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IFG - Former ministers reveal experiences of May and Cameron governments

David Gauke, David Mundell and Sam Gyimah have given candid interviews about their time serving as ministers for former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May.

The interviews, which give insight into their experiences of the Brexit process, are published today by the Institute for Government and form part of the IfG’s Ministers Reflect series.

The latest series of Ministers Reflect interviews also features former Liberal Democrat minister Norman Lamb, who criticises the mistakes made in coalition by former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

In the interviews:

  • Former justice and DWP secretary David Gauke describes Theresa May as “standing on a rock in the middle of a minefield… she knew she couldn’t keep standing on the rock for much longer”
  • David Mundell, former Scotland secretary, argues that, after the Scottish referendum, “there was an expectation that perhaps, certainly in the civil service ‘well, we’ve had that referendum and we’ll move on’, when in fact we didn’t move on and we haven’t moved on”
  • Former universities minister Sam Gyimah blames failures to protect UK interests for his Brexit resignation: “We had no leverage, and as you can see our interests, in my view, were getting repeatedly hammered in that process, just as I had seen with Galileo”
  • Former Lib Dem minister Norman Lamb accuses former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander of not being “the best influence on Nick [Clegg]” and failing to pick up on the problems of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms: “I think that Danny was hopeless on the health reforms, he passed it all and didn’t really understand the issues”.

Highlights include:

  • David Gauke on Theresa May’s positioning: “She’d been in this position where she was on the rock in the minefield and then she decided to get off the rock and make a run for it, and unfortunately the inevitable happened”
  • David Gauke on Theresa May’s Brexit inscrutability: “It's very hard to really know where she was. Perhaps if we had just been more confident as to where she was going to end up, there were things that I and others did that maybe we wouldn’t have done if we’d been fully confident in which direction she was going to jump”
  • David Mundell on rows with the SNP: “The nature of Scotland and Scottish politics, it’s lots of window dressing. On detail, there’s a lot of good work, but there’s a lot of froth as well”
  • David Mundell on complacency after the Scottish referendum: “There was an expectation that perhaps, certainly in the civil service ‘well, we’ve had that referendum and we’ll move on’, when in fact we didn’t move on and we haven’t moved on… It’s clear there will never be enough powers. Either you accept a devolved settlement, or you want independence. There isn’t some middle way on that”
  • Sam Gyimah on why he resigned over Brexit: “I could just see what had happened with the Galileo programme happening again and again and again, when of course we were going to leave the EU and then negotiate a future relationship in which we had no leverage. And if we were in the EU’s position, we would do the same, right? So, we had no leverage, and as you can see our interests, in my view, were getting repeatedly hammered in that process, just as I had seen with Galileo”
  • Sam Gyimah on reshuffles: “Sometimes, in some of these jobs, the only interaction you have with the prime minister in that job is to be either fired or promoted again… David Cameron had never been a junior minister, or a cabinet minister, so he kind of didn’t really, I don’t think, instinctively get what it was like going into a department and not really knowing the specifics either”
  • Norman Lamb on Danny Alexander: “Nick primarily went to Danny and not anyone else – which caused, I think, some frustration amongst many people. A lot of people felt that Danny wasn’t necessarily the best influence on Nick, and I still feel that strongly. I think that Danny was hopeless on the health reforms”
  • Norman Lamb on Nick Clegg and tuition fees: “I remember Nick’s inner team went off to have dinner together, and Nick asked the question ‘do you think that we will be fatally wounded by the tuition fees issue?’ and most people around the table reassuring him that we wouldn’t be, that it would be passing… I think it was probably a miscalculation!”

 Notes to editors

  1. Full interviews are attached and can be found here: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/ministers-reflect/
  2. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  3. For more information, including data to reproduce any charts, please contact press@instituteforgovernment.org.uk / 0785 031 3791.

Associated projects: 

Original article link: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/news/latest/ministers-reflect-may-and-cameron-governments

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