By Ian Dunt
David Cameron often finds out about his own policies on radio and TV and then frequently disagrees with them, one of his closest allies has admitted.
Steve Hilton, who has taken leave from Downing Street, was reported by the Sunday Times to have told students at California's Stanford University about the difficulties he faced getting the government's reform programme through the civil service.
"Very often you'll wake up in the morning and hear on the radio or the news or see something in the newspapers about something the government is doing," he said.
"And you think, well, hang on a second - it's not just that we didn't know it was happening, but we don't even agree with it! The government can be doing things... and we don't agree with it? How can that be?"
Hilton estimated that 30% of government business was to do with its policy programme, 40% related to EU regulations and 30% to 'random things'.
He went on: "In other words, only 30% of what the government is doing is actually delivering what we're supposed to be doing. It just shows you the scale of what you're up against.
"When I found that out, that was pretty horrific."
Hilton suggested the paperwork required to get decisions through made ministers' job "impossible" so they occasionally just nodded things through.
"That's how you end up with stuff happening that the government is doing that the people running the government don't know about, or disagree with," he said.
"When you start thinking about how things get decided, it's pretty incredible... it's a brilliant system for paper-shuffling people to be in control.
"The bureaucracy masters the politicians. I don't mean that in a hostile way - it's just a fact."
The seminar offers a glimpse of the frustration Hilton felt in government as he faced numerous obstacles to implementing a radical reform agenda.
The frustration is not restricted to him, however. Many ministers and MPs complain about civil servants obstructing or slowing down policy agendas.
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By Ian Dunt