Miranda Green, former press secretary to Paddy Ashdown:
My fantasy is a Government of National Unity to reform the finances and the political system. We can include talent from all parties – Brown out, and Cameron and George Osborne out, I’m afraid, as punishment for wasting their big electoral opportunity. A bit of Labour continuity and a lot of Lib Dem and Tory appointments, including:
Nick Clegg for prime minister and Alan Johnson for deputy prime minister working closely to keep it together (possibly rotating?). Alistair Darling stays as Chancellor, in the interests of stability, with Vince Cable is Business Secretary on a brief to tackle the banks. David Miliband at Home Office with Chris Huhne as Justice Secretary to protect civil liberties. Lord Adonis and Michael Gove forced to be joint at education and push through sensible reforms.
Ken Clarke at defence to make cuts palatable. Charles Clarke brought back into the fold to reform and protect the NHS. Ed Miliband at social security to get his hands dirty. Lord Ashdown sensationally returns at FCO, with Harriet Harman sent off to nag the Europeans (this is a good game). Baroness Warsi as roving equalities minister to embarrass the others into making opportunities and services fair. Make James Purnell a peer and put him in the Cabinet Office with Oliver Letwin and David Laws to do some thinking .
No idea what to do with Peter Mandelson, but we must keep him to add to the amusement of the nation, so to Culture Secretary. Tessa Jowell stays for the Olympics to up the female quotient. No idea what to do with William Hague either – joint transport and local government? Perhaps part-time so he can still do his after dinner speaking? A better idea would be to have him chair a national security panel. For climate and rural affairs maybe we should have Caroline Lucas of the Greens.
It might just work…
Charles Lewington, former press secretary to John Major:
Ok here goes. David Cameron for prime minister, clearly the only party leader capable of energising the country for the great deficit-reduction challenge. In my big tent dreams, do I want Professor Vince or radical George Osborne as his Chancellor? ‘Prophet’ though he may claim, Vince’s redistributive fiscal platform will stifle wealth creation so it has to be George who is much smarter than the City currently appreciates. His deputy, Shadow Chief Secretary Philip Hammond, is hugely impressive.
Who could possibly deny that class act William Hague the Foreign Office or think that David Miliband was a superior Foreign Secretary! It might be tempting to give Peter Mandelson a roving portfolio to stand up for all Britain’s business, financial and industrial interests in Brussels – given that Gordon Brown has ceded critical Commission jobs in recent negotiations (not sure the Tory tent would be big enough for this).
Ken Clarke has to take a chair round any ‘unity’ Cabinet table though he may need a second Cabinet Minister at Business, Innovation and Skills to help out as it has become a much more interventionist department. The Home Office is the perfect job for Nick Clegg – where he can set about trying to implement his amnesty for asylum seekers as part of his introduction to government. I find Alan Johnson frighteningly appealing (for a Conservative) and would give him the job of reaching out to the trade unions as the country gets to grips with the pain of reducing the deficit. All other members of Gordon’s Cabinet need a rest – just as the Tories did after 1997. Governing for 13 years is punishing.
There’s a proviso sitting behind all this – we need an overall Tory majority or the Tories emerging as the largest party for any of this to happen and there’s still a long way to run.
Matthew Taylor, former director of policy, No 10:
Sorry, I’m not going to play. Charles and Miranda are both perfectly reasonable people who have insight into the personal qualities of front line politicians. Charles chooses a cabinet dominated by Tories with token roles for Liberal Democrats and the only job for Labour being to pacify the trade unions in the face of deep cuts (yeah, that would work!) . Miranda chooses a cabinet dominated by Liberal Democrats with some roles for Labour but the Tories pushed to the margins.
This shows how hard it will be to create a stable cabinet in the context of a hung Parliament. Much preferable for the Liberal Democrats would surely be to back (but not participate in) a minority administration on the basis that it commits to an electoral reform referendum and (implicitly) a subsequent general election within 18 months. In sounding somewhat complacent and ruling out dealing with a third place Labour (even though this appears to be the favoured option among Liberal Democrat voters) Clegg may have made his first big blunder of the campaign yesterday. But we shall see.