David Goodhart: cap number of ministers from Parliament at 50

Prospect editor David Goodhart has an intriguing idea:

Sweeping schemes for constitutional reform and global salvation abound. Not to be left out, Prospect has a plan that neatly solves two problems in one—and doesn’t even need primary legislation. The idea is this: cap the number of government members drawn from parliament at 50 (down from the current figure of 124)—and draw the remaining talent from outside. At a stroke, this would create more competition for government jobs—not a bad thing in itself—and give a boost to the parliamentary career path. With fewer government jobs to chase, more of parliament’s brightest could focus on chairing select committees, improving legislation and keeping the government in check; all of which would strengthen the legislature against an over-mighty executive.


In his chaotic June cabinet reshuffle Gordon Brown brought in a record number of lords, seen by some as an indication of a government low on steam. Much better to start afresh with a new system where genuine experts and talented non-parliamentarians could fill the vacant slots—and thus strike a blow against the professionalisation of politics, where too few MPs have experiences outside Westminster. America stuffs its executive with able non-politicians drawn from businesses and charities. And just as in the US, this new breed could fairly easily be made accountable to the legislature. So why shouldn’t we? Go on Gordon—cut the ministers, not the MPs. A genuine government of all the talents is there for the taking.