I loved his new book How Westminster works…and why it doesn’t.
Here is a short excerpt:
The continued use of Downing Street is an act of pathological national sentimentality, the product of a country that has come to value tradition over function and its past over its future.
Various attempts were made to reform it, but they all came to nothing. Powell tried to convince Blair to trade it for open space in the nearby Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center, but was defeated twice. In August 2008, Gordon Brown set up a horseshoe-shaped work center in the Chief Whip’s office at 12 Downing Street. Cameron dropped him as soon as he entered government. Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, moved to 70 Whitehall to create a kind of space station information hub, but the project died when he was sacked.
Instead, the UK government has simply settled for a physical structure that prevents it from operating effectively.
Dunt defends the House of Lords (!) as one of the most functional parts of the British government, calls for proportional representation and, above all, he wants to open the selection of candidates to the public.
Here is his summary of what went wrong:
At the heart of the problem with Westminster is machismo. It’s a feeling, deeply rooted in our assumptions, about what politics is and how we behave: that we don’t need to seek consensus or compromise, that the winner wins everything, that evidence can be ignored, that the government must come to terms with officials who are moved so quickly that they cannot reasonably advise on what is going on, and would be undermined by a spad caste even if they could.
Spad cast refers to special advisers.