By David Williams
27 November 2009
A prominent Conservative
council leader has cast doubt over the quality of the shadow Cabinet,
suggesting they are not experienced enough to run a country.
Stephen Greenhalgh, leader
of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and head of the Conservative
councils’ innovation unit, made the remarks at a round table debate on November
26, run by Public Finance in
association with Zurich Municipal.
Greenhalgh, who this autumn
announced the borough’s fourth council tax cut in as many years, has been held
up as an exemplar of good practice by shadow chancellor George Osborne.
During a discussion on
increasing efficiency through reforming local government, he said that
increasing the power of councils would improve the quality of politicians.
‘My mates are all in the
shadow Cabinet, waiting to get those [ministerial] boxes, being terribly
excited. I went to university with them, they haven’t run a piss-up in a
brewery,’ he said.
‘They’re going to get a
department of state, in one case running the finances of the nation.’
Greenhalgh pointed to other
countries, such as France and the US, where members of the government had
typically served at a regional level earlier in their careers. ‘If you’re going
to fail, fail running Alabama, fail running Texas, fail running the city of
Paris – don’t just take over the country.’
Colin Talbot, public policy
professor at Manchester Business School, agreed. ‘It’s not just the politicians
– it’s the civil service,’ he added.
‘Despite 30 years of civil
service reform, the vast majority of senior civil servants still have no
experience of running anything outside public services.’