No – and had Labour MPs spent the few days after the EU referendum vote with the line The Tories have crashed the country , they could have won the next general election ages ago – with or without Corbyn.

A huge amount of bad blood has been spilt within the party. For the sake of politics generally I hope Labour doesn’t implode further with scenes of badly-behaved shouty people trying to shout down speakers on the platform.

“So…what should happen now?”

I’m not in the party, so I’m in no position to tell anyone within Labour what they should or shouldn’t do. More a case of posting open questions for which people can ponder over.

“What are the lessons learnt for the centre-right in Labour?”

Compared to the candidates that first put their names forward after the 2015 general election, both Angela Eagle and Owen Smith appeared to be far weaker than the likes of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and the like. Whether it was the background for both Eagle and Smith’s leadership launches (Smith’s being a set of window blinds – see here), or other basic errors, despite the limitations of Corbyn’s record the alternative didn’t seem any better to the general public. Remember the general public doesn’t eat-drink-breathe-live politics. Most have about 5 mins per day to devote to politics when perhaps watching the news/flicking through the papers/social-media-surfing online.

As things stand, it’s difficult to see where a new leader capable of replacing Corbyn over the next year or so is going to come from as far as the centre-right of Labour is concerned. What was interesting to note was how a number of high profile MPs managed to stay well away from the day-to-day media-spotlight campaigning with Owen Smith. Andy Burnham focused on his bid to become metro-mayor of Manchester, Yvette Cooper joined one of my local (as in local to my neighbourhood – I live on a parliamentary boundary) MPs Heidi Allen visiting and campaigning for child refugees, and Stella Creasy continued her grassroots activism both in her constituency and with Labour’s sister party, the Co-op party.  (See here for how this works between the two parties – an agreement that has been in place for nearly 90 years).

“What are the lessons learnt for the left?”

John McDonnell mentioned that he’d be looking at the substantive criticisms of how Corbyn’s operation functioned when asked for an immediate post-comment result. The toughest task from my perspective is rebuilding trust with the MPs who are not those who from the start said they’d never serve under Corbyn under any circumstances, but those who stated very clearly and concisely how their role was undermined by basic failures from Corbyn’s office. I’m thinking of the likes of Lilian Greenwood MP and Kerry McCarthy MP here.

So from that perspective, the question is “What is going to change as a result of the leadership contest?” Because 4/10 members not being content with the leadership – along with the hostility of the Parliamentary Labour Party is still a sizeable number. On the flip side, Corbyn got an even bigger mandate than when he was first elected as Labour leader. So in terms of massive policy changes sending the party back to the economic policies of the later Blair years, that just isn’t going to happen.

“What does “accepting the result and moving on” mean in modern day politics?”

This is both in an EU Referendum context as well as the Labour leadership context. Does it mean:

“You are now officially banned from speaking out on the issue concerned because the party/the people have spoken and have officially disagreed with you. Therefore you have been silenced!”?

I hope not.

In terms of pro-EU types it seems it’s still in the open for how best to respond. Some are taking legal action, others are campaigning for a second referendum, others are waiting for a general election, others think we should wait & see what the three brexiteers (Boris, Davies and Fox) come up with – the camp I fall in closest with, and others think we should accept the result, accept we’re leaving the EU on whatever terms & be done with it. Note at the same time on the pro-Brexit side there are some who are saying an ‘Australian points style system’ is a promise set in concrete while the £350million per week for the NHS was some abstract theoretical aspiration. It remains to be seen what Brexit actually means for the general public.

Lib Dems local-focus strategy

Social media has been covering the trickle of local council by-elections since the EU referendum, in which the Liberal Democrats are doing far better than their political opponents. Compared to where they were in the run-up to the 2015 general election, the Liberal Democrats have almost doubled their membership – and things appeared to be buzzing at their party conference. The problem for them was that the mainstream media hardly covered it. Outside of Tim Farron’s keynote addresses, none of their elected MPs or their peers seemed to get much media – or even social media traction at all. How many of you could name the other seven Lib Dem MPs? Off the top of my head outside of Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb (leadership contestant who I interviewed in a visit to Cambridge), only Greg Mulholland (follows Puffles), Alastair Carmichael (was in a legal challenge over election campaigning), and perhaps Tom Brake spring to mind.

Without the big hitters regularly on TV – due to new guidance saying the Lib Dems don’t have enough MPs to justify their previous higher levels of coverage, the party doesn’t really have much choice but to adopt a strategy that bypasses the mainstream media. One thing that is noticeable is that the party is already selecting prospective parliamentary candidates – whether Julian Huppert’s reselection in Cambridge through to long-time rising stars such as Kelly Marie Blundell in Lewes (Norman Baker’s old seat) and Daisy Benson in Yeovil – David Laws’ old seat.

And of the Greens?

At the moment they are caught between a rock and a hard place with Corbyn’s leftward shift and the loss of the environmental safety net that was EU law and directives that helped force up the UK’s environmental standards in a number of areas. Think beaches for a start. Despite her criticisms – in particular her TV media appearances, it was under the leadership of Natalie Bennett that the Green Party’s membership rocketed. That didn’t happen by accident. It was a result of her visiting town after town after town to meet local members and the local media – of which I was one in Cambridge. Note in the run up to the EU Referendum Nigel Farage did similar. Yet with its Westminster focus, the mainstream media completely missed both of these.

Now with two joint leaders John Bartley and Caroline Lucas MP, it remains to be seen how the two will divide responsibilities. Natalie Bennett’s decision to stand candidates in as many constituencies in the 2015 general election meant that with a significantly higher voter share than in past years they got a big rise in ‘short money’ from Parliament to fund their political activities. It was noticeable that the number of jobs the party posted on w4MP (where many Westminster vacancies are posted – interesting viewing if you want to see who is trying to influence what) rose – as did the seniority of the new roles.

And of the Tories – and UKIP?

The former have their party conference in a couple of weeks, the latter have selected Diane James MEP as their new leader. It remains to be seen whether Nigel Farage will still be ‘the person to go to for comment’ by the media or whether he’ll re-direct things to his successor. That said, Diane James when on TV has struck me as a politician I could see traditional Conservative voters being persuaded by. What happens to UKIP as a party depends on what sort of deal Boris, Davies and Fox can negotiate.

As for Prime Minster Theresa May? A stroke of tactical genius with the appointment of Fox, Davies and Boris leading Brexit negotiations given their high profile role in the Leave campaign. If they succeed in negotiating a good deal for the UK, she gets the credit. If they mess up, the three men get the blame given May stood back from both sides of the EU referendum campaign. Note too that at the same time we’ll be hearing from Cameron and others who have left government when they publish their memoirs. Given where the likes of Osborne and Gove currently are, expect one or two of them to be explosive. While Cameron sails off into the sunset of the corporate directorships world, I get the sense that Osborne’s not done with politics. As with Iain Duncan Smith who launched the Centre for Social Justice think tank after he lost a leadership challenge in 2003, Osborne foreseeably could follow in his rival’s example.

And finally…


Don’t underestimate the amount of civil service policy resources that will now be thrown at Brexit-related policies. Given that the Conservatives won’t want to increase spending on what they see as ‘administration’ or rather ‘the cost of politics’, other policy areas are going to be put on the back burner – they have to be. For a start there simply won’t be the staff to do the necessary policy development. Perhaps more importantly, parliamentary time is inevitably going to be taken up with the huge amount of legislative changes that will need to be carried out assuming Article 50 (which starts the 2 year count-down for exiting the EU) is triggered. Finally, there are a whole host of other outside shocks that could hit the UK and global economies. The ongoing wars in the Middle East are not making things any easier for the EU and the refugee situation. The US elections are looming, and every year climate-related news seems to get that little bit more worse.

Original source – A dragon’s best friend

Caveat – I work for the Government Digital Service but this post is entirely my own opinions.

Like a huge number of other organisations around the world, the British government has benefited greatly by using open source software. Previously government IT was defined by such things as: huge scale outsourcing, very long contracts, waterfall development, very expensive and time consuming updates live systems, focus on internal rather than user needs and heavy dependencies on the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. In the new ‘digital’ (definition still up for debate) era we now expect in-house agile development, frequent releasing, user research and the extensive use of free-to-use open source software.

The use of products such as various Linux implementations, Apache, Nginx, Varnish, Squid, Postgres, MomgoDB and Piwik – to name just a few – has saved government very significant costs in license fees.

The government Technology Code of Practice states that departments must “Improve transparency and accountability by giving equal consideration to free or open source software when you choose technology“.

The GDS Service Manual quotes the Government IT Strategy as saying “Where appropriate, government will procure open source solutions. When used in conjunction with compulsory open standards, open source presents significant opportunities for the design and delivery of interoperable solutions.”

Digital teams across the government estate talk about why contributing to open source is important. From the very beginning GDS has always talked about “coding in the open” and the Service Standard still has a criteria for making all new source code open.

This has been achieved, in spades, with the GOV.UK / Government as a Platform / etc repository and the GDS Operations repository being just two examples.

In addition to brand new code, government developers also contribute code updates to a variety of external open source projects.

The value we put on open source is reflected in the fact that we’re currently looking to employ a full time Open Source Lead.

All of this is fantastic – but I’m been pondering recently if it’s enough. Being part of the global open source community is great, but does it reflect how much government has saved, and continues to save, by using such products? GDS quotes figures of savings of well over one billion pounds since it inception. A non-trivial part of that must come from not paying for software licenses that we no-longer need.

I’ve been wondering whether government should reflect this, and our continued dependence on such products, by contributing financially to long running and highly respected open source organisations. I’m not suggesting that each department should work out which products they use and have to come up with a figure accordingly. I’m not even suggesting a rough estimate of usage across the board. Instead, I’m reflecting on a central Treasury funded pot, allocated through GDS, that represents the relationship government owes to producers of open source software.

Obviously this is an unnecessary cost to the taxpayer – we could continue to use the products for nothing – but an initial spend of, say, £100K is less than the cost of three developers for a year and we’re currently taking advantage of many times that number of people contributing to such projects.

I don’t think it’s a hard requirement, but I think it’s an interesting conversation about what debt we feel we own the open source community and what kind of relationship, beyond using and contributing code, we want to have with it.

Original source – Desiderium Sciendi

I was asked a question recently about the challenges around organisational change and barriers that “some” managers seem to put in the way.

My response I think took a few people by surprise as I simply suggested that those people who appear to be providing blocks or barriers are simply acting from a different place. They are operating from Fear.

I’ve over simplified this but essentially there are only two ways in which you can live your life, and from there make decisions about the things that affect you and those things around you.

Those two things are Love and Fear (Over simplified but I like the over simplification)

Personally I’m scared of many things, some rational and some irrational and because of that my thinking around those things gets clouded by the feelings of fear which take complete control like an auto-pilot – in those moments I’m not likely to make good decisions, even though those decisions might help me feel better about that fear, or manage it away from me…but all too often those decisions restrict my personal growth or the growth of those around me.

I also love many things and from that place, I’m able to let go, be vulnerable, trust in myself and others and allow decisions to be made more freely and those decisions have wider benefits as they are not about me but are made in a wider context.

Which rules you?

I’ve also thought a lot about how people learn to move away from Fear and I used to think you could simply inspire them, nudge them, provoke them and even shock them into a different place…but the I was reminded on this quote…



All we can do is to support people, create conditions and spaces for them to learn and discover love within themselves.

How are you helping others?


Filed under: Empowerment, Leadership, Personal Tagged: fear, love

Original source – Carl’s Notepad

At Holyrood yesterday, I gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament, discussing how the devolved governments should be involved in Brexit. Theresa May travelled to Edinburgh in her very first days as Prime Minister to declare that her administration would seek a “UK approach and objectives” to Brexit. In Edinburgh, this statement was interpreted as meaning that consensus would be reached between the UK and Scottish governments on a negotiating strategy before triggering Article 50. However, it remains less than clear whether this interpretation will prove an accurate guide to how the British Government plans to proceed. And if the UK and devolved governments enter into the process with divergent expectations, the risk is that we will eventually reach a crunch point. A UK-wide mandate It is unlikely the UK’s four governments will come together as equal partners, with parity of influence over the British negotiating strategy. According to the devolution legislation, relations with the European Union are a matter for Westminster, so the British Government can pursue the policy of Brexit without reaching consensus with the devolved governments. But this does not mean the devolved governments can be treated as just another stakeholder to be consulted, like the CBI (Confederation […]

Original source – Institute for Government


This week I did one of my favourite things: I spoke to lots of amazing people, from all over the country, about the Digital Service Standard.

The Digital Service Standard has always been at the heart of the GDS mission, and it is at the heart of digital transformation across Government. The Standard sets out and measures how we think teams can develop good digital services. It ensures a high level of consistency: developing services so good that people prefer to use them.

I gained many insights from others who spoke about their work transforming government. For people and teams using the Standard the event reassured them that on this, sometimes difficult, journey they’re not alone.

Implementing the Digital Service Standard

I’ve worked on assuring the development of digital services for about two and a half years in GDS. Historically there’s been an understandable tendency for departments to see the Digital Service Standard as GDS’s, rather than something owned by all of government. 

‘What we need to do for GDS’ rather than ‘what we need to deliver a quality digital service’ is still a thing I hear far too often

– Andrew Travers, Former Head of Design, HMRC

But this is changing! Quite rightly, the Digital Service Standard is no longer just a GDS thing.

It was wonderful to attend the Local Government Digital Service Standard Summit this week and hear from colleagues from the Department for Work and Pensions, City Hall, Buckinghamshire County Council and Coventry City Council talk about what the Digital Service Standard means for them, and the users of their services.

The LocalGov Digital Network have seen what’s been going on in the UK central government and, like the Australians, and the Scottish Government, have made the Digital Service Standard their own.

In April 2016 the LocalGov Digital Network published the first version of their own Digital Service Standard. You might notice that it looks quite similar to the one we use in central government. They didn’t have to end up with one which looked like ours, but I’m very pleased they did.

Local Government is very different to central government and everyone has their own experiences. But what came across most at the event was that we all shared experiences and challenges, and I saw a desire to work together to change the way the public sector works and put users at the heart of what we do.

Looking forward

I hope that all of these innovative, brilliant, tenacious people took away from the event the understanding that they are part of a wider movement of change, which will support them.

I saw 150 people determined to put the Service Standard, and their users, at the heart of what their organisations do. Many of them are taking some of the traditional GDS mantras to heart. ‘The Strategy is Delivery’ and ‘Show the Thing’ seemed particularly popular. But they’re going to need support and buy in from all levels in Local Government to make this a reality.


As I said at the Summit, this is where the hard work starts! Those in local government transformation are a fantastic, motivated group of people. But there will be difficult conversations ahead and buy-in from senior leadership is key to making the Standard a success. People are already developing services or have supplier relationships in place which don’t meet the Standard, and you will need support to manage this effectively.

There will also be people looking to develop new products. You are there to empower those people trying to do the right thing. No one can create great digital services alone so get experts to look at things. Build specialists into your programmes: designers, technical architects and user researchers.

Finally, and an important lesson learnt by me and my team, be prepared to adapt the way you work. Our model for assessment no longer works. Our service assessment process was very formal and over time we have realised that as a result we weren’t supporting government departments as well as we could. We’re changing this to reflect new ways of working. Looking for ways to iterate and improve is key to developing and maintaining great digital services.

The teams across Local Authorities have already come so far, and I can’t wait to see what they do next, and to do what I can to support them along the way.

If you’re in Local Government, you can sign up to the Local Government Digital Service Standard.

You can also watch my presentation on the Local Gov Digital Network Periscope channel (from 23 minutes)

Original source – Government technology

Whitehall In Whitehall both political leadership and civil service machinery have evolved rapidly. Remember the ‘Brexit Unit’? It didn’t outlast its creator (David Cameron) and instead Theresa May converted it into a new Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU), led by David Davis. She also added a new Department for International Trade, led by Liam Fox. Despite reports of a ‘turf war’ between Fox and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and the Prime Minister ‘slapping down’ Brexit ministers speaking out of turn, the new Brexit departments have started to become established. They have built up senior teams, started to acquire staff and commissioned analysis from other departments on the risks and opportunities of Brexit. But while there’s been plenty of activity across Whitehall, we still don’t have a clear idea of what kind of ‘Brexit’ the UK Government wants or when we can expect to find out. Liam Fox has talked about leaving the EU customs union, Boris Johnson has thrown around dates for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and Phillip Hammond has said it’s all ‘very difficult”’. What we do know is that Theresa May is clear that triggering Article 50 will ultimately be her decision. Westminster Shortly […]

Original source – Institute for Government

I’m Jon, Deputy Head of Business Analysis and Principle Business Analyst (BA) at DWP.

Jon Osborn, Deputy Head of Business Analysis and Principle BA

Jon Osborn, Deputy Head of Business Analysis and Principle BA

When I started this role it was clear the term ‘business analyst’ within DWP was used when people didn’t fit neatly into another job role and had a real mix of experiences, skills, drivers and aspirations.

Our goal was to develop professional status for the BA role so BAs enjoyed more recognition for the value their talents add to any project.

Creating a supportive network

To help with this, we quickly set about creating a community. I wanted the BA community to create shared goals, to see how their individual contribution leads to something much bigger. I wanted people to have support, a safe space – and most importantly, a fun and collaborative work environment.

This sort of support network is really important to allow BAs to add value as a community and focus on what they do best.

In the past 18 months DWP’s BA community has gone from strength to strength with fantastic feedback from members.

We hold monthly events where we share progress and plans for the future – we held the first DWP BA Conference in the summer with industry leading guest speakers and we’re about to put our 100th BA through the Foundation BA Digital Academy (with further modules in the pipeline).

Jon talks to a group at a BA Academy session in Leeds

Jon talks to a group at a BA Academy session in Leeds

DWP BA Awareness Week

So, how do we build on the fantastic work we’ve done so far? Next, we’re launching DWP BA Awareness Week on Monday 26th September. We want to:

  • Promote the BA profession and show what makes a great BA
  • Increase awareness of the profession to educate and build effective and long-lasting relationships
  • Make sure the skills and experience our community has are used effectively

The week offers a blend of learning and networking events – kicking off with an introduction to BA Week – where the focus will be on the role and the profession.  This launch events in Leeds, Newcastle and Stockport) are open to all. It’s an opportunity to learn and have some open dialogue about the BA profession and the value a strong BA brings to a team.

A sticker promoting DWP's BA Awareness Week

A sticker promoting DWP’s BA Awareness Week

The remainder of the week centres on the BA community, with various events to look at skills and development and facilitate networking.

Follow @DWP_BA for more information about what’s going on during DWP BA Awareness Week.

18 months on

We set out to put in place the structure, the desire and trust to build a community led by the community. We wanted to build meaningful, supportive and trusting relationships with colleagues and to create a shared vision and goals we all believe in and work towards.

We still have work to do, but I’m proud of what we’ve done in the last 18 months to build a professional community where we can interact, share, teach and learn from each other.

Original source – Digital DWP


A good induction should feel like checking into a beautifully designed 5-star hotel. You should be greeted on arrival and someone should be there to pre-empt any questions. They should relay essential information (like where breakfast is served) in a direct but not-too-pushy tone. They should probably give you champagne.

The GDS induction came up at a line manager and community leads workshop held in April.

The workshop attendees split into groups. Each group identified a problem they had experienced during the hiring or line-management process. There were quite a few things that we needed to fix with the induction process, so one group decided to look at inductions in more detail.

Why the GDS induction process wasn’t 5-star

A combination of rapid hiring and too few induction sessions to meet such a high level of demand had led to a backlog. This meant that the induction happened too long after a person started.

The content wasn’t relevant to all new starters.

Signposting to online employee content needed improving too. We should do the hard work to make it easy for new starters to get to grips with their new workplace.

The quality of an induction also depended on the team you were in and how much effort they put into it.

What a good induction looks like

During the workshop, one group came up with ideas for what an ideal induction should look like.

The guiding themes were frequency, consistency and clarity.

Approximately 45 new employees join each month. To avoid a backlog, induction sessions should happen every week. As many people as possible should be able to give the presentation and welcome new staff.

Inductions should be consistent in content, regardless of the team a person works in. They should be clear and concise.

The ideas from the workshop informed the new induction process.

Sticky notes of questions new starters may have

Making things better

The subject of the GDS induction had been raised separately with the People Board quite a few times.

The People Board is an elected body that exists to make GDS a better place to work. With support from the People Board, the Creative team offered to work with the People team (our HR department) on a revamped induction.

Those 2 teams ran an informal workshop, and wrote down all the things that new starters should know about – one per sticky note. Then they sorted those stickies into 2 piles: the stuff you have to know, and the stuff it’s nice to know.

The new induction treats each of those in a different way.

The stuff that it’s nice to know has become a presentation, which we’re iterating and improving every time we give it. Soon it will be happening every week, and the goal is that we never have a backlog of un-inducted people. The presentation includes what GDS does and how it does it, when payday is and the culture of the organisation.  

New starter GDS Trello board, including simple essentials, things you have to read and other stuff

The stuff you have to know has become a Trello board. Newcomers receive a link to it and are asked to make their own copy. Then they work through the cards on that board during their first week or so, learning as they go. Trello is a digital to-do list, with each task listed on an individual card. Each card gives a few lines of explanation or links to the source of appropriate information. Trello was already used by a number of teams, including GOV.UK.

The new induction, like any GDS product should be iterated and improved. Now we’re trying to welcome contractors like we do full-time members of staff. If you’re a new starter and you’ve been through the new induction recently, we want to hear what you think: email the People Team.

Original source – Government Digital Service

Take a moment to think about the different ways you have learned knowledge and skills in your life. You’ve spent time looking at a black – or white – board in the classroom at school. Maybe you’ve done an apprenticeship or been to university. You’ve got a job and gone through many steep learning curves as you take on new activities and roles. And if you’re lucky, your employer has provided training to help you progress and develop.

For most of us, what we perceive as formal learning stops there. But we continue to learn in many more informal ways. When we watch a documentary on TV, when we intuitively use a new app on our phones, when we start a new hobby.

This is lucky, because in the future continuous learning throughout our lives is going to become even more important for two reasons.

Firstly, technology is going to transform the way we live. It will automate some jobs or parts of jobs, but also create jobs and new opportunities for innovation. The top growth jobs on Linkedin – data scientists, IOS developers, coders – didn’t even exist 10 years ago.

Secondly, we are going to be living – and therefore working – longer. We are going to change roles throughout our longer working life, and perhaps move to different types of work after what we currently see as retirement age.

We need to combine formal learning and increasingly informal methods so that we can come up with new ways of identifying opportunities for self-improvement and learning the skills to do them.

This isn’t something that Government can do alone. In fact, the best people to do it might be those who will be about to start a working life that might contain three or four careers, who are used to digital and informal learning, and can dare to imagine. That’s why we’re proud to have collaborated with GO-Science and set an RSA Student Design Brief on Learning for Life. For the next 9 months, students – or teams of students – from 81 different universities across the UK, and 26 worldwide will be encouraged to design new products, services and even policies to support people to learn through their years.


Setting the brief on Learning for Life at the RSA


This is not the first time that we’ve opened up policymaking to the best and brightest student talent. We collaborated with Royal College of Art service design students to come up with ideas to get more people to socially invest in things they care about (you can read about one student’s project here) and with Central St Martin product design students to design products that could support an ageing population. We’ve been incredibly impressed with their quick ability to understand and empathise with users, to come up with novel ideas that policymakers would have never thought of, and to prototype or mock up the idea, allowing them to share it with others and get feedback.

They are learning and reflecting throughout their projects and I am sure this will generate the creative sparks they need to allow wider society to learn and thrive throughout their lives.

Original source – Policy Lab

The LocalGov Digital Service Standard Summit happened on Monday 19 September and you can see the agenda here. Here’s some things I learnt from it:

There’s a growing number of people working in central government, who want to help improve local service delivery and are willing to lend some of their professional time and skills.

There’s a growing number of people who work in local government who have an interest in doing digital well.

Some IT suppliers are seen as an obstacle to delivering better, cheaper public services.

City Hall, London is a great venue.

It’s entirely possible and relatively easy to put together a panel of excellent speakers on digital, the majority of who happen to be women. If you’re going to an event on digital that features mostly men, as the organiser why that is.

I’m quite good at putting together events, less so at presenting.

We need to start to re-think the LocalGov Digital Network to make it more sustainable and better aid collaboration across local and central government.

A growing number of councils are signing up to the Local Government Digital Service Standard. Your council can sign up here.

Original source – Lg/Www