This is roughly the advice that Dominic Cummings, former special adviser to Michael Gove, gave to “every new person who would arrive” at the Department for Education:
“There’ll be the odd exception but it’s safest to assume this… Every process will be mismanaged unless it involves one of these officials [XYZ]. No priority you have will happen unless spads and private office make it a priority. Trust private office – they’re the only reliable thing between you and disaster. Every set of figures will be wrong. Every financial model will be wrong. Every bit of legal advice will be wrong. Every procurement will blow up. Every contract process will have been mismanaged. Every announcement will go wrong unless Zoete [my fellow spad], Frayne [director of communications], or [names withheld to protect the innocent] is in charge – let them sort it out and never waste your time having meetings about communications. Never trust Clegg and Laws who only care about party politics, though you can trust Leunig who is honest. Never make an announcement on a Monday [see below]. Never announce budgets without Sam [Freedman] checking. Every process described as ‘cross-Whitehall’ will be a fiasco – especially if it is being coordinated by Number Ten. Don’t tell Number Ten anything about anything – leave that to us. Don’t give Ofsted anything else to do as it can’t do its core functions now. In short, assume that everything that can go wrong will go wrong and when you catch yourself thinking ‘someone MUST have done X or it would be crazy’, stop, because X will not be happening. Your only hope is to focus on a few priorities relentlessly and chase every day and every week. When you cock something up, tell us straight away, and when you think we or Michael are cocking something up, tell us straight away.”
These words are contained in his second large-scale blog about his experiences in Westminster and Whitehall titled: “The Hollow Men II: Some reflections on Westminster and Whitehall dysfunction”.
I am still working my way through it – Cummings not only has views about what is wrong, but ideas about how to put them – but thought that the essay should be drawn to the attention of ConHome readers as soon as possible.
David Cameron, Andy Coulson, Ed Llwellyn, Craig Oliver…all are there, alongside Rear Admiral Ugaki, T.S.Eliot, Kronsteen, Carl Sagan, Shippers, and General Mack (as in: “We’ve been Macked”).
Please read the whole shebang.