Later this week the country will get its new Prime Minister.
Having formally âkissed handsâ with the Queen, the jubilation of getting the job will soon make way for the sober reality that the buck now stops with them. As if to reinforce it, the first task for the newÂ Prime Minister will be to write out instructions for the countryâs nuclear submarines outlining what they should do in the event of the Government being incapacitated.
After this, and in amongst taking congratulatory calls from world leaders, the first priority will be to appoint a Government, starting with the cabinet which can be like trying to keep several plates spinning at one time.
Given that Boris Johnson has been pretty confident of victory, it is almost certain that the key posts will already have been decided and will be announced on his first day. This is when the new Prime Minister, who is known to be sensitive about wanting to be loved, already starts to upset people.Â With a number of high profile Ministers having backed him, they canât all get the job they want and think that will be marvellous at, and that the person who gets their dream job instead would not be half as good as they would be.
In deciding who should go where the Prime Ministerâs appointments will send a strong signal as to their intentions and how they expect to govern. Will he, for example, seek to appoint people in some of the top jobs who didnât support him or who voted remain as a way of uniting the party? Or will he prefer to surround himself with true believers of his cause. If the latter, this will likely further alienate opponents within the parliamentary party.
Important too will be what signals the Prime Minister wants to send about his priorities. A good example would be Michael Gove. He has a history of taking Departments he has led by the horns and pushing through major reform. If he is offered a job, it will send a signal that the new PM wants to make changes in that area of policy. Similarly, where the new PM puts some of his closest acolytes will be a sign of what he values most.
Next will come the more junior Ministers. Â This is the point at which a Prime Minister is at their strongest as they use, to brutal effect, their power to sack and appoint people. As he seeks to keep the party together, the new Prime Minister will need to consider how ruthless he can be. Sack too many Ministers and, as Theresa May will testify, they can come back to haunt you in a hung Parliament. Donât sack enough and the PM will run the risk of not presenting a fresh enough image.
There is also the question of maximising the talent available. Whilst all those who backed the winner will be looking for their reward (some might say that is the ONLY reason why they backed Johnson), that does not mean that they are necessarily the best people to be Ministers amidst the pool of talent available.
With Ministers in post, busily reading the bundles of briefing notes prepared by civil servants, the Prime Minister will need to decide how they want the Number 10 machine to work.
Some, such as Tony Blair, opt for a strong Number 10 with politically appointed advisers given wide ranging powers and responsibilities to ensure Whitehall Departments remain on message, and are pursuing the agenda the PM personally wants. Others, such as David Cameron, opt to give their Ministers much more freedom to make decisions and form policy themselves. Either way, the style and personnel at Number 10 will send a signal as to whether the new PM plans to lead from the front or not.