Politics Students visit the Cabinet Office
At the end of the Christmas term, Mr Goodall organised a trip for Politics students to visit No 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, which was in the process of celebrating its 100th year of existence.
*As a quick side note, the Cabinet Office is essentially the administrative body of the Government, as they are involved in developing, coordinating and implementing policies. Its role is to assist the Prime Minister and Cabinet in delivering the government’s programme. It is a part of the UK’s Civil Service*
Our trip started off by visiting the heart of our Government: Downing Street. With a large Christmas tree outside, No 10 looked remarkably festive, even the on duty, guard sharing in some of the festive spirit with a few tongue-in-cheek remarks. Of course a few ground rules were laid down, things like no shouting, no photographs of the interior, and of course the one we all laughed at, no nudity. Having taken individual pictures for our various social media profile pictures, we left to visit the Cabinet Office itself.
The Office building itself has a long history, with parts dating back to Henry VIII’s rule over Tudor England. Other parts contain the Cabinet room for King George III, in which rests his throne which he sat on. Also in the same room was the table on which the Act of Union between England and Scotland was signed. Therefore, even before the introduction of a Cabinet Office in 1916, the whole building contained such important political history. In that very room we met two very important speakers, who led a PowerPoint show on the history of the Cabinet Office and its current function and roles. These two guests were Ben Gummer MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Sir Jeremy Heywood – head of the Civil Service, Cabinet Secretary and the country’s highest Civil Servant. Along with the PowerPoint, they also briefly spoke about their own professions and roles within government, with Sir Jeremy explaining how he has regular contact with the Prime Minister and worked under the Coalition Government, keeping that functioning as efficiently as possible. Finally, there was an open question and answer session for our esteemed speakers. Naturally, with the Referendum on EU membership still in recent memory, Mr Gummer was asked by one of my fellow Government and Politics Students on whether Britain was seeking a Hard or Soft Brexit. Now, I don’t suppose for a moment he would know the answer to that question himself, however, he gave a very good and of course stereotypical politician answer to the question.
Afterwards, we were taken on a tour of the Office, where we went into several rooms of interest, such as the Chief Whip’s office and various meeting rooms for Government ministers. This also involved looking at various documents held by the national archives, which hold many fascinating documents from history. These include Hitler’s will, the Cabinet Meeting discussing the Munich Agreement in 1938 and the dropping of the atomic bomb by the US in 1945.
We then spoke with people who work with the Treasury – as this is a vital part of the Civil Service - who organised an activity on government spending priority. This was a simplified version of showing how the Government must prioritise expenditure in on certain departments, by choosing whichever departments they felt needed the money the most. This selection of where to put government money is what is announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Statement.
Last but by no means least; we spoke with apprentices at the Office, who gave us all an insight into the various schemes offered by the Civil Service in general, though more specifically with the Cabinet Office. As someone who has considered doing not necessarily an apprenticeship, but a sponsorship scheme, I found this part of the trip incredibly useful, especially given the enormous range of career paths offered to post Sixth Form and post Graduate students.
All in all, this was really an eye-opening trip. We all saw the inner workings of our government, a body that affects our everyday lives and even got to meet some very important figures that we would never have had the opportunity to meet elsewhere. For that reason, I would like to thank Mr Goodall for organising the trip. Let’s just hope it serves as an inspiration to at least achieve high grades in Government and Politics, if not one day to help run the country!
Ben Leadbetter, Year 12