The Rise of the Novice Cabinet Minister? The Career Trajectories of Cabinet Ministers in British Government from Attlee to Cameron


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Some commentators have observed that today's Cabinet ministers are younger and less experienced than their predecessors. To test this claim, we analyse the data for Labour and Conservative appointments to Cabinet since 1945. Although we find some evidence of a decline in average age and prior experience, it is less pronounced than for the party leaders. We then examine the data for junior ministerial appointments, which reveals that there is no trend towards youth and inexperience present lower down the hierarchy. Taking these findings together, we propose that public profile is correlated with ‘noviceness’; that is, the more prominent the role, the younger and less experienced its incumbent is likely to be. If this is correct, then the claim that we are witnessing the rise of the novice Cabinet minister is more a consequence of the personalisation of politics than evidence of an emerging ‘cult of youth’.