MPs divided on the decision to hire a businessperson as civil service CEO

A survey of MPs reveals a party divide over the decision to hire a businessperson as the new civil service chief.

By Sarah.Aston

30 Oct 2014

MPs have revealed broad support for the government’s decision to hire a high-flying businessperson as its new civil service chief executive, with 57% backing its approach – but closer inspection reveals a clear split along party lines, raising questions over whether a future Labour government would get behind the coalition’s choice.

Nearly a third of MPs said the approach was misguided – most of them Labour members – and a further five ticked ‘other’ but commented that the government should recruit the best candidate, no matter what their background.

Among Tories, 87% backed the requirement that the chief exec have recent experience leading a major business, while just 6% opposed it. Among Labour MPs, though, 54% were against and 26% in favour. The Lib Dems were neatly split down the middle, with 44% falling into each camp.

The survey, which was carried out by Dods Polling in August, followed the government’s announcement that they were seeking a candidate with a “successful career in the private sector” for the new role. Earlier this month the coalition announced that it has appointed John Manzoni, the former BP businessman and head of the Major Projects Authority, to the role.

The poll also tested MPs’ views on how the new post would work out, asking whether they thought the government’s approach would hasten civil service reform, or fail to make much progress – either because the Cabinet Office would struggle to find someone fitting the bill, or because the role lacks sufficient power and influence.

Just over half (53%) said the new CEO would be able to deliver – including about a third of those who thought the approach misguided. Most MPs of all parties said that the role has sufficient power and influence, with only seven – all Labour or Lib Dem – arguing that it does not.

Among Labour MPs, the single biggest concern was that the government would struggle to find a suitable candidate, named by 32%. But 34% thought the new post would hasten reform – a stance that found support among both those who backed the policy of appointing a businessperson (15%) and among those who opposed it (19%).

John Manzoni started his new job on 13 October.

For info on Dods Polling, email


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