The 2015 General Election has generated a fair amount of churn among ministers in Whitehall. I’ve been keeping a keen eye on changes, and wondering about the impact of these changes on the way that departments make the most of the Web.
A digital savvy minister – and sometimes the advisors that arrive with them – can have a big impact on their department’s attitude to digital, both positive and negative.
Politics aside, I was sorry to see so many solid Lib Dem ministers leave, mainly because in my experience, but perhaps coincidentally, they always seemed to be the most willing to try different ways of discussing and shaping policy online, and communicating announcements.
Jo Swinson asked for a briefing on use of social media on her first day as a minister, and continued to be a champion inside BIS (she spoke to staff about the rewards of social media at one of our digital days) and for important campaigns such as Shared Parental Leave.
Vince Cable may not have been a ferocious social media user until very recently, but was happy to talk to bloggers and website editors alike. We’ll gloss over what happened yesterday.
I’m pleased Norman Lamb is still around, if not in government. The Consumer Bill of Rights might have been a rather clunky PDF if it were not for him: instead it was published online with a simplified version in clear english, key questions highlighted and responded to online, and a lovely low-budget flip cam Youtube film.
Ros Altmann, new pensions minister, appears to be comfortable talking to her audience online in all sorts of different forums. Hopefully she will support some solid digital engagement activity, given the opportunity.
Matt Hancock is a seasoned Twitter user and always seemed keen to test different approaches online – whether his new role will give him as much scope, remains to be seen. Blogging about civil service reform could be challenging.
Anne Milton is another who may not have much scope to apply digital engagement in her new role as Deputy Chief Whip, but when I helped her join Twitter back in 2011 I was impressed with the way she dealt with those who counselled against joining social media. Twitter hasn’t always been her best friend, but you don’t learn without making a few mistakes along the way.
I’m reliably informed that Nick Boles ‘gets it’ where digital engagement is concerned, so fingers crossed for some interesting activity around employment law. This always seems like an area ripe for connecting with bloggers and online communities.
Anna Soubry runs a proper twitter account for herself and comes from the enthusiastic digital stable that is Department of Health, so should be well prepped for some new and interesting approaches online. As Minister for Small Business it is really important she is involved with the small business community online, from the outset.
In his previous role as Minister for Policy, Oliver Letwin didn’t revolutionise Open Policy Making, but was a source of encouragement for civil servants, endorsing campaigns and providing some much-needed clout. Let’s hope his new role (which I think includes Government Digital Service) allows him to do more.
Rory Stewart could be interesting too. Look beyond some of the slightly odd press releases on his website and there are some interesting blog posts. A sign of some thoughtful first-person blogging for DEFRA?
Updated again, 15 May:
Who have I missed? Let me know.