By David Bicknell and Tony Collins
It would be a pity if David Cameron were forced to stand down over the phone hacking affair. Cameron is the force behind Francis Maude’s reform plans for central government, in particular the plans for finding and implementing innovative ways of cutting costs, mutualisation, simplifying and standardising ways of working and breaking the stranglehold of the few big IT suppliers to government. Cameron and Maude are trying genuinely to find ways of giving creative SMEs more government work.
Were Cameron to go, Maude would probably be much more isolated. As it is permanent secretaries would be more than happy to see Maude’s reforms melting away, though they would continue to express support for radical change. As the Cabinet Secretary Sir Arnold says in the first episode of “Yes Minister” on Open Government: “The less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it.”
The signs we have seen are that Maude and his team are full of good ideas that some senior civil servants in departments would rather talk about than implement. We’ll shortly be publishing a piece on how officials at the Department for Work and Pensions still default to secrecy despite Maude’s attempts to change the mindset of the civil service.
Cameron will make some mistakes. Nobody is perfect. And prime ministers are always at the mercy of a previous Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan’s warning of “events, dear boy”.
Even Churchill made mistakes such as the Dardanelles landings. The media loves scalps and Cameron’s opponents will make the most of Murdoch’s woes. We hope for the sake of the reforms of central government – and the huge savings to be made – that Cameron stays.
David Cameron is an asset. His would be a resignation too far.