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Michael Barber on Government

10. Improving UK Politics

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About this Lecture


In this module, Michael Barber answers the question: “If you could change one thing about politics in the UK (its institutions, processes, or political culture), what would it be and why?”, focusing in particular on: (i) the danger of cynicism in UK politics.


This course takes the form of a series of questions put to Sir Michael Barber, a senior government advisor who has worked with governments under a variety of UK Prime Ministers (from John Major to Boris Johnson) as well as with governments elsewhere in the world. In the first module we ask, “In your experience, how important is the individual personality of a Prime Minister to the character of UK politics and the delivery of good government?”. We follow this in the second module with a question on Barber’s experience delivering government under Blair with the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU). In the third module, we ask about Barber’s experience as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards, before moving on in the fourth module to ask about quasi-markets in health and education (and the academisation project) under New Labour. In the fifth module, Michael Barber answers the question: “In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge currently facing the new Prime Minister?”, speaking at the time of filming about Liz Truss. In the sixth module, we ask “Does your experience working alongside politicians bear out the widely held belief that politicians are untrustworthy?”, before in the seventh module turning to the subject of whether modern governments are sufficiently equipped to coordinate a response to the climate crisis. In the eighth module, Barber considers whether a Prime Minister is like a CEO, before turning in the ninth module to discuss the extent to which Parliament holds influence over government. In the tenth module, Barber advances the argument that cynicism is a dangerous force in UK Politics and in politics elsewhere. In the eleventh module, Barber draws directly on his experience under the Blair governments to answer the question: “How collective is Cabinet decision-making?”, before turning in the twelfth module to offer some suggestions for the improvement of the UK Civil Service. Finally, we conclude with some comments on how we can ensure that governments stay accountable both to their citizens and to their own stated policy objectives. This course provides both conceptual knowledge and a variety of helpful real-life examples for the “UK Politics” and “UK Government” sections of the A Level exam specifications.


Sir Michael Barber is an expert in education and government reform. He has worked with governments under several UK Prime Ministers – from John Major to Boris Johnson – and was Blair’s Chief Adviser on Delivery from 2001-5, when he led the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. His 2015 book ‘How to Run a Government’ draws directly on his experience advising governments around the world on how to deliver their policy objectives, and his latest book ‘Accomplishment - How to achieve ambitious and challenging things’ was published by Penguin in 2021.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Barber, M. (2022, October 31). Michael Barber on Government - Improving UK Politics [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Barber, M. "Michael Barber on Government – Improving UK Politics." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Oct 2022,