George Eustice: Ticking Whitehall co-ordination box

If joined-up government were easy to achieve, it would have been perfected a long time ago.

It isn't easy, so those who work in politics are condemned to hear certain questions over again, such as 'who agreed to this?', 'did we know this was happening?' and 'why wasn't I consulted?'

This week both the Government and opposition took steps aimed at improving co-ordination within their top teams. Ed Miliband faced embarrassment after it was revealed his shadow cabinet had been ordered to submit a form to shadow chancellor Ed Balls before announcing any new policies. Good luck with that. It is always difficult to put one shadow cabinet member in a position of control over the others, and the way to improve co-ordination in opposition is to make your front bench part of the team rather than undermine them.

The Government also made new appointments this week aimed at strengthening co-ordination in Whitehall, with the addition of Andrew Cooper and Paul Kirby.

There has been discussion on the pages of PRWeek about whether Craig Oliver, the new head of comms, has what it takes to browbeat journalists and schmooze editors. But such speculation misses the point. It is now clear that the role will be more about getting the message right than managing day-to-day relations with journalists. Together, the roles make up a triumvirate deployed to improve co-ordination across all government departments.

'The Rise of the Nutters' was a special episode from The Thick of It that parodied the take-over by Gordon Brown and the disintegration of discipline within New Labour. In it, Malcolm Tucker bemoans the demise of its 'two-tick system' where all announcements must be cleared by the head of policy and head of comms before being allowed to go ahead.

The current Government appears to be working towards a 'three-tick system', where announcements must also fit the overall strategy of the Government before being allowed on the grid. It is a good move that should reduce the need for fire-fighting in future.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron

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