Government Transformation agenda gets a new boss
Stephen Barclay replaced Michael Gove as the Minister for Cabinet Office (and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) in a Cabinet reshuffle announced yesterday.
Gove is widely-recognised as one of the smartest operators in the Government, and had recently overseen the Declaration on Government Reform. He now oversees a machinery of Government change at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government takes on responsibility for the Union and the Levelling-Up agenda.
These are considered key priorities of the Prime Minister, and the latter goes hand-in-hand with local government reorganisation - the merger of smaller councils into larger unitaries, as well as progress with agreeing 'devolution' deals that move budget for transport and some strategic economic planning from Whitehall to local government units. Expect the pace of this to pick up.
Responding to the change in personnel, a high-ranking member of staff in Cabinet Office said: "I'm disappointed that Michael Gove has left. The Cabinet Office is overworked and tired and desperately needs long-term vision, which under Gove seemed possible. Some colleagues would prefer the Civil Service to run itself rather than have its steering moved in a totally different direction under a less connected Minister."
While a change in leadership can sometimes lead to a dilution of mandate, Barclay referenced the current transformation agenda in his response to promotion:
Barclay's career has demonstrated him to be a shrewd political operator, able to survive the torturous Brexit negotiations as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Most recently he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and earlier Minister of State for the Department of Health and Social Care. Before that he served as a Government Whip (Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury) from July 2016 to June 2017. Barclay has been MP for North East Cambridge since May 2010.
The 49-year-old grew up in Lancashire before joining the Army and attending Sandhurst. After his short military career he read history at Cambridge University before training as a lawyer and going on to a career in The City.