Part 2 of the Nick Clegg reshuffle: the civil service

Over the summer Nick Clegg shuffled round his special advisers having had the benefit of several months experience seeing how government works from the inside. Now it’s the civil service side of his team which is being adapted:

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, has moved to boost his firepower inside Whitehall by appointing Chris Wormald, the head of the economic and domestic affairs secretariat in the Cabinet Office, as the head of his office.

He is also considering expanding the deputy prime minister’s office by appointing what would, in effect, become his mini-policy unit inside the Cabinet Office. (The Guardian)

The underlying problem is not simply that there are Liberal Democrat ministers who need support in their own immediate ministerial roles, as for those they get the same sort of support as Conservative ministers or previously Labour ministers. However, the nature of coalition means that in addition many of them have to keep an eye on policy across a much wider chunk of central government, and support for that wider work has been extremely stretched.

Whilst it’s sensible to address this change in ministerial needs as a result of coalition, for the Liberal Democrats it isn’t policy support that should really be the top issue – it’s the day to day tactical political communications (as I blogged about yesterday). That said, better policy support won’t do any harm and there is plenty of discussion within the party and the government about how to improve communications.

After my post yesterday a friend texted me to say ‘excellent post, but what do we do about it?’. That’s a very fair question to ask, particularly as I’ve been critical often enough in the past of people who say “that’s awful!” but don’t offer solutions. So over the weekend I’ll round off what will then be a trilogy of posts with my own suggestions. In the meantime, do post up any good ideas you have in the comments below.

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