Thursday, 15 January 2009

"The goats ... are breeding."

No they bloody aren't.

Peter Riddell in The Times writes:
"Originally, there were five, now there are eight. The goats, as the Lords ministers from outside politics are known, are breeding. The appointment yesterday as Trade Minister of Mervyn Davies, one of the few senior bankers to emerge undamaged from the latest crisis, highlights how Gordon Brown has changed the balance of ministers and their relations with Parliament.

Back in June 2007, Mr Brown talked about a government of all the talents (hence the acronym) and looked outside politics for Baroness Vadera and Lords Jones of Birmingham, Malloch-Brown, Darzi of Denham and West of Spithead. Lord Jones has since stepped down, but the October reshuffle brought the creation of three new goats: Lords Mandelson, Carter of Barnes and Myners. And now we have Lord Davies.

Each of these has big departmental responsibilties. In the past, all but a handful of Lords ministers were primarily spokesmen, answering questions and doing the tricky and often arduous task of carrying through legislation, but with no real role in their departments. This began to change under Tony Blair, but it has been taken a big step farther by Mr Brown.


Does the growth of the unelected ministers matter? There is an accountability question. Lords ministers cannot appear on the floor of the Commons: yesterday, Lord Mandelson watched from the Peers’ Gallery as Ian Pearson, his junior minister, answered a question on business loans. But Lord Mandleson had appeared earlier before the Commons Business Select Committee.

The real lesson may be for MPs. Unless more of them have greater experience of the world outside politics, prime ministers will include more goats in their administrations. But political skills also matter and few goats have them."

Stop attacking goats, but feel free to attack the likes of Peter Mandelson and Shriti Vadera.

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