by Stephen Tall on November 28, 2009
The Public Finance website reports the comments of Stephen Greenhalgh, Tory leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and head of the Conservative councils’ innovation unit, at a debate two days ago:
‘My mates are all in the shadow Cabinet, waiting to get those [ministerial] boxes, being terribly excited. I went to university with them, they haven’t run a piss-up in a brewery,’ he said.
‘They’re going to get a department of state, in one case running the finances of the nation.’
Greenhalgh pointed to other countries, such as France and the US, where members of the government had typically served at a regional level earlier in their careers. ‘If you’re going to fail, fail running Alabama, fail running Texas, fail running the city of Paris – don’t just take over the country.’
He is, of course, quite right (at least on this issue) – it’s one of the main reasons the Lib Dem shadow cabinet punches above its weight. Not only does the party have a cohort of frontbenchers who’ve held down serious jobs in both the public and private sectors – Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws, Ed Davey, Susan Kramer, David Howarth, to name just seven – but almost all have first-hand experience of governing outside the Westminster bubble.