IFG - Candidates for Prime Minister must prepare now

13 Jun 2019 09:49 AM

Conservative MPs who want to become Prime Minister must think beyond the immediate leadership contest and face the practical challenges of being head of government. 

There are no official guides to help prepare for the most demanding role in UK politics. A new Institute for Government paper, Becoming Prime Minister, addresses that gap.

The paper guides an incoming prime minister step-by-step through the challenges of preparation to make a quick and successful start in 10 Downing Street. It will help the next PM to set expectations, make key appointments and understand how government is structured and how to get things done.

No amount of Cabinet experience or time in Opposition prepares any future prime minister fully. The next PM will take over in complex and challenging circumstances. Any serious leadership candidate must prepare now to make sure that he or she is not overwhelmed by the challenge and does not make ill-informed decisions. The first days can set the tone of an entire premiership.

The report says a future prime minister must:

  • Make some decisions before walking into No.10

Make decisions now on key personnel, appointments to the Cabinet and the formation of ministerial teams.

  • Get ready for the pace of government

Prepare for an unprecedented scale of decision-making and level of urgency which will dominate each day as prime minister, and adapt to new power structures which will see trusted colleagues dispersed to lead departments across Whitehall. 

  • Don't reinvent everything

Too much restructuring of government departments, Number 10 or the Cabinet Office will take up valuable time.

  • Prioritise decisions and delegates

A new prime minister must organise the staff and structures, set expectations and be clear about when to delegate and when to intervene.

Dr Catherine Haddon, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government and report author, said:

“Too few prospective prime ministers think about how they will adapt to the breadth of the role, scale of the workload, unexpected crises and government machinery. We will be watching to see which candidates are putting in serious time and thought about what they want to achieve before inheriting the keys to 10 Downing Street.”

Notes to editors

  1. The full report can be found on our website.
  2. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  3. For more information, please contact press@instituteforgovernment.org.uk / 0785 031 3791.

Associated documents: