Exactly what you’ll be missing when Francis Maude gets sacked

I had a request on Twitter for more Francis Maude blogging. (Not another one who wants flogging, I said, wearily pulling on the boots and polishing up the cat-‘o-nine-tails.) This obsession goes back to this post of Tom Barry’s which identified him as:

being the real power behind the entire administration, and making everyone forget he was an idiot in 1997

Tom never did the promised back-story post, so we lack the qualitative interpretation to go with the quantitative observations. But I think his point has been adequately demonstrated by recent events and the existence of Francis Maude Advice. As far back as January 2011, it was disturbingly obvious that lobbyists gravitated to Maude like flies to shit.

At the last count, in September, he had achieved the status of the 4th most-lobbied minister on a quality-adjusted basis. That’s behind Cameron, Chris Grayling, and Nick Clegg, and ahead of George Osborne or Vince Cable. Clearly, people doing serious business with government perceive him as someone who can deliver. It’s also possible that the government thinks he is the right man to put forward – certainly, he has substantial responsibility for things like procurement.

On the other hand, lobbyists experience Maude as a destination. His gatekeepership score is very low – compare the guilty men in the Werritty/Fox case, who exhibit the ideal combination for a lobbying target, very high gatekeepership with relatively low weighted network degree. Rather than contacting him in the hope of being passed on to somebody important, you contact someone else who can get you face-time with him.

The big question here is on which side of the relationship agency resides. It is quite possible that Maude thinks he is exerting influence on the lobbyists he meets, while the lobbyists meet him because they believe themselves to influence him. I’m not qualified to answer that one, but I will offer advice based purely on the data. If you’re looking to get at Maude, try his understrapper Mark Harper MP, Conservative for the Forest of Dean, who offers a punchy 1.37 gatekeepership metric (i.e. people who met him gained an average 37% boost in the status of the other people they met, compared to the average lobbyist’s performance) at a network degree of 0.14 – so he’s likely to be accessible.

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