Jon Cruddas's lecture on "the role of the state in the good society"

"We in Labour need to build our own story of the big society. Cameron’s version was too abstract."

This is the full text of Labour policy review head Jon Cruddas's lecture to The Centre for Social Justice.

Thank you to CSJ for inviting me. I am a great fan of your work.

From early years intervention, work on gangs, exploring the experience of poverty, tackling problems in family life.

This is the detail of ordinary everyday life and it's something that has too often been missing from our politics.

In the last thirty years British politics has been about the market and the state and not about society. But people live in society. Society is about our connection with others that provides us with meaning in life, a sense of belonging and identity. A market without society, a state that dominates society are the enemies of our wellbeing.

The subject of my lecture tonight is the state and the good society.

The kind of state we want must be shaped by the kind of society we want to create.

What does society mean for the British?

We’re rebellious. Non-conformist. Willing to challenge power.

We are loyal to the institutions we’ve grown up with: the NHS, the BBC, the monarchy.

We believe in the equal dignity of every fellow citizen.

Treating our neighbours as friends not strangers; a belief in duties and obligations to others.

We have a strong sense of getting back what we put in. Willing to help others when they do the same.

Not just rubbing along but being connected by reciprocal relations and mutual obligation.

But my general sense is that England in particular is divided between two traditions.

Between utilitarianism, which tends toward thinking of us as rational, calculating individuals.

And what I will call a one nation politics that recognises it’s our relationships with other people that matter most.

Between a politics of maximising self-interest

And a politics of sociability

Fundamentally, I believe that people aspire to the common good – to work hard and to look after their families.

But something has gone wrong.

Too many young people leave school without a job, without training, without a sense of what they want to do in life

Too many people are depressed, and lonely.

Too many people feel angry that the institutions that affect our lives - the banks and energy companies are anti-social. And often public services too.

Too many feel alienated, ignored or humiliated

We are in danger of becoming a disconnected society, a people who feel a sense of loss and a politics driven by anger and grievance which bleeds away compassion and our shared humanity.

Let's think about this crisis of authority

Those with authority have broken their covenant with society.

There is a lot of good leadership in both the public sector and business.

But too often leaders of our institutions imagine their job is to administer the system not listen to people.

If  there’s a crisis, the answer is always the same – it’s someone else’s fault.

The banks were interested in profiting from  their complicated mathematical systems not building relationships with their customers.

The energy companies put profits before their customers. They blamed the system for the high prices but we know now the prices were fixed. It’s a moral failure not just market failure.

The problems in many of our public institutions have the same cause.

Our institutions view people as units of calculation.

Most of the people who work in our schools and hospitals, job centres and local authorities are driven by a sense of duty and a desire to care.

But too often they are forced to act like machines where these human virtues are crowded out.

They are forced to treat the contact they have with the people they serve as a series of isolated transactions.

They have not time to build up relationships.

Take social services. In some places, 80% of care budgets go in assessing need not paying people to care.

Friends and family who want to help aren’t supported, even though it’d cost the taxpayer less if they were.

The system doesn’t support people’s relationships with each other. It views us all as isolated individuals with rigidly defined needs.

Take our education system.

Too many of our schools judge ‘improvement’ by nothing other than the number of pupils getting 5 A*-C at GCSE. Teachers want to instill the joy of learning. But they are told to follow the system and teach to the test.

Curiosity and a connection to the world outside the classroom gets ignored. Even our ‘good’ schools see education as a set of hoops to jump through.

Arguably, young people are disengaged from education because we take this transactional view rather than a belief in creating wise, virtuous citizens.

Even our brightest students often leave school with no sense of what they’re going to do afterwards. Few have a sense of vocation or of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Those who are driven and committed often just see education as the means to earn a high salary. Those who aren’t can end up feeling alienated from almost everything in their lives.

We need exams. But we need an education system that teaches self-discipline and gives children a sense of passion and purpose. We need schools that don’t just teach transferable skills but can help develop students’ sense of what they are going to do in life

It’s the same problem with banks and energy companies.

Leaders too often think their job is to administer the system, and don’t take responsibility when things go wrong.

We’ve taken a wrong turn.

I would suggest that the real dividing line in British politics now is not between statists and free marketeers, or between centralists and localists.

It’s between two different ideas of what society is.

It’s about the difference between utilitarianism and one nation politics- actually it is a debate within all the major parties.

Let me outline what I mean by these two ideas.

Utilitarian politics

The utilitarian view treats people as isolated, calculating individuals.

For utilitarians, our satisfaction is something that can always be quantified. It was Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, who invented the word ‘maximise’.

It’s a view that says the good things in life can always be given a monetary value. “Welfare”, happiness, joy are things that have a price.

University education is measured by the average salary of their graduates. 

The quality of our environment, our forests and our landscape are given a cash value.

The quality of care we give to an elderly person in need is defined in a number on a spreadsheet.

Bentham would have approved of all these things.

Where everything is quantifiable in terms of its derived utility. We lose the sense of doing something because it is good and right. And we lose the ability to challenge our leaders when things go wrong.

But it’s not just about the market per se. As the utilitarian market needs a strong state.

Utilitarians say people don’t know what their own interest is. They believe in an elite that makes the rules. Who push  people to ‘maximise’ their satisfaction – as the elite defines it.

So we end up with too many predatory markets and a bossy class of distant administrators, whose job is to force people to act ‘rationally’.

We are left with a form of capitalism that dispossesses people and fails to provide millions with a decent livelihood.

The state doesn’t protect people against risk. It sets guidelines and targets. Coerce, cajole, manage, nudge, direct –never care, support, build, lead.

Whether it’s the state or the market, utilitarianism tries to manage people with huge impersonal systems where no one’s in charge.

One thing sums up this attitude for me: a refusal to trust people.

Utilitarians are suspicious of what happens when people get together, when they have freedom to put across their point of view, when they argue, debate, negotiate.

They think our different interests and perspectives mean we can never agree our maximum derived utility. It tends toward a rejection of the idea of a shared common life- rather the aggregation of individual transactions.

So there’s no place for workers and managers, teachers and parents, health workers and to sit down and agree how they can work together for the common good.

They tacitly reject the notion of one nation. We’re just a country of 60 million competing, individuals, out to ‘maximise’ our utility.

As a result, utilitarian politics tends to diminish institutions that bring people together. Such as trade unions, school governing bodies, professional associations.

It’s about being neutral and ‘fair’. It insists on equal treatment – in theory. But it’s an idea of equality with no room for people. It has at times dominated each of our major two political parties and exiled other competing traditions

We’re left with endless freedom of choice but no power. We end up with very little to love, to cherish, to protect. We advance our self-interest, but have corroded our sense of what’s good. And we don’t have the institutions or organisations to fight for what’s right.

And there’s no one left who’s willing to take responsibility for doing what’s right.

This utilitarian project has been challenged by another tradition that started long before Disraeli.

One Nation

One nation politics starts with our interests. But it says we can only find fulfillment with others.

For me, the inspiration is Aristotle, not Bentham standing over there in Gower Street.

We try, in our lives, to pursue what is good. That involves virtue, friendship and love, not just calculation. Human society, as Aristotle put it ‘comes into being for the sake of living, but is for the sake of living well’.

This is miles away from the system design of Bentham’s Panoptican

Human satisfaction depends on the way we live together with the people around us. A common life, indeed a political life, provides the basis of our personal fulfillment.

Our purpose must be to create and protect this common life against the tendency of both big business and bureaucracy to dehumanise.

In Britain, the idea of creating ‘one nation’ was born in the early nineteenth-century, in response to fears about the effects of the industrial revolution. The new factories and industrial cities saw the growth of poverty, dirt, disease, dispossession, dislocation as well wealth and opportunity.

One nation politics didn’t resist change, but wanted to civilise, to humanise the process of transformation.

One nation politics is about organising people in institutions that conserve what’s of value in the face of dislocating change.

It began as a radical project.

It started as a call for reconnection not revolution.

E. P. Thompson showed how English radicals drew from long-standing ideas about the obligation of rich to poor to argue for their inclusion in Britain’s political and economic institutions.

But you could never trust the powerful to look after the interests of the powerless. The answer was always the same: people needed to organise together.

The campaign by Chartism to give working people a place in the constitution. Put into practice with the Chartist Hustings and the Peoples Parliament.

The patriotic radicalism of William Cobbett

The ‘villages of cooperation’ built by Robert Owen to create a new world of  reciprocity and mutual obligation

The Tolpuddle Martyrs

These are founding moments in the history of the Labour movement.

They were driven by the sentiments created by our history of sociability, not by abstract right or narrow economic interests.

They argued that our factories and councils, courts and parliament, needed to be held to account by voices from every part of the nation, not just the propertied elite.

There’s always been a strand of the Labour movement that’s been more about sociability than social science.

Sometimes it’s been hidden; often in the last century exiled. At times we’ve imagined socialism could be created by slide-rules or spreadsheets – the technocrats, the Benthamites have had their day- often described as Fabians. There were moments when we came close to losing our soul.

But in the early years of the twentieth century, the Labour movement was about creating a responsible society, driven by collective self-help. It was about nurturing a common life in the face of the dehumanising force of industrial capitalism.

In 1948, G.D.H. Cole could argue that the ‘social-service state’ the Labour government created was something founded on ‘democratic mutual aid and organization of the community spirit’, not top-down provision.

The 1945 government was less about state socialism, and more about the creation of a responsible society built in the everyday world of Haileybury House in Stepney and the 1920s ILP radicalism of Clem Attlee's East End.

It made mistakes. It believed too much in the spirit but not practice of democracy. It didn’t give people real power as much as it should have done. Labour believed too much in the voice of the technical expert, and not in the power of ordinary people.

But the 1945 government built institutions that brought people together: the National Health Service, the National Parks, the Festival of Britain. It was one nation politics in practice.

It’s not an argument I’ve time to make here: but my hunch is that it’s the Conservatives who’ve been the real centralisers.

Crisis

I’ve argued tonight that the crisis in Britain today is about the way our institutions are run.

The leaders of our institutions have broken their covenant with society.

We’re in danger of forgetting that people are motivated by more than individual self-interest. We’re at risk of creating a society in which no one takes responsibility, and no one has a genuine sense of authority.

This coalition government isn’t going to fix things, because it’s been taken over by the utilitarian approach. It is a tragedy for modern politics and not just the Conservative Party.

David Cameron’s leadership bid for the Conservative Party was a challenge to Labour for getting too technocratic and top-down in the way we governed. His ‘ big society’ and the ‘post-bureaucratic age’ were good ideas. Personally, I still support them!

His pro-social speeches were about compassion, community and responsibility. The same as Tony Blair until 2000.

Cameron started to push the Conservative Party back onto the common ground of one nation politics. That’s why people liked him. I liked him.

It was a bold move. But it failed. The big society needed good economic times. The 2008 financial crisis sunk it. The party is now dominated by its right wing – unpatriotic in pushing the Conservatives off the common ground.

Without effective leadership, I fear the raw utilitarians are becoming the loudest voices.

Instead of wanting one nation they are creating a divided country.

Their idea of progress and modernisation is cold and calculating.

They think the Tories will win next election with a combination of big infrastructure projects, marketisation and an intensification of free market ‘modernisation’.

It was their voice that dominated the Conservative response to Ed Miliband’s one nation conference speech.

The charge was led by Michael Gove, in a speech to think tank Politeai last month.

Gove used his critique of Ed’s speech to attack the tradition David Cameron is part of. The speech marks a break in modern-day Conservatism, the abandonment of one nation politics and its replacement with an unrelenting utilitarianism.

Gove makes one important point. He talked about the way our public culture doesn’t have room for experiment and failure.

But for there to be experimentation to work, you need to trust people, to allow different ways of doing things to happen. We need, in other words, institutions where people have a say, where there’s warmth, love, compassion. Where public sector workers and users have the time and confidence to support one another, to innovate, take initiatives, improve productivity.

I’m not saying we should forget about efficiency and productivity. In these tough financial times, we need to be efficient and productive.

But efficient transactions happen when people trust each other, when there’s personal contact. Tough conversations go better when people are honest and have a good relationship with each other. Efficiency happens when people are part of a team that is motivated by a sense of common purpose.

It’s about a leaders’ authority coming from the way they respond to being challenged.

But instead of getting people together to support each other, Gove tells a classically utilitarian story: we need more market and more government, more competition, but also more state.

Look at what’s happened in the ministry Gove runs:

We’ve seen compulsory phonic testing for six year olds.

We’ve seen restriction in the choices schools make over the curriculum.

We’ve seen a relentless focus on one way of measuring a pupil’s progression – the English Baccalaureate. As Alison’ Wolf’s excellent review of vocational education argue, good maths and English are essential for all young people.

But that’s not what this government is saying.

-Instead, they’re telling us there is only one way to be success in life: A-levels and a university degree from a Russell Group institution.

With the economy on tilt, and preparation for life after school so poor, it isn’t working out like that for even the brightest children in our schools.

Gove says: we can’t trust parents to hold teachers to account. We shouldn’t support teachers in finding their own ways to develop their students. They need, minute by minute, to be directed by regulations from a distant administrator.

It’s hardly surprising that one of Gove’s own advisors, John McIntosh, said last month that teachers were giving ‘robotic’ lessons’ because they’re trying to follow pressure from Ofsted.

In short, we in Labour need to build our own story of the big society. Cameron’s version was too abstract.

It was based on a simplistic distinction between state and society. It was all about creating active citizens without changing the way the state or market worked. It failed to recognise that it’s the way our institutions work which stop people getting involved.

There was no effort to reform public institutions or businesses to reflect people's sociable instincts.

The result was a kind of sham localism. A localism bill that gave ministers more power over local government.

Police Commissioner elections for a post no one knew about, with no effort to involve people in the conversation about local policing.

A public ‘right to challenge’ local authority service provision which gives local residents the power to trigger a compulsory competitive tendering process if they don’t like the way a council runs a service. From then onwards the market, not people, will decide.

This government is more interested in administering the system than reforming institutions so people can hold them to account. Cameron’s big society had no democracy.

So I suggest, with some sadness, that the Conservatives are increasingly ruled by an interest, an instinct and an ideology that is out of touch with the sentiments of people in this country.

The interest is finance.

It means we’re stuck with the same short-term, financially-driven approach that got us into this mess in the first place.

The instinct is that you can’t trust people.

The Conservatives don’t trust what happens when people get together, when they associate, talk, organise. Their idea of authority comes from a sense of hierarchy, not of dialogue and democratic accountability. It’s a view that leads to an extraordinary concentration of power.

The ideology is neo-classical economics, and the mad belief that all preferences can be priced, and market exchange result in ‘optimum’ outcomes.

The trouble is not that the market isn’t free enough. Faceless systems whether they’re created by the market or administrative rules, leave no space for authority that can be held to account.

What is to be done?

The Labour policy review is developing ideas about how we change the way we govern. For example, am emerging debate about the relational state and about relational welfare and about self-regenerating communities.

But I think we need to challenge the terms of argument in a more fundamental way.

We need to start talking about restoring the covenant between those who lead our institutions and the British people. To rebuild the vocation of political and managerial authority in our public sector.
       
For me, public leadership is not the technical task of delivering ‘outcomes’.

It’s the moral practice of getting people together. It’s about unlocking the capacity we all have to work collectively for the common good. It’s the same at every level, from the Prime Minister to the teacher in a primary school.

It’s about relationships and reciprocity.

It depends on a relationship with the people who work for you and who you serve. The back and forth of conversation, the personal touch, the ability to listen not just communicate ‘key messages’.

It’s about a sense of reciprocal obligation. The right to receive carries an obligation to help others in return.

The salaries we pay our public sector leaders aren’t the market price we pay to buy their skills. They are a consideration paid in return for their commitment and duty to those they serve.

We’ll only have public institutions with deeper relationships and a stronger sense of reciprocity if we change the way we hold their leaders to account. The power of the citizen, not the regulation written in Whitehall should be the force driving the improvement of our public services.

I’m not saying targets, exams, national guidelines aren’t sometimes useful.

But too often, the managers of our schools, hospitals, job centres see themselves as accountable to distant systems and processes. As a result many have lost the art of practical leadership which allows them to respond to the real voice and needs of the people they serve.

It creates a sense of disempowerment and loss of responsibility amongst the people who should stand up and take charge.

Our policy review is looking at ways to make the organised voice of citizens the driving force behind public sector improvement.

We’re drawing on the work of think-tanks and academics, but also people with practical experience of organising to create a common life in our public and private institutions.

Like London Citizens, with their work in fighting for the living wage and building relationships to make our neighbourhoods safer places.

Like Locality helping a new generation of community leaders

In the Labour Party, Iain McNicol and organisations like Movement for Change are building community organising into the party.

And the social enterprise Participle, with projects like Circle and Backr which create social networks so older people can find help and those out of work find jobs.

We want workers on the board of private companies, service users and workers to be involved in the governance of public institutions.

But its not just boards and governing bodies. The authority of our public sector leaders needs to be more visible, better able to publicly respond to challenge.

The leaders of schools and hospitals need to be skillful at conversing with the citizens they serve, able to tell a clear public story about their purpose, not just adept at managing data and filling in forms.

We need to renew the autonomous sense of virtue and vocation amongst public sector professions. Professionalism is about having pride in the quality of one’s work and having the confidence to be open to citizens’ challenge.

So we could see the leaders of public institutions held to account before annual assemblies. If we were bold, we could have public confirmation hearings for new public leaders. We could give local service users the power to challenge someone they think shouldn’t be in post.

It’d connect with the sensibilities of the British people; loyal to institutions that support us, but rebellious when people in power get ideas above their station.

We need to give local authorities more power over public spending, so they direct a greater proportion of public funds in response to democratically decided need. But we need to make sure councils don’t just become another out of touch bureaucracy on a small scale.

Their role should be to broker conversations between citizens and local institutions, weaving the different interests together in a place to create a single story about its future.

As a movement and as a government the criteria we use to judge whether to do something will be whether it brings people together; whether it will unlock the energy of people who want to care and work for the common good.

How do we build intermediary institutions that become the heart of their communities, where people meet, relate and create a common life.

That might mean shifting resources to fund public institutions which provide support in kind – free childcare, schools that become community centres, job-centres where people with skills volunteer to help nurture the talents of the unemployed.

Putting power in the hands of local citizens, users and workers means we need to take it away from the centre, reducing the scope of Whitehall to instruct and cajole.

Labour can only be a movement about association if it becomes the party of deregulation.

But we won’t deregulate to hand more power to the market. It’s about giving freedom to people to get together and work for the common good on their own terms, not compete. We should cut red tape to strengthen the power people have to hold institutions to account.

All this means a new style of national political leadership. It’s about telling a story about the destiny of our counties, towns and cities, then persuading citizens, and institutions to get involved.

There’s always tension and argument. Our politics needs to be more comfortable with disagreement than it is now. But, it must be driven by the faith that, if they are treated as dignified human beings, if they are giving a voice and real power, people can work together for the common good.

Politics is about the tension between hope and despair. Despair is made convincing by the utilitarianism of our political language. It leave little to live for.

Hope will come from our rediscovery of our sociability.

It will take a return to our rich traditions of volatile, inspirational cultures of non-conformity and creativity. Over centuries, English, Scots and Welsh radicals resisted efforts by the central state to mould society in its image. Our politics needs to take nourishment from that spirit.

We need a renewal of authority. But it can’t be based on the enlightened reason of a technocratic elite. It needs to be rooted in a new covenant between those in power and our vibrant, creative society. For Labour it is literally going to be a journey of self discovery- about what we have been and what we might be again.

Labour policy review head Jon Cruddas. Photograph: Getty Images.

Jon Cruddas is Labour's policy review coordinator and MP for Dagenham

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Cabinet audit: what do Theresa May’s new hires mean for government?

The New Statesman team looks at the politics and policy behind the new Prime Minister’s cabinet appointments.

Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals.

Stephen Bush

Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), senior industry figures had already begun questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment toopposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies – thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary

Having run Theresa May’s leadership campaign, Chris Grayling was always going to be in line for a pretty beefy promotion. And so it transpired, with the staunch Brexiteer being plucked from his post as Leader of the House of Commons to head the Department for Transport.

He has been a useful ally of May’s, reassuring fellow eurosceptics and Brexit voters that the once Remain-backing Prime Minister really means that “Brexit means Brexit”.

But his appointment will bring less comfort to DfT mandarins and those in the transport industry. Detractors who have previously worked for him in government usually either decry him as a hardline right winger, or suggest he is just simply not very bright. A notorious figure since his stint as Justice Secretary in 2012-15, Grayling is known for his uncompromising and compassionless (and often senseless) policy decisions – banning books being sent to prisoners, legal aid cuts, and controversial new court charges. The legal world was also riled by his lack of knowledge about the profession, as the first non-lawyer to serve as Lord Chancellor for nearly half a century.

However, Grayling is familiar with the transport brief, having shadowed the role in 2005-7, and he will have the same challenges as many past transport secretaries (and their shadows): the future of HS2, and the question of airport expansion. Politically sticky infrastructure projects that have been consistently kicked into the long grass. But perhaps May’s enthusiasm for a proper industrial policy – and shelving of austerity targets – will mean Grayling has to get more done on such matters than his prevaricating predecessors.

Anoosh Chakelian

Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis

Sajid Javid, Communities Secretary

Sajid Javid is a pinup for Tory aspiration – son of a British-Pakistani bus driver, he worked his way from his local comprehensive in Rochdale to the towers of New York.

At 20, he was attending the Conservative Party Conference and by 25 he was the youngest vice-president of Chase Manhattan Bank. This was the start of an international career that took him to London and Singapore.

After winning the seat of Bromsgrove in 2010, Javid began an equally rapid political rise. By the end of 2011, he was the parliamentary private secretary to the then-Chancellor, George Osborne.

The following years saw him climb the Treasury’s stairs. And a year’s break from economic policy found him haunting the foyers of London’s West End as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. But by 2015, he was back in Osborne’s sphere of influence as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He is now the most high-profile survivor of Theresa May’s purge of the Osbornites (she and the former Chancellor often clashed in cabinet), but downgraded to the slightly less weighty position of Communities and Local Government Secretary.

Could Sajid Javid be Britain's first Asian Prime Minister? asked the Daily Mail in 2014. As it is, the new PM has sent his path to power on something of a detour. He's held onto a seat at the cabinet table, but with Osborne on the backbenches, he’s on his own.

Julia Rampen

Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary

The world shared a stunned silence when news broke that Boris Johnson would be the new Foreign Secretary. Johnson, who once referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and more recently accused the half-Kenyan President of the United States of only commenting on the EU referendum because of bitterness about colonialism, will now be Britain’s representative on the world stage.

His colourful career immediately came back to haunt him when US journalists accused him of “outright lies” and reminded him of the time he likened Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to a “sadistic nurse”. Johnson’s previous appearances on the international stage include a speech in Beijing where he maintained that ping pong was actually the Victorian game of “whiff whaff”.

But Johnson has always been more than a blond buffoon, and this appointment is a shrewd one by May. His popularity in the country at large, apparently helped by getting stuck on a zip line and havingnumerous affairs, made him an obvious threat to David Cameron’s premiership. His decision to defect to the Leave campaign was widely credited with bringing it success. He canned his leadership campaign after Michael Gove launched his own bid, but the question of whether his chutzpah would beat May’s experience and gravity is still unknown.

In giving BoJo the Foreign Office, then, May hands him the photo opportunities he craves. Meanwhile, the man with real power in international affairs will be David Davis, who as Brexit minister has the far more daunting task of renegotiating Britain’s trade deals.

Julia Rampen

Philip Hammond, Chancellor

Even officials with leftwing politics hoped that Theresa May would keep George Osborne in place at the Treasury, for two reasons: firstly because he is a considerate boss, and secondly because his exit from frontline politics likely means the end of a 19-year period of dominance by the Treasury, in which, whether under Gordon Brown, Osborne or even under Alistair Darling, whoever has been in office, the Treasury has been in power.

But Philip Hammond was very much the second choice, way ahead of any of the possible figures. Hammond was the biggest beast to back May’s candidacy and was rewarded for the Treasury brief that coalition denied him (he had shadowed the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in opposition but the mechanics of the coalition meant the post had to be given to a Liberal Democrat). Before May’s accession to the premiership, he had already lined up with her on negotiations with the European Union and Osborne’s deficit targets (now shelved).

Hammond comes in with the economy looking pre-recessional and with Britain’s future participation in the single market in some doubt. (Hammond has publicly said Britain ought to remain in the single market above all else – May is more concerned about immigration, while the Brexit-backing ministers are divided.)

What ought he to do? The big task is to get the construction industry back on its feet. Happily, although the decline in Britain’s credit rating has made borrowing more expensive, low interest rates at home and abroad make the case for fiscal stimulus stronger than ever, and mean the government can borrow on the cheap. Launching programmes of housebuilding, transport infrastructure and clean energy would be good ways to try to avert or at least ride out any economic shocks. (From an economic perspective albeit not an environmental one, it makes sense to approve new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, two “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that have private money behind them.)

But the big victory that Hammond could achieve at the Treasury would be to defeat the Brexiteer ultras and keep Britain in the single market.

Stephen Bush

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary

The good news first: Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye since 2010, joins May in the Great Offices of State. This is the first time two of these four positions have been held by women at the same time. Rudd is only the fifth woman ever to hold one.

The ex-Energy Secretary will take the reins directly from May, so it’s fair to assume she’ll carry on much of the work begun by the longest-serving Home Secretary since 1892. Rudd is unlikely to rock the boat here – she has not rebelled once in this parliamentary term. Therese Coffey MP told the Telegraph that May sees Rudd as “a safe pair of hands”.

The Investigatory Powers bill, or so-called Snoopers’ Charter, was a high priority for May, and is currently making its way through the Lords. Despite objections raised in the House around the protection of communications with journalists’ sources and lawyers’ clients, it’s likely it’ll pass without much fuss. Depending on the amendments that make it through, it may allow security services to hack into our computers and phones (including cameras and microphones), and require back doors to be built in encrypted messaging systems.

Rudd has repeatedly voted for a stricter asylum system by restricting the support available to failed asylum seekers, and denying permission for them to work if they’re in the UK for over six months. She was absent for a vote on sparing migrants from deportation on human rights grounds. May stubbornly sought to cut net migration in her time as Home Secretary, and created a minimum income threshold (£35,000) for non-EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than ten years and who are hoping to stay.

Since taking the leadership May has confirmed that “we should have that goal of bringing immigration down to sustainable levels”. This is now down to Rudd, who in a fiery Brexit TV debate with Boris Johnson argued that immigration is “a complex problem…you need to look at the numbers. But the only number Boris is interested in is Number 10!”

Female Genital Mutilation within the UK also falls within the Home Office remit, and Rudd may try to make her own mark here. She is vice-chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Female Genital Mutilation and has called for stricter laws around the practice.

Barbara Speed

Justine Greening, Education Secretary

An early supporter of the new Prime Minister, and longstanding cabinet member, Justine Greening was always heading for promotion in a Theresa May cabinet. Her former territory, the Department for International Development, loyally picked up a lot of slack from the Home Office on migration issues under Greening's leadership, and she has regularly worked closely with May.

Personal allegiances aside, Greening is a sensible choice for the Department for Education. She is the first Education Secretary to have been educated at a comprehensive school, and as the first openly gay woman to serve in cabinet, she is a good choice for the Women and Equalities brief, which she also carries.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister highlighted two huge problems that many would attribute to the education system: how white working-class boys are “less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”; and how “If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately”.

Going some way to solving these two huge problems will be Greening’s aim, though really the issues go far deeper than her new department. Still, there is scope for improvement, beginning with an increased focus upon early years education: by the age of five, there is a 19-month gap in school readiness between the most and least disadvantaged children.

The UK is almost unique in having larger class sizes for primary than secondary school, which is barmy; addressing that should be part of a whole project of centring UK education policy on the first years in life, which are the most important, and ceasing the endless tinkering with secondary education.

Alas, many in the Conservative party do not want the tinkering to stop. There is a renewed call for the ban on opening new grammars to be overturned. There are 163 remaining today, concentrated in a few selective counties. The government’s approval of a new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks last October, ten miles away from the original site, hints at many more to come, with ten council areas keen to open more satellite schools – effectively bringing grammar schools back through the back door.

The nostalgic argument to bring back grammar schools seems perverse considering that, in areas that maintain fully selective education like Kent, poorer pupils do worse than the national average and the attainment gap between the most advantaged and disadvantaged students is above the national average. It also ignores that the countries that perform best in education are those that separate latest, and demand the highest standards of all pupils until 16.

Greening will have more to grapple with than her predecessor Nicky Morgan, because the education brief has now been expanded to include higher education. Integrating the two could have some negative effects: schools and universities will now effectively be competing with each other for funding within the department. Whereas universities' former place in the Department for Business recognised how they are a British export and a driver of business.

But this integration gives Greening the opportunity to improve communication between elite universities and state schools, thereby improving access to the top universities. The coming vote on increasing tuition fees to £9,250 might give her an opportunity to demand that some universities ramp up their access work, as they did when fees when trebled in 2010. Yet she will soon realise that, while some universities could undoubtedly do more, the crux of the issue is way earlier, in the earliest years of life. This should be her main focus.

Tim Wigmore

Damian Green, Work and Pensions Secretary

"There will always be a little bit of the Home Office inside me,” Theresa May told her civil servants when she left 2 Marsham Street for the last time.

There is more than a little bit of the Home Office in her government, too, with trusted old hands from her old department now stretched out across the government. Damian Green, a long-term ally of May’s – and, like her, a veteran of the Conservatives’ internal battles to modernise from long before David Cameron arrived on the scene – and a trusted lieutenant in the Home Office, returns to government having been sacked by Cameron in 2014.

The appointment gives us a clue as to how May views the troubled Universal Credit programme and the Department for Work and Pensions overall. The DWP came to be regarded as something of a basket case on Whitehall and was at continual loggerheads – something that Stephen Crabb was brought in to fix after Iain Duncan Smith quit the government. Crabb’s resignation from the government following stories that he had sent salacious texts to a young woman stymied that project.

Step forward Green. It feels likely that his appointment is a signal that Downing Street is well aware of the problems with IDS’ failed reforms and the need for a competent hand to bring the department back into equilibrium. There’s an irony that the progressive wishlist for the DWP – unwind much of the Duncan Smith agenda, and get the department making headlines for positive reasons – is shared both by the Prime Minister and by the new boss at Caxton Street.

Stephen Bush

Priti Patel, International Development Secretary

Perhaps one of the least palatable new hires for Whitehall bods is Priti Patel, semi-promoted from cabinet-attending Employment Minister to International Development Secretary. The right winger is known for being on the neo-Thatcherite vanguard of the party characterised by the provocative 2012 treatise Britannia Unchained, which she co-authored – championing free market economics and a smaller state. So having her at the helm of any department would legitimately give civil servants the jitters.

But Dfid, though one of the less political departments, is a particularly controversial charge for Patel. In 2013, she suggested to the Daily Telegraph that it should be scrapped in favour of a more trade-focused department, calling for, “the consideration to replace Dfid with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race. It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities.”

The International Development Act makes it illegal to tie aid to trade, so Patel will find it tough to pursue her ideological aims. But there are things she can do to change the tone and focus of the Department; her initial statement upon taking the job emphasises “working across government, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the new Department for International Trade, the Home Office and others”. 

She could even advocate for repealing David Cameron’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on development, which was enshrined in law last year. Although it is unlikely she would try this, removing the ring fence on the Dfid budget might actually become a tempting prospect for the rest of government, which is set to become even more cash-strapped as a result of Brexit.

We can only hope that Dfid’s ability to keep its ministers out of the political fray, and regularly travelling overseas, will curb this threat.

Anoosh Chakelian

David Davis, Brexit Secretary

David Davis is proof that there are second acts in political lives. Eleven years after he was defeated by David Cameron in the Conservative leadership contest, and 19 years after he last served in government, Davis has been tasked by Theresa May with negotiating Brexit.

It was a role that the Leave supporter had pitched for throughout the EU referendum campaign, though he was still surprised by his elevation. When the call from Downing Street came, Davis was drinking with a former researcher in a Commons bar and initially ignored his phone. As Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, he will now be one of the new administration’s defining figures.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP, 67, served as Europe minister from 1994-97, a role in which he acquired the sobriquet  “Monsieur Non”. He has already displayed similar implacability in his new post. To the charge that opening trade talks with other countries would be illegal under EU law, Davis replied: “Well that’s what they say, they can’t tell us who to talk to . . . What are they are going to do?” He has also warned that European migrants who arrive before Brexit is complete could be denied the right to remain.

Davis expects Article 50, which sets a two-year limit for withdrawal, to be triggered “before or by the start” of 2017. Rater than retaining single market membership (as Norway does), he favours Canadian-style tariff-free access. This would grant the UK exemption from free movement and EU budget contributions but would deny financial services the right to unhindered trade (known as “passporting”).

The former SAS reservist is best remembered by many for resigning as shadow home secretary in 2008 in order to fight a by-election over the issue of 42-day detention. After remaining outside Cameron’s team, he became a redoubtable defender of civil liberties from the backbenches. The council estate boy was also one of just two Tory MPs to originally vote against tax credit cuts (a record of rebellion that also includes tuition fees, capital gains tax, child benefit cuts, House of Lords reform, boundary changes and Syria).

When I interviewed him in May, Davis warned that any attempt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights would be defeated by himself and “a dozen” other Conservatives (a group known as the “Runnymede Tories” after the meadow where Magna Carta was sealed). It was a stance that May abandoned shortly after launching her leadership campaign.

Davis boasts the rare feat of joining the government while simultaneously suing it. In partnership with Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, he launched a European court action against the Home Office, May’s former department, over the bulk retention of communications data. “I would be surprised if the ECJ doesn’t find in my favour and that will have big implications for the IP [Investigatory Powers] bill,” he told me.

As one of the “three Brexiters” at the head of May’s government (the others being Boris Johnson and Liam Fox), Davis will compete not only for supremacy over policy. The trio have been ordered to share Chevening, the foreign secretary’s traditional country residence, in Kent.

George Eaton

Greg Clark, Business Secretary

A PhD in economics and a career in management consulting would suggest that the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has a flare for maths. Yet when it comes to policy, Greg Clark's record doesn't always add up. 

A renowned Tory moderniser, Clark's appointment to head the new department (born out of watering down BIS, and dismantling DECC) has been greeted with optimism from the business community and green sector alike. He “gets climate change”, said Ruth Davis from the E3G energy policy think tank.

As a former policy director, he helped found and champion David Cameron’s Big Society initiative. He has since been through a succession of frontbench roles, consistently voted in favour of gay marriage, helped devolve power to cities, and made a splash by arguing that Polly Toynbee, not Winston Churchill, should set the Conservative agenda.

Yet can this Middlesbrough-born son of a milkman succeed in growing a green economy where his Big Society agenda appears to have so markedly failed?

The greatest challenge his new, enlarged, and hopefully more empowered, department faces is to grow UK industry at the same time as urgently reducing our emissions. Luckily this is something that Clark also perceives to be one of the country's greatest opportunities. He has criticised those who challenge action on climate change, shown a readiness to plan for the worst when it comes to interpreting climate science, and provided an ambitious vision for Britain’s green economy: “Britain could be the Saudi Arabia of marine energy”, he said in 2009.

Yet while his words have promoted wave-power, his actions have tended to change like the tide. His reputation for devolving power to local governments was seriously dented last year, when it was announced that Clark – then the Communities & Local Government Secretary – not the local council, would get the final say over permission to frack in Lancashire. Other concerning examples of this “do as I say, not as I do” tendency include voting to lower taxes on fuel and for cuts to renewable subsidies. 

He must therefore work fast to ensure that his reputation for blue sky thinking is more than a lot of hot air. Barry Gardiner, Labour's shadow energy secretary, has suggested that accelerating energy efficiency, developing Carbon Capture Storage and bringing forward the government’s promised Carbon Plan, would all be good places to start.

The rise of Clark and his new department is likely to be linked to the demise of the Department for Energy and Climate Change – and the loss of climate change from a cabinet nameplate. Yet if he can steer new policy in the right direction, towards making environmental costs integral to industry rather than an afterthought, he might yet make this chequered inheritance his greatest strength.

India Bourke

James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland Secretary

Remember Northern Ireland? You could be forgiven for forgetting it – certainly, for most of the EU referendum campaign, the fate of the region, which receives £120m a year in funds from the European Union, and thanks to the free movement of labour and the Common Travel Agreement no longer has a hard border between the North and the South.

Now that is in jeopardy, and thanks to the landslide endorsement of Remain by the region’s voters, tensions between Northern Ireland and the mainland are understandably high.

Neglected during the campaign, Northern Ireland has been forgotten during the discussion of what Brexit means. Most of the attention over what Britain’s Leave vote means for its constituent kingdoms has focused on whether Scotland stays in the Union or not – little attention has been given to the £600m hit to the Welsh economy or to what Brexit could do to Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Step forward James Brokenshire. Just as during the Blair era, Gordon Brown brought his protégés up through the Treasury before diffusing them throughout the government machinery, Theresa May has handed jobs to Home Office juniors who she knows and respects.

Brokenshire’s brief will be to shield Northern Ireland from the consequences of the loss of EU funds and ensure that whatever post-Brexit deal is struck, a hard border between North and South remains off the agenda.

Stephen Bush