Getting things done in government

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Tim Durrant; Grant Dalton; Beatrice Barr

May 10, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at their interview archive and pulls out their advice for those taking on the role.

The Institute for Government’s Ministers Reflect archive comprises close to 150 interviews with ministers from UK and devolved governments of the last 30 years, from all parties, departments and levels of seniority. As part of those interviews, we ask each minister for their advice for those taking on the role for the first time. This paper brings together the key lessons interviewees have sought to pass on, to help you as you enter ministerial office to think about how you can be most successful in the role. Ministers Reflect was launched in 2015 to collect first-hand accounts from ministers of what their job was like, what they wish they’d known before they’d begun and how to approach a ministerial role. Over the years, we’ve interviewed one former prime minister, three former chancellors, and myriad other former ministers, including three members of the current cabinet. Being a minister is a job like nothing else. You’re in charge of overseeing billion-pound projects; pushing changes to the law through parliament; dealing with political, economic or health crises; and touring round the country on visits and meetings. Ministers also have a unique relationship with the civil servants who work for them. It can be a lonely and stressful job, as many former ministers tell us – but can also be hugely rewarding. But as our archive shows, there are a few simple steps – from managing your diary to making canny use of parliament and your ministerial colleagues – which will help you be effective in the job.