What makes a good Secretary of State? Today Jeremy Browne was interviewed on the Daily Politics about what it’s like to be a junior minister, from his experience of working in both the Foreign Office and Home Office. Towards the end, Jo Coburn asked whether it was true that he’d been given more freedom at the Foreign Office than he had when working for Theresa May at the Home Office. He said:
‘Well that would be telling tales, but I think… anybody who’s ever been in any workplace will know that some bosses are willing to give you a little bit more freedom and discretion and others are a bit more control freakish.’
Browne was known to complain to colleagues that he hadn’t received memos or briefings when working for May. But while this must have been frustrating for him as a minister, particularly one used to a different style of management after working with William Hague at the Foreign Office, it is perhaps one of the reasons that Theresa May has survived quite as long as she has at the Home Office, and why she also manages to emerge from rows with few cuts and bruises. If you micromanage your ministers so much that you know exactly what is going on the whole time, then you might drive them to distraction, but at least you have some idea of the problems approaching.
That said, the tensions between Number 10 and the Home Office are now such that James Brokenshire’s foolishly-worded speech managed to slip through the net.