A cabinet of all talents

Our regular feature provides an opportunity to pick a ‘dream cabinet’, composed of any living person in the world. You must also abolish one department and create a new one. This edition, Jane Merrick.

As Prime Minister I would draw together the progressive strands of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, in its Blairite, One Nation and Orange Book forms, into an internationalist, liberal government, putting radicalism and reform in the departments where it matters most – like in climate change and education – but taking politics out of ‘basic necessity’ departments like health.

I would introduce some structural changes in Whitehall to prioritise areas for the 21st century: the Foreign Secretary, for example, would be more of an economic role than a diplomatic one, with someone who can ‘sell’ the UK as an economic power abroad and restore the country’s standing in Europe.

I would continue the Conservative government’s work on devolution but in a more integrated way with transport, planning, infrastructure and housing brought together in one department, replacing the current DCLG. This may hark back to Tony Blair’s old Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) which in that form lasted for one year, in 2001-02. However, the original idea behind its creation, to streamline planning and integrate local transport with housing, is an important one that needs updating.

I will also use my power to create a new department, for the Digital Economy, reflecting the fact that we need a minister fully focused on harnessing technology to boost UK growth.

Other policies and departments would be refocused on improving social justice, and my new ministers are all experts in or champions of each sector or industry. For example at Defra, the priority would be food – specifically the intersection between poor diet and low incomes; at Education, social mobility would be the top priority of the new Secretary of State; while with sport and the arts, these two sectors – traditionally downgraded by successive governments as merely ‘recreational’ pursuits – can in fact be powerful agents of social mobility.

Chancellor of the Exchequer
David Miliband

If he had won the Labour leadership in 2010, he would have committed the party to deficit reduction and regaining voters’ trust on the economy. Having already held one of the great offices of state, as Foreign Secretary, I would like to see him fulfil another, as his absence is a loss to British politics.

Foreign Secretary
Dame Minouche Shafik

We have got the role of Foreign Secretary all wrong: in this century it needs to be about promoting the UK as a global economic powerhouse as much as soft power diplomacy. So we need a top economist, like the deputy governor of the Bank of England, to do the job.

Home Secretary
Anna Soubry

Soubry can knock heads together inside her department and among the police and border officials. She is in favour of positive immigration and has modernising zeal, which I think is needed at the Home Office. She will also take over responsibility for Communities, hived off from the former DCLG.

Secretary of State for Defence
Penny Mordaunt

She is currently a junior minister at the MoD but her background as a Royal Navy reservist means she is more than qualified to be the first-ever female Defence Secretary. She knows the Armed Forces from the inside and would be a great advert for improving gender equality on the frontline.

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
David Laws

An architect of the Orange Book tendency in the Liberal Democrats, his loss at the election means politics is deprived of one of its cleverest reformers. His background is in banking, so he understands the City, but in my progressive, outward-facing Cabinet he will also promote social entrepreneurship and trade.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Rachel Reeves

She came up with the idea for cashing in pension annuities before retirement ahead of its adoption by George Osborne, and wants Labour to be a party of work rather than welfare, so the best choice for a government that is modernising and centrist.

Secretary of State for Justice
Michael Gove

Although I’m in favour of free schools, I thought he went too far and too fast on the project. Yet I would let him stay in the Ministry of Justice to carry on with his radical reforms of a sector that has become inefficient and a slave to producer interests.

Secretary of State for Education
Andrew Adonis

I would bring back the man who devised the academies programme under Tony Blair to the Department for Education to continue this work. Education still needs reform and the department has a huge task getting the best out of the poorest pupils, so Lord Adonis’ first priority would be social mobility.

Secretary of State for Housing, Transport and Devolution (formerly DCLG)
Nick Boles

He will head a refocused department, which would be one of the most important in my government. Housing policies, transport and other infrastructure need to be dealt with as an integrated whole. Yes, the greenbelt needs protecting but planning blockages and a vision for 21st century cities need a radical like Boles in charge.

Secretary of State for Health
Simon Stevens

As the chief executive of the NHS there is no one better qualified to be Health Secretary. His appointment would take the politics out of the health service, the best medication for an NHS that needs more than just money to sustain it, but reform and innovation.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Professor Tim Lang

Britain has an unhealthy relationship with food. Our diets are too full of sugar, we throw too much away, poor quality produce is cheap, meaning those on low incomes have the poorest diets, while another scandal on a par with horsemeat is waiting to happen. Lang, a professor of food policy, will focus on the ‘F’ at Defra.

Secretary of State for International Development
Justin Forsyth

Like Health and Defra, this is another area where politicians need to be removed from the equation and replaced by experts in the field. Forsyth, currently chief executive of Save the Children, can ask the question: is UK aid money being spent on the right things?

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Zac Goldsmith

By contrast, some jobs need a political ideologue to make progress. My government will restore the ‘green crap’ – like the Green Deal. Even though it is now unfashionable in Westminster to prioritise tackling climate change, it remains one of our greatest challenges – something other world powers recognise.

Secretary of State for Transport

ABOLISH – merge the Department for Transport into the new Department of Housing, Transport and Devolution.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Tracey Crouch

Media has been dropped from her title and department and moved to the brand new Department for the Digital Economy (see below). Crouch, a passionate advocate of both grassroots and school sport, would prioritise these two areas at Cabinet level as well as boosting culture and arts outside the capital and use these areas to further social justice.

Which post would you abolish and why?

Secretary of State for Transport

These policies and responsibilities will be merged into the new Department of Housing, Transport and Devolution. Transport remains a key area of government policy, yet it cannot be treated as a distinct sector but integrated with devolution, town planning and housing.

Your new Secretary of State, their title and responsibilities

Secretary of State for the Digital Economy
Kathryn Parsons

The chief executive of digital training school Decoded will be in charge of this department, which will work with schools and businesses to equip pupils and the workforce with the skills to compete with China and the US and help make the UK a digital superpower.