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  • Downing Street.  Theresa May’s main means of governing have been, first, to use powerful Cabinet Committees more and, second, to co-rule through her two Chiefs of Staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.  Now both are gone: you can read the details exclusively on this site here and here.  So the Prime Minister needs a single new Chief of Staff who can command authority in the Parliamentary Party.  This is not an easy post to fill.  She might want to look to the Lords, and ask, say, James Arbuthnot, Anne Jenkin or Martin Callanan if any are available. The Prime Minister also needs a strong media chief who is given his or her head, since both Katie Perrior and Lizzie Louden have both gone. Downing Street should also make use of Gavin Barwell.
  • Cabinet.  Although May has made use of those Cabinet Committees, Cabinet members themselves have largely been treated as instruments of the central will of Downing Street, rather than allowed plenty of room to set their priorities.  This has been so under most recent Prime Ministers, but never more than now.  This model should be torn up.  There are calls for a Deputy Prime Minister to be appointed.  It is not obvious who has the lack of ambition to fill such a post, but May should certainly co-govern now with her most senior team: the Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Brexit Secretary, the Commons Leader, the Chief Whip and a new Party Chairman.
  • Parliamentary and voluntary Party.  The Prime Minister needs to work more closely than ever with Graham Brady and the 1922 Executive.  In particular, policy-making needs to get closer to Tory MPs and the Conservative Policy Forum.  Brady is reviving the Parliamentary Party’s backbench policy committees, and any proposals from the Downing Street Policy Unit should be run past them.  The 1922 policy committee structure should be powerfully represented on the Downing Street Policy Board.  The recent rush for candidate selections, brilliantly covered on ConservativeHome by Mark Wallace, highlighted “burning injustices” in the way that the process works.  Number 10 should give the nod to a modest programme of democratisation (see here and here).
  • Ruth Davidson.  When the Conservative Party is in a fix – as it most certainly is now – it yearns for a White Knight to rescue it, and to rout its enemies.  In this particular case, it is pining for a White Dame: Ruth Davidson.  Andy McIver explains on this site today why this simplistic solution is a no-no.  As he says, she is indeed set on moving up – but into Bute House, not Downing Street.  None the less, Davidson should have a standing invite to attend Political Cabinet, just as Boris Johnson did when he was Mayor of London – and encouraged to speak her mind, even when what emerges is inconvenient, when on Brexit, the DUP or anything else.
  • Parliament.  The background against which Cabinet and Party management is set is the transformed situation in the Commons.  May has gone from possessing a small majority to having none at all.  Assuming that she is able to form a workable minority government, she needs to try to gain as much support as is possible across the party divide, in both houses of parliament, as is consistent with Party management.  Downing Street should call in Mark Prisk, and utilise his ideas, floated on this site, about treating Parliament more like Congress.  There is a party political angle.  Very many Labour MPs loathe Corbyn’s brand of far left politics, and are torn between their conscience and their careers.  Number 10 should be trying to divide – and keep ruling.

It wouldn’t be right to claim that the Prime Minister has no experience of governing without Timothy and Hill at her side.  For a period when she was at Downing Street, the former was at the New Schools Network, and the latter at the Centre for Social Justice.

But it is fair to add that May’s character and temperament instinctively fit with command and control politics.  Six long years at the Home Office did nothing to ease her itch to centralise decision-making.  The question now is whether she has the adaptability, gregariousness, cunning and humility for the course she must take to survive.

303 comments for: Adapt to survive. How May must share power with her Cabinet, Tory MPs, Party members and the Commons.

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