Francis Maude: Chance to drive really serious reform

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Last week, in case readers didn’t notice, was reshuffle week; always an unsettling time. Most of the time I’ve been an MP, on and off for 26 years, has been on the front bench, whether in government or in opposition. I love the job I do as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

It’s not especially glamorous or high profile, but it’s given me the chance to drive some really serious reform at the heart of the British Government.

Transparency and a world-leading open data programme, making government more accountable. Public service reform, giving choice and control to the citizen. Creating public service mutuals, which I’m increasingly convinced is the way of the future.

The world’s first social investment sector, and pilgrimages in London to explore our innovative social impact bonds. National Citizens Service, the groundbreaking rite of passage that will see up to 90,000 16 and 17 year olds pass from childhood to adulthood this year.

All these have been immensely fulfilling to be part of driving. For these achievements, much of the credit should go to my deputy for the last six years, Nick Hurd, who was until last Tuesday the Minister for Civil Society.

Like me, Nick comes from a political - and Conservative - background. From what look like the most Establishment origins, he has been a quiet reformer, passionate and knowledgeable about the programme, and relentless in pursuing effective delivery. Always the last to sound his own trumpet, there are thousands of organisations and millions of people who will never know how much they owe him.

There are many in the voluntary and charitable sector - not obviously Conservative supporters - who’ve said that Nick was the best minister the sector has had. He’s certainly been the best and most effective colleague I could ever have wished for.

But the time to move on comes for us all eventually. I’ve made clear that the job I currently do is the only one in government that I want: there’s still so much more to do. We need to save yet more money by cutting the costs of government, so we can protect front line public services while reducing the budget deficit. We need to continue with reform of the Civil Service. We have some of the very best civil servants in the world, and the deeper in the organisation you delve, the stronger the appetite for reform. We need to make the whole add up to more than the sum of the parts, rather than less, as the distinguished academic historian of Whitehall, Lord Hennessy has argued. So there’s still loads more to do, and I’m delighted I’m still around to do it.

Being a minister feels like a full time job. But no minister can ever forget that it has to take second place to your job as the local MP. I hope I never forget that. But if there’s ever any risk of it, I’m confident that assiduous readers of this column will swiftly point it out!