Starting a new job can be both exciting and daunting at the same time. You meet new colleagues and learn new skills, but many of us struggle at first with the detailed ins and outs of a new role.
So spare a thought for the two new Cabinet Ministers, Jeremy Hunt (now Foreign Secretary) and Dominic Raab (in the hot seat for Brexit negotiations) who’ve got to learn their new brief in no time at all.
Those two won’t have to face Parliament for a couple of weeks at least, because of the summer recess. But their days will be full of wily foreign diplomats trying to trip up the inexperienced newcomer, or hard-nosed EU negotiators who’ve been wargaming the Brexit negotiations for two years. And that’s before they have to deal with fiendishly tricky questions from the press.
The Civil Service will help, of course. They genuinely want their Ministers to do a good job, and will help anyone prepare as best they can. But if weak Ministers don’t get a tight grip on their portfolios pretty quickly, they will get ‘Yes Ministered’ as the Sir Humphreys in the civil service run ever-so-subtle rings around them, with all sorts of excuses why this or that new policy can’t be implemented just yet.
That’s why most people argued against frequent Ministerial reshuffles. Except for occasional resignations when Prime Ministers have no choice, there’s a strong argument for giving Ministers enough time to learn their brief, and see through the reforms they initiate.
Except for Dominic Raab, whose job will, by definition, expire in at most 2 years when the Brexit transition period finishes. He’s very able, thank goodness, but that ticking clock should certainly focus his mind!