Goats and Tsars: Ministerial and other appointments from outside Parliament - Public Administration Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1 - 19)



  Q1  Chairman: Let me call the Committee to order and welcome our witnesses this morning to this hearing on our inquiry on unelected ministers and other similar sorts of appointments. We are delighted to have Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff at Number 10, and many other things before that and after that; Lord Turnbull, distinguished former Cabinet Secretary and much else besides; and Professor Anthony King, who, as I have just said to the Committee, knows about everything. We are delighted to have you all. We are worrying away, as you will know, at this issue about whether it is a good idea to bring these outsiders into government, what issues it raises and, if it raises issues, how we might solve them. That is the broad context. Perhaps I could just ask each of you in turn to say something very briefly, no more than a minute, to kick us off, and then we will deal with the questions. Jonathan, would you like to start?

  Mr Powell: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for inviting me. I think this is actually a very timely debate to have. We certainly, when we came into office in 1997, had a problem with a lack of talent to appoint to ministerial jobs, and I think if the Conservatives were to win the election next year they will have a very similar problem. They have a very thin layer of talent from which to choose. So I approach this from a sort of utilitarian point of view, that it is good to have a wide choice of people to appoint to office, and you may not have that if you have been in opposition for a very long period of time. I do not think putting people in the House of Lords is a very satisfactory way of meeting the point. They are not accountable to the House of Commons, the elected representatives, and I think it would be much better if one could have people who are ministers who came from anywhere in the country, from any profession, but were answerable to the Commons. I believe that is a soluble problem. There would be opposition to it from Prime Ministers, who like to have the payroll vote; possibly from MPs, who may like the closed shop on jobs, but I do believe—and I hope we can discuss this as we go on—there are ways of solving that problem and meeting that need.

  Lord Turnbull: I think there are two related issues. One is the implications of the overlap of the executive and legislature, which means the pool from which ministerial appointments are made is limited; and the second is the way in which political careers are currently developed. Traditionally, we have seen the overlap of the executive and legislature as part of the strength of the constitution: the Government gets its legislation, by and large, and it is politically highly accountable, but people are beginning to become more conscious of the weaknesses. In particular as a parliament gets older, by the time we are into the third term, possibly with a smaller majority, i.e. an even smaller pool to choose from, and a lot of people who have done their time, you really are struggling. Jonathan used the word "utilitarian"; I think the word I would use is "expedient"; appointing ministers to the House of Lords helps the Prime Minister get out of a hole but I am not sure it is actually the long-term constitutional solution that we want. Therefore, I too am attracted to this idea that someone could be a member of one House and have rights of audience in another. There are one or two jurisdictions—not many—where you cannot be a member of either House; you may have started there but you have to come out of them. That is a possible solution. The second issue is that I think there is a growing gulf between the requirements to manage a modern, huge department, with big issues, large budgets and large numbers of people, huge technological issues, issues of science, in which the House of Commons has almost zero capability, and also very international. There is a growing trend for people to come into politics more or less straight from university. They lick envelopes in Central Office, become a Special Adviser, on and on it goes, and by the time they are in their mid-30s they are Cabinet Ministers, barely touching the sides of real life. I asked, for example, Nigel Lawson, "How old were you when you came into the House of Commons?" I think he was 44 and Douglas Hurd was 42. That is old these days. Those requirements, these two forces, are moving in opposite directions and the bringing in of older, more experienced people into the House of Lords is again something expedient to get round that.

  Professor King: Three points quickly: Jonathan referred to lack of talent. I think there is a real problem about recruiting to what are nowadays very large administrations from a very small number of people, since the majority of ministers of any standing do have to be in the House of Commons. I am very struck by the number of people I talk to who have had business frequently with government, with ministers, and they say a lot of them are not very competent, that few of them are really knowledgeable about the activities of the department or their bit of it, that many of them are not very committed to the job but most of them are committed to furthering their own political careers. As we know in this country and it is often pointed out, there is essentially one ladder of career advancement and that is up the ministerial ladder. Lots of people have said it is too bad that there is not a House of Commons career and I cleave to that view. The second point has been touched on by Andrew. Our political class is more and more recruited from people whose entire working lives, practically all of them, have been in politics in some guise or another. If you go back 100 years, the House of Commons was replete with industrialists, trade union leaders and so on. I published an article in a learned journal of which I am rather proud. It was called "The Rise of the Career Politician in Britain and its Consequences" and it was published in 1981. This has been going on for quite a long time. My third point is one that has not been touched and it is this. There is in this country an astonishingly high turnover of ministers, changing departments, coming and going and so on. This is a consequence partly of the sheer number of ministers but notice it is a consequence of having the vast majority of ministers being also members of the House of Commons. You get a domino effect: if somebody resigns, dies, retires, is sacked, you do not just put somebody else in, as you would do in many other systems; you have to put somebody else in who is probably at the moment in some other department and the effects ramify through the system. I do think it is a very general problem, not unconnected with the fact that we require most of our ministers to be MPs, that we have this very high turnover of ministers, which I think is extremely unfortunate.

  Q2  Chairman: Thank you for that. All that is interesting. Let us just take stock of what you are telling us. I think what you are saying is that the gene pool of elected politicians is so poor that it makes forming effective administrations increasingly difficult and that this is accentuated by the rise of the professional, career politician, who has done little else in life and probably run nothing at all, and that we have to answer this in some way by bringing people in to rectify the problem. Then we have to deal with the accountability issues that come from having these non-elected people. What I want to ask is—and we can talk about whether the analysis is true—is the direction of travel one which takes us in really a very radically different direction? Andrew, you suggested in an article in the Financial Times that this is the case. You have argued not only that we are moving in the direction of a separation of powers but that we ought to be. We can tweak the system now but are we not really moving in a direction which says: let us be like Obama. Let us have the ability to bring the talent of the land into government and then separate that off from the business of scrutinising it?

  Lord Turnbull: That is the second half of the argument. Not only is the development of careers of ministers dysfunctional, but I do not think it is good for the House of Commons either that 100 and something ministers are taken out into the government and others become all sorts of quasi-ministers, like envoys and so on. Who is left to do the work of scrutiny? You are a shining counter-example to this but, by and large, if you have a choice, you are a backbencher and became a Committee Chair, and I believe you get an extra £14,000, whereas if you become the most junior Parliamentary Under-Secretary, you might be offered three times that or something. So a lot of the people in the House of Commons are there really not looking to make their career as parliamentarians—as I say, with some distinguished exceptions; they are there waiting for the telephone to ring next time there is a reshuffle. I do not think this is good for the House of Commons as a scrutinising body. Therefore separating the two, the people that are the executive and the people who do the scrutinising, both of them constituted in ways where that is the job they really want to do, may be a better outcome than this historical overlap that we have at present.

  Q3  Chairman: When you were in government as a Permanent Secretary and then as Cabinet Secretary, did you form the view that actually, these politicians were not good enough? Is that what you are telling us?

  Lord Turnbull: There were good times but, in general, no. In some cases I used to think actually that the House of Lords was the weak part. A bill would be taken through by a Secretary of State and then it would be handed over to a Lords minister, who could well have been a hereditary or something, and was not really plugged into the department. Some of those ministers really struggled. In some ways I think it is now the other way round. The Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill was taken through the House of Lords by Lord Darzi, and he made a million times better job of it than the person who took it through the House of Commons.

  Q4  Chairman: We will come back to the Lords. Jonathan, you said, I think, when Tony Blair formed his government in 1997 that you felt there was not enough talent around and wanted to do something about it.

  Mr Powell: Yes, I think when a party has been in opposition for a long period of time, lots of people do not think it is a very good idea to go and be an MP and sit on opposition benches for 18 years or, in the case of the Tory party, 13 years. I think it would be far better if you have a wider choice. There is a reason that in Europe, pretty much all of continental Europe, and the US your gene pool from which you can choose is the entire country to be ministers, whereas here we have 300-odd MPs on the government benches from which you can choose. It is a much narrower group from which you can choose, and I think it would be far better if we were able to do that. I would not advocate, as Andrew was hinting at, a full separation of powers. If you actually required MPs to resign as MPs to become ministers, as they do in some continental European countries, you would then have to change our electoral system. You could not start having by-elections every time that happened. You would have to have a list system and there are quite a lot of good arguments against that. I would be much happier with a mixed system, where you can choose people from outside as well as MPs. That would give you a wider talent pool, as they have in most other countries.

  Q5  Mr Prentice: Tony Blair famously had not run anything when he became Prime Minister. He had not even been on a parish council. You said there was a lack of talent in 1997. How did you know who was talented and who was not talented? Did the Prime Minister sit down with you and others to go through the list of Labour MPs, marking out those people with potential, those people who were talented? How did it work in 1997?

  Mr Powell: Of course, in 1997 we had an elected Shadow Cabinet, as you recall, in the Labour Party, so the first point was to, generally speaking, appoint the people who were in the Shadow Cabinet. It was not all of them but it was a large part of them.

  Q6  Mr Prentice: But Tony Blair struggled to get on to the Shadow Cabinet when Labour was in opposition. He never talked the Shadow Cabinet elections so why should being in the Shadow Cabinet be a mark of distinction?

  Mr Powell: That is a very good question but that was the rule in the Labour Party during the period of opposition. No, we did not sit down and go through every single MP to work out who was the most talented, but nor were we able to look around the country and say if we really wanted to form a government of the most talented people—not necessarily experts; I don't think this necessarily needs to be a matter of choosing experts to go into particular jobs; it could just be choosing very talented people to have ministerial jobs, who could well be partisan, party members, but might have that wider experience outside.

  Q7  Paul Flynn: But you had a list which said "possible", "probable", "over my dead body". I could draw you up a Cabinet now of present Members, backbench Members, who are brilliant, who would make wonderful ministers, including some members of this Committee, but would never have a hope in hell chance of getting in as ministers. You start off by saying it is a limited gene pool but it is not the genes that are the problem. It is a question of whether the MPs at that time had undergone the new Labour lobotomy and were biddable to some of the absurdities that came from Downing Street, such as the Iraq war, for instance. It was! You are limited to the choice of these zombies who do the bidding of the Prime Minister. Really, it is a nonsense to suggest there is not talent in the Labour Party on the backbenches. There is an enormous amount of talent!

  Mr Powell: I am not suggesting there is not talent on the backbenches of the Labour Party, and it is true that politics enters the forming of any government or any cabinet. You tend to rule out a number of people who would be patently mad, and a number of people who patently would not be up to the job, but you are again limiting your choice of people. Why should you limit it as opposed to other countries where you are allowed to choose from anywhere?

  Q8  Paul Flynn: You also limit it to people who are courageous enough to make an independent stand, which should have been done on the Iraq war. We have heard a distinguished academic, Professor Hennessy, saying here that if the members of the Cabinet had had their backbones removed and replaced by water, they would have made a stronger stand on the Iraq war and dismissed the shrivelled account they were given of the advice on whether it was a legal war or not, and not one of the gutless Cabinet at the time did stand up. Two of them did resign later but at the time they accepted that we should send 179 of our soldiers to die in vain in a war that we could have avoided altogether. What sort of a Cabinet is that? You want in the Cabinet people who are credible, who will do the work, but when you have original thinkers and people with strong backbench opinions here, they are excluded from office.

  Mr Powell: I do not think that is true. A notable example would be Chris Mullin.

  Q9  Paul Flynn: We know Chris Mullin's book very well.

  Mr Powell: Exactly. He would be a very good example of it but there will be politics when you form a government. You are going to choose people who will support the Government.

  Q10  Paul Flynn: Chris Mullin's Cabinet career was destroyed because he occasionally was found in possession of an intelligent idea, and he could not survive because of that. Read his book! If we take an example of one of the acts by the new Labour Government when they came in, when they appointed the drugs tsar, he was a fairly preposterous figure, a snake oil salesman, in which he came forward with a list of objectives and targets that were greeted with derision by anyone knowledgeable. They were completely unattainable. There were the great trumpets when he came, this was a man who was going to solve drug problems in Britain and it was a 10-year strategy. None of those targets were met. He lasted for two years and he was sent on gardening leave and people wanted to forget all about him. When the 10-year period came up, there was no examination of how those targets failed, how there were virtually no improvements: there were no reductions, there were people still dying of this great scourge of drugs. All that had happened from the Labour Government was that they had produced someone who was a PR man at best, vacuous, useless, and the result of that is young people die on our streets from heroin. We made no progress whatsoever.

  Chairman: There must be a question tucked away there somewhere.

  Q11  Paul Flynn: How do you, who possibly had an influence on it, look on the drugs tsar? Was that a success or a failure to appoint him?

  Mr Powell: If the test is did it resolve the problem of drugs in this country, it was a failure but there have been lots of other failures in trying to meet that objective. I think the idea of tzars can work if you need to try to bring together policy areas, for example, with drugs, from health, the police, try and make them work together, it can help to have someone at the centre who can try and bring the threads together but the problem is, if they do not have a budget, they do not actually have control over it, the departments will continue to insist on their particular bugbears and you will not actually achieve much. Probably a few pointers are you would not want to have a permanent tzar; you would want to make it a temporary job.

  Q12  Paul Flynn: The Strategy Unit under Lord Birt produced a brilliant report, which was confidential—it was eventually leaked—suggesting a practical answer to the drugs policy such as has been put forward in Portugal, for instance, where they have reduced drug deaths by 50%. Is there anything in Downing Street that says let us look at the evidence, let us find out what works, or do they say, "What is going to play to the Daily Mail? What is going to give us this good feed of adulation in the press?"

  Mr Powell: Not on the drugs policy in particular but I think what you flag up is actually the advantage of having someone like John Birt, who is prepared to think from first principles on some of these policy issues. The problem then comes that he produces a brilliant report, but trying to put it into practice, a practical policy, this is where the problem happens. Having someone like John Birt, or someone who is really prepared to think things through, is an example of how you can have someone in the centre who can make a difference, even if you cannot necessarily implement his full report.

  Professor King: Can I just say something that was raised earlier? I think the phrase "separation of powers" is misleading. The vast majority of European countries do not have a separation of powers in the American sense, though France has a partial one—and they are parliamentary systems, which in many respects, even though they have coalition governments in most cases, resemble the UK more than they resemble the US. The fact remains that the only countries which require ministers to be parliamentarians are the United Kingdom and Ireland. There are a considerable number of countries—and, interestingly, it is a scattering of countries—that insist that ministers not be members of the legislature. In addition, there are quite a number of countries where ministers may or may not be members of the legislature. My own view is that there is a lot to be said for the middle category of saying yes, it probably will be the case that a majority of ministers are at the time of their appointment members of either the House of Commons or—and I have worries, as others do, about the House of Lords in this connection—but need not be. That raises immediately the question of accountability, of answerability. Andrew spoke of rights of audience. I would say requirement of audience. It seems to me that if you are going to have ministers, they should be able to speak in both Houses of Parliament, if we have two, and that they should be required, indeed, to answer questions, to appear before committees like this, to be able to take bills through Parliament. In other words, the issue of membership and the issue of the extent to which ministers are involved in legislative proceedings are separable and are separated in the large majority of European countries, a larger number than require, since it is only the UK and Ireland, that ministers should also be parliamentarians.

  Q13  Chairman: But one of several problems in this area is that we use the House of Lords as a way of getting people in, as it were, through the back door into ministerial roles. There is nothing new about this. We are at about the average level for the whole political period at the moment. It is a well-used practise. What seems odd though is that people might come into government to do a job through that route for what can be a very short space of time and they finish up as a member of the upper House for the rest of their lives. That seems bizarre, does it not? I wonder if a better suggestion is the one that John Major and Douglas Hurd originally made, which is to have a category of non-elected ministers who are members of neither House but are accountable to both Houses in the normal way and they just do the job for a period and then leave government.

  Professor King: Yes.

  Mr Powell: I would agree very strongly. I do not know that a person need be answerable to the House of Lords but I do think they should be answerable to the House of Commons and able to move legislation and able to appear on the floor of the House. You should be able to be a minister without having to go into the House of Lords. Being in the Lords strikes me as a distraction.

  Q14  Chairman: Once we start having this conversation, we are actually moving towards a more separated system.

  Mr Powell: No, because you can have a mixed system. There could be some ministers who are MPs—the Prime Minister would almost certainly be an MP—but others who would be people appointed from outside but simply answerable to the Commons and able to appear before the Commons. Just putting them in the Lords strikes me as an odd thing to do with them.

  Q15  Julie Morgan: I was going to ask whether you thought ministers appointed from outside should be members of the governing party.

  Mr Powell: That seems to me to be a political decision by the government at the time. If I were doing it, I would certainly appoint people from the party and partisan but you might also want to appoint some experts as ministers. I do not see why you should not be able to do either of those if you wanted to.

  Lord Turnbull: There is a New Zealand example, that Helen Clark appointed someone from an opposition party as Foreign Minister and he said, "I will support you on foreign affairs but I reserve the right to vote with the rest of my party on everything else." It seems slightly odd.

  Q16  Julie Morgan: That sort of step seems to deny the wishes of the electorate.

  Lord Turnbull: You are right. On this question of doing two years or even less than two years and then remaining as a member of the House of Lords, basically, I think there are several steps that are missing. One is that you cannot resign from the House of Lords and I think that should be possible. If you are still using the House of Lords as the vehicle for this—and I think we are really saying if we have not got anything else, that is a change I would make. In a new House of Lords I would definitely have term limitation. I think everyone should have about 15 years and that is it. You should be able to retire. So someone who comes in, does a ministerial job, may want to stay as a performing member of the House of Lords as long as everyone else and, provided they accept those obligations, then they can stay. If they say "I am now going to go back to my previous career", I think they should do the decent thing and resign. The only question then is, what about their name and title? We then get this ghastly business where basically you should just be Andrew Turnbull and everything else that describes what you are or have been comes after your name, and get rid of this business of giving people names and giving their wives names but not their husbands names. Then it will be much more flexible. You could come in, do the job, either stay if you are going to stay as a member of the House of Lords and work there like everyone else, or resign from it and go off and do something else. It all depends if you are still using the House of Lords as the vehicle. If you devise something else, you would not need to do all that.

  Q17  Chairman: Can I just try one more thing on you and then I will bring Charles in. Andrew, particularly you, because of where you come from, are we not really wrestling with the fact that in our system we are right at the end of the spectrum in international terms in terms of the political element in government? Because it is a fundamental principle of our system that we have this independent, impartial civil service, where ministers do not come in and appoint their own people to senior administrative posts, we have to find our own way around getting people that we want, who we think will deliver our programmes, into government in some way. So we use these devices like special advisers and all the rest of it, which get into great trouble because they go off and become spin doctors and all the rest of it. Would it not be more helpful if we could be more sensible about thinking about what the right balance is between the politically appointed element in government and, as it were, the permanent element in government? At the moment we seem to be wriggling around a constraint that is built into the system without being able to think more openly about it.

  Lord Turnbull: In parts of northern Europe, Germany and Sweden, they have this concept of the State Secretary. The State Secretary is usually the number two level minister. The minister is usually an elected politician but, if you take the man who is now the President of Germany, Horst Koehler, he was a career official in the Ministry of Finance and then he became the State Secretary, which was a political appointment. These are effectively unelected ministers but also with a lot of professional expertise. The difficulty with that is this requirement that you should hand over an administration of the quality that you left and not cannibalise it when you leave. Once someone like Horst Koehler becomes a State Secretary, with a change of government, they will nearly always move on, so their expertise is then lost to the successors—that is the advantage of our system—but it does actually bring some very good people in. You find if you go to a European or OECD meeting and you meet these people, they are of a very high quality, but it is just another device. What I do not like though, particularly about the French system, which seems to me pernicious, where people all claim to be part of the fonction publique or whatever, but actually they have undeclared allegiances, so when the Gaullists are in, you get a job but when the Gaullists are out, you are sent somewhere else. That is a system which does not have any rules to it. There are other systems where ministers, or Secretaries of State, have greater rights of appointment of the rest of their ministerial team. But you have to bring in the whole package. I do not think you can just pick that particular element. The American system has various checks and balances, there are confirmation hearings and, by and large, they can bring some very good people in. They also bring some disastrous people in like, "Hey, Brownie, you're doing a great job," if you remember the former Secretary of the Arabian Horse Society who handled Hurricane Katrina. But by and large they bring good people in but they do get tested through confirmation hearings. I would not transfer the right appointment of ministers without also changing some other parts of the constitution.

  Professor King: Let us come back to the question of rate of turnover. I do think this is a very serious problem and one that is not unconnected to the business of having most ministers come from the House of Commons, the domino effect I referred to earlier on. If I look at the UK system of government and compare it with that of just about any other established liberal democracy, the rate at which people go from one post to another—John Reid I lost count of at some point—we can talk about defence but we have had eight Education Ministers since the Labour Party came to power in 1997. I do not think we have an Education Minister at the moment because of course departments keep swirling around as well. If you count Peter Mandelson twice, we have had eight Business or DTI Secretaries. This is closely related to the fact that we have to draw our MPs from the House of Commons in a situation in which, as you said earlier, Mr Chairman, most MPs are from a political background. The second point, and I think it is a serious one, is that I think we ought to be straightforward about the gene pool—this is the term that Andrew introduced into the discussion. The gene pool, in my view, for ministers is simply too small to begin with and, to be honest, not good enough. Do constituency Labour parties, do constituency Conservative Associations ask themselves as a core question: "Has this person had the kind of experience, does he or she have the talent that would enable him or her to play a major part in running the country?" I do not think that is very often a serious criterion.

  Q18  Mr Walker: I think I am wholly unsuited to be a minister. I really am. I am emotional, I judge people quickly, I have none of the characteristics that would make me a good manager, but I have many of the characteristics that might make me a good legislator. I can stand up for those who elected me. I think it is, as you say, madness to expect the 350 people in the governing party to have the requisite skills to become ministers, senior managers, in a hugely complex world. I think this really does lead to the need for the separation of powers, where we can have two big stories. We can have the President or Prime Minister, whoever he is, picking his team, doing great things, and we can have Parliament becoming a story again for the right reasons, holding him to account, holding the Number 10 Policy Unit to account. Do you not think if we move towards the separation of powers that actually might restore some confidence in our democratic processes in this country? The one thing it would do would be to remove patronage from this place. It is patronage that kills Parliament. If you want to be independently minded, the Chief Whip says, "We are all working so terribly hard on your behalf to get you into government. David is desperate to promote you. Can you just do us this one favour on this one occasion?" It would be called blackmail in any other walk of life!

  Professor King: I would only just add to that that I think you can achieve a good deal without going as far as you are advocating, because there are a considerable number of—and I emphasise the word—parliamentary systems where you do not have anything approaching the American-style separation of powers where nevertheless there is, as it were, a career structure—I use the term loosely—in the legislature in countries in which the legislature has a very considerable say in what actually happens. I cite Germany, for example. The leaders of the parliamentary factions in Germany are serious people. The committee system is so structured to enhance the power of what in this country would be thought of as backbench MPs. In other words, I am not disagreeing with you. I am just saying that one does not have to go the whole hog to get some pretty good parts of the pig.

  Q19  Mr Walker: "Backbench" in this country is a term of derision as opposed to a term of celebration, and I think that is poisonous. It really is. "Oh, he is just a backbencher." Being a Member of Parliament should be an important job in itself. Is it going to drive David Cameron wild in eight years' time, when he has worked his way through 150 or 200 ministers and somebody puts my name in front of him? That is the weakness of the system, is it not? We have had a Labour government for 13 years. My God, Gordon Brown must be beside himself when he looks at who is left. The same after 18 years of a Conservative government. Surely, the direction of travel must be towards either full separation of powers or far greater separation of powers but not decided on the whim of the Prime Minister of the day. We cannot have the Prime Minister of the day saying, "I think we will cut Parliament by 60" and the next one saying, "Why not go 180?" Surely we need some new constitutional settlement, perhaps even a written constitution.

  Professor King: May I say parenthetically that it seems to me that if one of the principal functions of the House of Commons at the moment is to constitute the gene pool from which ministers are drawn, the idea of reducing the size of the House of Commons has an inevitable arithmetical consequence of reducing the pool from which ministers are drawn. If that is what the House of Commons is about, there should probably be 2,000 rather than 500.

  Lord Turnbull: That assumes that the Ministerial Salaries Act is unrepealed. So long as 110 salaries are permitted, 110 salaries will be given out. If you did a Myers-Briggs test, one of these psychological tests, I suspect this is partly why politicians always have tensions with civil servants, because civil servants are completely different. Politicians I think are small organisation people—not in the pejorative sense. They believe that you get results by what you do yourself. You have been an analyst or a university lecturer or a journalist or something, or particularly a lawyer, and there is a very direct relationship. I thought Jonathan's boss used to think that he had an absolutely direct link, that what he did should then translate into something else. Civil servants are big organisation people. They think in terms of structures and hierarchies and mandates. When the Prime Minister said to me, "I want something done," my immediate action was "I need to find a person who does this." I did not think I was going to do it myself. I think one of them is actually better suited to the running of very large organisations and very few large organisation people now get into the House of Commons. Take Peter Mandelson's beloved grandfather. He was a senior politician over the river there. At the age at which he came into national politics I would think nowadays all the jobs would have been taken. You have no chance if you come in at 50 of getting anywhere in politics now, so how can you develop in a senior position in local government or in trade unions or business? You are so far behind in the climb up the greasy pole that you never catch up.

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