sure you do it.

And then Andrew Adonis’ advice, equally valuable, was trust your civil servants. He said, ‘If you don’t direct them, they will keep your diary full. But if there is something you want to do, you make sure that that is their priority and direct them and they will go to the ends of the earth for you. Don’t believe Yes Minister, don’t believe The Thick of It’ – although actually it has been a bit like that.

So those two, well, that is what I diluted from those two pieces – I literally went back to my office and said to my civil servants in my private office, ‘I want to do same-sex marriage’.

Also of particular interest is this tip:

Interviewer: And do you have any top tips on managing time [as a minister]?
Lynne Featherstone: Well, my top tip is don’t have a computer and don’t do your own emails. I really think people spend so long either on their iPhones or on their computers … Otherwise you spend your entire time looking at what other people… You know, it is just like you are somebody’s dogsbody then. And I really freed myself.

To read more on the fight for same-sex marriage and how it was achieved despite strong opposition from some (but not all) religious quarters, you can order Lynne Featherstone’s book.

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