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Abolish 'Department of the Prime Minister', historians urge Brown

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Five lessons from history to guide the new prime minister

A new History & Policy paper published today (Monday 11 June) by Professor George Jones|, emeritus professor of government at LSE, and Dr Andrew Blick, University of Essex, calls on Gordon Brown to follow in the footsteps of Lloyd George, Wilson and Major by adopting a radically different style of Government from his predecessor.

The authors argue that Brown can make his mark as a leader by abolishing Blair's semi-official 'Department of the Prime Minister', withdrawing from the minute detail of public service reform and focusing on the most pressing policy challenges, such as counter-terrorism and the environment.

Professor Jones said: 'Many past prime ministers - from David Lloyd George to Harold Wilson and John Major - have established contrasting identities from their predecessors. New bodies such as the Delivery Unit have enabled Blair to make unprecedented prime-ministerial interventions in public services. Brown should make it clear he intends to do the opposite. He should resist the siren voices - such as Sir Michael Barber, former head of the Delivery Unit - urging him to formalise a Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. In turn he can achieve more by attempting less.'

Dr Blick said: 'Blair constructed a vast prime-ministerial team to bypass Cabinet. But history shows that collective government is the best way to develop and test policy, ensuring it is practically and politically effective. History is littered with premiers who isolated Cabinet from decision-making - Chamberlain, Eden and Thatcher - to disastrous effect.

'We welcome the news that there will be a senior civil servant appointed to oversee collective government. But for Gordon Brown to achieve a real change of style he must completely dismantle the 'Department of the Prime Minister', which has come to symbolise Government under Blair.'

In The 'Department of the Prime Minister' - should it continue?, Professor Jones and Dr Blick reveal five lessons from history to help Brown negotiate the pitfalls of power: Click here to download full press release| (PDF)

Click here to download the full paper|



Press cuttings

Roger Darlington.com
The Department of the Prime Minister
Article about Tony Blair that mentions recent research by LSE Professor George Jones and Andrew Blick that argues the Department of the Prime Minister should be disbanded. 

Tangled transition in Downing Street may not be such a bad thing after all (12 June)
Mention of this paper that gives a critical analysis of Blair's presidential style. 

11 June 2007