The government talks a good game when it comes to radical policymaking. But its failure to invest in a zero-carbon future tells a different story
Senior figures in this government like to view themselves as insurgents against a hidebound Whitehall establishment. This is partly because Boris Johnson won the last election after pledging to “get Brexit done”, breaking the post-referendum stalemate in parliament. But it is also settled wisdom in Downing Street, and in the Treasury, that a more general shake-up is required of Britain’s body politic if it is to become more lithe and nimble, and get ahead of the game.
More evidence of this desire to disrupt came on Tuesday in the form of a speech by Stephen Barclay, the chief secretary to the Treasury. Addressing a centre-right thinktank, Mr Barclay heralded a new era of state spending in which the ethos of Silicon Valley would inform departmental decision-making. In the spirit of west coast venture capitalists, government ministers and their civil servants would back schemes that took risks and which would therefore sometimes fail. The interminable delays and inveterate caution that have blighted government projects and investment would become a thing of the past. Inculcating this new Whitehall worldview is seen as fundamental to speedily delivering the “infrastructure revolution” promised by Mr Johnson at the end of last month.