fbpx

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

Voice of the Commonwealth - The Global Influencer

The odd couples – Against the Prime Minister/Chancellor diarchy

By Daniel Moylan

Whatever happened in that long-lost Islington restaurant back in the mid-1990s, the result was a striking innovation in the governance of the UK. A country that had been used to Cabinet government found itself run by the powerful duumvirate of Blair as Prime Minister and Brown as Chancellor. Other members of the Cabinet had little say over the course of government, and even over the running of their own department. It is easy to forget how strange and unaccustomed this was.

Brown sucked power from both the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Of course, one can idealise the way Cabinet government had worked. It was never entirely a college chaired by a primus inter pares, as the text-books suggested. Some beasts were always bigger than others, for personal reasons or because of their office. But it’s clear from Cabinet records that the Prime Minister (even Churchill in wartime) felt a sense of deference to the Cabinet and that Cabinet ministers thought they had a perfect right to comment on major policies being pursued by colleagues running other departments. (It’s always worth looking up the Cabinet memoranda exchanged between Morrison and Bevan about the creation of the National Health Service.) And while the Chancellor of the Exchequer held one of the Great Offices of State, it was not necessarily that much greater than the office of Home Secretary or Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. 

All that was changed by Brown, who sucked power away from both the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues. His technique in dealing with the former seems to have been one of personally tailored verbal terrorism. But with the latter he had a more refined instrument: rather than fund the policies put to him by ministers, he required them to enter into “contracts” with HM Treasury that obliged them to pursue the policies he had settled on for them. Again, this was a development of a prior pattern, in which the Treasury had always queried departmental priorities and sometimes fought back. But Brown took matters to a point where he was effectively the dictator of much domestic policy. Every pound spent had to be in pursuit of something the Treasury wanted. The Prime Minister didn’t get much say. Treasury officials, of course, thought this was wonderful.

The arrangement didn’t survive once Brown moved into No 10 and the accommodating and self-effacing figure of Alistair Darling became Chancellor. Perhaps Brown realised that having the country run by two squabbling titans with little say for anybody else (except John Prescott, whose skill lay in knowing how to separate them in the ring) was not an ideal way to run a G7 nuclear power. It just didn’t work.

But then along came Cameron and Osborne and it did work, first in the context of the coalition with the LibDems, then in a wholly Conservative government. One of the most striking and unusual features of that partnership was the close personal relationship between the two that never seemed to develop into rivalry. It was no doubt good for the country that they could make the new-fangled diarchy work. But it was not good for the constitution, because it helped to normalise and embed a duumvirate arrangement that was fundamentally unstable.

Diarchism is no way to run a whelk-stall

Which quickly became apparent. Subsequent Chancellors, backed by their officials, inherited much of the power and authority exercised by Brown and Osborne but simply couldn’t hack it with their Prime Minister. Which one of them was in charge when it came to policies involving large public expenditures? Was it May or Hammond? Boris or Saj? Boris or Rishi? The public naturally thinks the Prime Minister calls the shots, but those more closely involved know the immense energy now expended by Prime Ministers on trying to get a grip on domestic policy in the face of a Chancellor who sees himself (there has never been a female one) as an alternative head of government. Structurally, the Prime Minister can’t lead the Cabinet or the country because the Chancellor often won’t let him. I don’t think it requires huge radicalism or partisanship to recognise that something has gone badly wrong and that this diarchism shouldn’t remain the norm. It’s no way to run a whelk-stall.

What to do? An old romantic like me would like to see Humpty put back together and Cabinet government restored to what it was like in days of yore. That is probably fanciful and unlikely. But we should at least create a better balance between Prime Minister and Chancellor, ensuring that the former has the power of direction. (All those who think the Chancellor should have that power should put up their hand now and explain why.) 

My suggestion is that the new Prime Minister (“whoever she may be”, as Boris is reported to have said) should move the Treasury’s responsibility for departmental spending decisions from the Second Lord of the Treasury (the Chancellor) to the First Lord (the Prime Minister), along of course with appropriate officials. 

This would remove from the Chancellor the instrument of control that Brown exploited so ruthlessly to enhance the power of his office and department. It would make clear who was in charge. It would be the biggest change in the management of public expenditure since the post of Chief Secretary was created in 1961 on the recommendation of the Plowden Committee. 

And it needs to be done before the new Prime Minister appoints a Cabinet, to avoid a row with a new Chancellor.

I am sure I shall be told on all hands that this modest proposal is unworkable, impossible, ruinous even. I am always open to better ideas. But I am not willing to be told there isn’t a problem. There is — and it needs sorting soon.

SourceTheCritic

Latest news

Vaccine sales slow as Novavax cuts sales forecast

GLOBAL – it’s safe to say that where the COVID vaccine is concerned the whole world is either trying to create a better vaccine...

Latest news

Vaccine sales slow as Novavax cuts sales forecast

GLOBAL – it’s safe to say that where the COVID vaccine is concerned the whole world is either trying to create a better vaccine...

Erling Haaland just gave Liverpool future Darwin Núñez glimpse as Man City pursue identical goal

ENGLAND - Erling Haaland opened his new account at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. The Norwegian star faced West Ham United in his Premier...

‘Toxic’ Ryan Giggs headbutts his ex-partner!

ENGLAND, MANCHESTER - Ryan Giggs headbutted his girlfriend after cheating on her, a court heard yesterday, as the former footballer was accused of having...

‘One of the worst moments’ of umpiring!

CANADA - An overturned call in the 10th inning led to a 3-2 Toronto Blue Jays victory and an ejection for Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who labeled the...

5939 new community cases, New Zealand to stay at orange!

NEW ZEALAND - Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall has confirmed that the country will stay at the orange traffic light setting as 5939 new community...

Crypto wallet hack has drained millions from iOS and Android users with ‘hot’ wallets 

GLOBAL - A new crypto wallet hack targeting Android and iOS users with connected wallets containing the cryptocurrency Solana has resulted in roughly 8,000...

Stocks mixed as traders look to inflation data

GLOBAL - Wall Street stocks were mixed at the end of trading ahead of a key inflation report scheduled for later in the week. At...

Key to success is self-discipline says Dean of SM’s new education institution 

GLOBAL - this is the latest title acquired by veteran K-pop composer Hong Jong-hwa, one of the first producers in the K-pop scene. K-pop...

China Locks Down Part of Tibet’s Capital in New Covid Zero Push

GLOBAL - China is imposing a new round of lockdowns as vacation hotspots become ensnared in its drive to suppress Covid-19, with parts of...

Front man from Limp Bizkit ties the knot for the FOURTH time!

GLOBAL - Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst secretly tied the knot for the fourth time on a confidential date with a much younger...

Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott put on a loved-up display

UNITED KINGDOM - Kylie Jenner took to Instagram to share intimate selfies taken with her partner Travis Scott. The entrepreneur — who is days away from...

Scott Dixon wins in wild Nashville comeback!

GLOBAL - Scott Dixon passed Mario Andretti for second on IndyCar’s all-time win list with a victory Sunday in the messy Music City Grand...

Related news

Brunei has the 22nd strongest passport in the world

London, United Kingdom (CU)_ According to the most recent passport index by the British consulting firm Henley & Partners, Brunei Darussalam has the 22nd...

UK launches a 130 million-pound scheme to improve girls education in Pakistan

London, United Kingdom (CU)_ The United Kingdom has launched a 130 million-pound bilateral program to boost girls' education in Pakistan, which will support approximately...

Intra-Commonwealth trade to reach $20 trillion over the next five years!

London, United Kingdom (CU)_ British prime minister Boris Johnson has praised the benefits of current relationships between Commonwealth nations and highlighted that intra-community trade...

The ‘Commonwealth advantage’ creates a unique opportunity for Britain to mobilise its regained sovereignty

LONDON (CU)_Leaders of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth gather in Kigali this week for the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)....

PM Johnson brushes aside criticism on ‘trivial set of adjustments’ to post-Brexit trade rules

LONDON (CU)_The British government on Monday (13 June), proposed new legislation to unilaterally scrap certain post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland. The bill will...

‘Taboo subject’ to make life easier for women in parliament!

LONDON (CU)_Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons of the UK, issued a pledge this week, aimed at making life easier...

Rising costs leave consumers ‘cold, hungry, and miserable’

LONDON (CU)_Consumers across the United Kingdom are currently struggling with the rising costs of essentials, with some of them being forced to choose between...

25 years after the murder, Metropolitan Police still has ‘much to do’

LONDON (CU)_Back in April 1993, Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager from Plumstead, southeast London, was waiting for a bus in Well Hall Road,...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

Front man from Limp Bizkit ties the knot for the FOURTH time!

GLOBAL - Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst secretly tied the knot for the fourth time on a confidential date with a much younger...

Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott put on a loved-up display

UNITED KINGDOM - Kylie Jenner took to Instagram to share intimate selfies taken with her partner Travis Scott. The entrepreneur — who is days away from...

Scott Dixon wins in wild Nashville comeback!

GLOBAL - Scott Dixon passed Mario Andretti for second on IndyCar’s all-time win list with a victory Sunday in the messy Music City Grand...

A decade on, and NASA’s Curiosity Rover is still searching for life on Mars

GLOBAL - As every day passes there are advances in the field of science and technology. It’s been many moons since we sent a...

Penrith star called a ‘weak-gutted DOG’ by Ricky Stuart.

AUSTRALIA - Panther’s star Jaeman Salmon - who was labelled a 'weak-gutted dog' by Ricky Stuart - has 'turned his life around' since his...

The Bangladesh government and the World Bank sign a $300m loan deal!

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CU)_ The World Bank and the government of Bangladesh inked a financing deal for $300 million. This agreement will help Bangladesh develop...

The solar revolution in Rajasthan provides a huge scope for nanotechnology!

Jaipur, India (CU)_ With the growth of the solar energy industry in Rajasthan, institutions such as BITs and RTU are offering nanotechnology programs for...

Singapore enters the Green Finance Bonanza with a 50-Year Green Bond

Singapore (CU)_ Singapore started marketing its first green bond to generate up to S$2.4 billion ($1.7 billion) with a 50-year tenor, joining governments from...

Bangladesh tightens LC regulations as import prices soar

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CU)_ The central bank of Bangladesh has imposed new letter of credit (LC) rules for local banks in response to mounting concerns...

‘No point sulking’ about Mbombela mauling 

NEW ZEALAND - Embattled All Blacks coach Ian Foster has urged his players to move on quickly from their Mbombela mauling and focus only...

NAB AFL Draft Combine list announced

AUSTRALIA - The NAB AFL Draft Combine will showcase many of the most talented boys in the country and be held in Melbourne from...

Kevin Harvick Punches His Ticket to NASCAR’s Playoffs

GLOBAL - On a blustery day in the Irish Hills of Michigan, Kevin Harvick saved his season. Grabbing the lead and pulling away after a...