A desire for micro management will only serve up political pain for the PM

Tim Focas
2016 G20 State Leaders Hangzhou Summit
Theresa May will be in the US for the UN General Assembly next week. (Source: Getty)

With party conference season just around the corner, how can one tell if the new PM is something of a control freak? Look no further than her actions over the summer break.

Hot on the heels of announcing three new committees to oversee the work of ministers, including one for Brexit, civil servants appear to be next in the firing line.

May has stated that any Europhile civil servants must embrace Brexit fully, following recent claims by former Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell that leaving the EU was not inevitable.

You can almost hear May’s newly appointed Cabinet ideologues choking on their morning croissants.

One can’t help but feel this is the first stage of a plan to keep both ministers and civil servants on a tight rein - it certainly fits the May mantra.

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If her six years in the Home Office is anything to go by, she has a disdain for delegation, needs to know exactly what her civil servants are doing at all times, and mulls over policy detail with a fine tooth comb.

Tory grandee Ken Clarke brutally described the new PM as a “bloody difficult woman.” And if he was reflecting on her lack of appetite for delegation, Clarke had a point. The trouble is that this overbearing approach contradicts the strategic and visionary skills required to be a modern PM. It also raises questions over whether she has that pragmatic streak.

Like Blair and, to a lesser extent, Cameron have shown, being PM is about staying one step ahead of the opposition to retain ownership of the centre ground.

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The sorry state of the shadow Cabinet makes this less of an issue today, but the world of Westminster changes quickly. Just ask May’s predecessor.

Despite polling welcoming this new direct style of leadership, May will soon learn that you cannot successfully run a government by trying to control every aspect of it.

It only serves to make cabinet ministers and civil servants restless which leads to discontent, division and ultimately, a revolt against the leader.

Not even two years into a five-year fixed term Parliament, now could be the time for May to exercise her power.

But as our first lady PM found to her detriment, hammering colleagues into submission to get your own way on policy only leads to one thing - political downfall. The question is, can a PM with a demand for detail really change her spots?

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