Alastair Campbell: New Labour and the rise of the media class 9781854106476, 1854106473

1. Spin Cycle: Thirty-six Hours in the Life of Alastair Campbell -- 2. Fair and False like a Campbell -- 3. Busking with

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Alastair Campbell: New Labour and the rise of the media class
 9781854106476, 1854106473

Table of contents :
1. Spin Cycle: Thirty-six Hours in the Life of Alastair Campbell --
2. Fair and False like a Campbell --
3. Busking with Bagpipes --
4. In which Our Hero's Fortunes Sink Very Low --
5. Serving Kinnock and Maxwell --
6. 'Oh, sod off Prime Minister, I'm trying to do my expenses' --
7. The Rise of the Media Class --
8. 'The Most Brilliant Election Campaign in History' --
9. Downing Street --
10. Blairites and Brownites --
11. Managing the Media --
12. 'Deputy Prime Minister' --
App. New Labour and the Civil Service

Citation preview

New Labour and the Civil Service Reconstituting the Westminster Model

David Richards

Transforming Government General Editor: R. A. W. Rhodes, Professor of Political Science, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. The Economic and Social Research Council mounted the Whitehall Programme on ‘The Changing Nature of Central Government in Britain’ between 1994 and 1999. The Programme sought to repair gaps in our knowledge about the workings of British central government and to explain how and why British government changed in the post-war period. Also, because we cannot understand the effects of these changes by focusing only on Britain, the Programme analysed the experience of the advanced industrial democracies of Europe and the Commonwealth. Initially the ‘Transforming Government’ series reported the results of that fiveyear research programme, publishing ten books. Now, the series publishes any research consistent with its long-standing objectives: • Develop theory – to develop new theoretical perspectives to explain why British government changed and why it differs from other countries. • Understand change – to describe and explain what has changed in British government since 1945. • Compare advanced industrial democracies – to compare change in Britain with other EU member states and other states with a ‘Westminster’ system of government, especially the Old Commonwealth. • Build bridges – to create a common understanding between academics and practitioners and to make academic research accessible to a varied audience covering 6th-formers and senior policy makers. The series encompasses any theoretical approach to the study of government and governance. We welcome books on such notions as hollowing-out, governance, postmodernism, core executives, new institutionalism and cultural theory alongside the more traditional topics of the civil service, prime ministers and government and departments. All books should meet the conventional criteria of theoretical and empirical rigour, but also seek to address topics of broad current interest that open the field of study to new ideas and areas of investigation. Titles include: Simon Bulmer, Martin Burch, Caitríona Carter, Patricia Hogwood and Andrew Scott BRITISH DEVOLUTION AND EUROPEAN POLICY-MAKING Transforming Britain to Multi-Level Governance Nicholas Deakin and Richard Parry THE TREASURY AND SOCIAL POLICY The Contest for Control of Welfare Strategy Neil C.M. Elder and Edward C. Page ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONTROL IN NEXT STEPS AGENCIES Oliver James THE EXECUTIVE AGENCY REVOLUTION IN WHITEHALL Public Interest Versus Bureau-Shaping Perspectives

David Marsh, David Richards and Martin J. Smith CHANGING PATTERNS OF GOVERNANCE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM Reinventing Whitehall? Iain McLean THE FISCAL CRISIS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM Edward C. Page and Vincent Wright (editors) FROM THE ACTIVE TO THE ENABLING STATE The Changing Role of Top Officials in European Nations Hugh Pemberton POLICY LEARNING AND BRITISH GOVERNANCE IN THE 1960s B. Guy Peters, R. A. W. Rhodes and Vincent Wright (editors) ADMINISTERING THE SUMMIT Administration of the Core Executive in Developed Countries R. A. W. Rhodes (editor) TRANSFORMING BRITISH GOVERNMENT Volume One: Changing Institutions Volume Two: Changing Roles and Relationships David Richards NEW LABOUR AND THE CIVIL SERVICE Reconstituting the Westminster Model Martin J. Smith THE CORE EXECUTIVE IN BRITAIN Kevin Theakston LEADERSHIP IN WHITEHALL Kevin Theakston (editor) BUREAUCRATS AND LEADERSHIP Patrick Weller, Herman Bakvis and R. A. W. Rhodes (editors) THE HOLLOW CROWN Countervailing Trends in Core Executives

Transforming Government Series Standing Order ISBN 0–333–71580–2 (outside North America only) You can receive future titles in this series as they are published by placing a standing order. Please contact your bookseller or, in case of difficulty, write to us at the address below with your name and address, the title of the series and the ISBN quoted above. Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd, Houndmills, Basingtoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, England

New Labour and the Civil Service Reconstituting the Westminster Model

David Richards Reader in Politics University of Sheffield, UK

© David Richards 2008 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published in 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN-13: 978–1–4039–9380–9 hardback ISBN-10: 1–4039–9380–7 hardback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 08 Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

For Emma and Noah

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Contents

List of Tables and Figures

viii

Preface and Acknowledgements

ix

1 Introduction

1

2 Labour and the Civil Service: Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

12

3 Theorising Whitehall: Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

31

4 Transition in Government

57

5 Labour and the Civil Service: From Managerialism to a Reconstituted Westminster Model

95

6 The Core Executive under Labour: Politicising Whitehall?

141

7 Conclusion: Labour and the Civil Service – Reconstituting the Westminster Model

196

Appendix A

204

Appendix B

205

Notes

226

Bibliography

243

Index

261

vii

List of Tables and Figures Tables 3.1 4.1 5.1 5.2 6.1a 6.1b 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6

Three models of the British state Labour’s shadow front bench 1996–7 and first cabinet Competing narratives of governance Political control vs administrative autonomy – four models Number of first-time promotions to grade 1/1a (1980–96) Number of first-time appointees to grade 1/1a (1997–2004) Number of first-time appointees with accelerated promotion by two or more grades (1980–2004) First-time appointments to grade 1/1a with experience of the centre (1980–2004) Number of outside promotion to grade 1/1a (1980–2004) Demographic profile of first-time appointees to grade 1/1a Numbers of government special advisers 1979–2006

55 73 96 101 165 165 166 167 168 170 180

Figures 3.1 3.2 3.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6

Government Expenditure as a percentage of GDP 1900–1980 Civil Service numbers 1841–1979 The percentage number of civil servants in agencies Cabinet Office Organogram – November 2005 Complexity at the centre Civil Service staff in executive agencies, or working on next steps lines Total number of agencies and percentage of civil servants The permanent Civil Service Generalised delivery chain viii

34 34 40 118 128 131 132 135 136

Preface and Acknowledgements In June 2007, Tony Blair stood down as Prime Minister after more than a decade in power. His legacy is one that will continue to be contested. Following his departure, many views are being offered by journalists, political scientists and practitioners, each willing to pass judgement on what they have interpreted as the Blair legacy. Some of these accounts concern whether there is something coherent and meaningful that can be labelled as ‘Blairism’ and which demonstrates a distinct break from the previous Conservative era. Other accounts argue that Blair’s New Labour Government has been responsible for embedding a postThatcherite, neo-liberal consensus. And of course, in the same way that Thatcherism generated a whole cottage industry of those willing to dissect 18 years of Conservative Administration, much more is still to come on the Blair era. Projecting ahead, more reflective and rounded appraisals of the Blair Administration will surface which will benefit from the passage of time and be able to draw on a wider array of sources and documents. It is important to recognise that any analysis of political phenomena depends on when it is written. Over the last decade, I have been engaged in a variety of Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC] funded research projects exploring different aspects of British government. This has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in an un-broken process of interviewing many of the key actors involved in this Labour Administration. As Gordon Brown takes up residency in Number Ten, it presents an obvious point at which to reflect on this interview material and offer an informed account of the Blair Administration’s approach to Whitehall. Although, for those familiar with the methodological issues involved in qualitative research, such a task is by no means simple. If one surveys past accounts of Whitehall, then in both epistemological and methodological terms, they not surprisingly reflect the era in which they were written. The range of approaches is wide and any list would certainly include; traditional institutionalism, behaviouralism, public choice theory, new institutionalism and managerial and organisational studies. This reflects the richness of the discipline of political science, which of course is to be applauded. But in embarking on my own account of Whitehall, it presents a dilemma – how to decide which

ix

x

Preface and Acknowledgements

approach to adopt? Moreover, the recent burgeoning literature on governance has added to the complexity of this choice. No longer can the Civil Service be studied through a lens solely focused on SW1. The aperture needs to be substantially widened to capture the multi-level settings in which Britain’s bureaucracy operates. Much has changed from the institutionalist accounts of Whitehall of yesteryear that tended to be narrow, descriptive and atheoretical in their approach (see for example Kelsall 1955; Birch 1964; Harris and Garcia 1966). But, ironically, the starting point for this account of New Labour and Whitehall shares some common ground with those original commentaries. Those accounts were almost always constructed with an implicit framework of analysis which, for those familiar with the literature, can be recognised as the Westminster model. This model reflects a specific historical narrative that attempts to capture the essential features of the nature of British government. In recent decades, the model has endured a sustained attack. Among the more prominent contemporary critics are Bevir and Rhodes (2003a, 2006, 2007) who rail against the malign and distorting influence the model has had on accounts of British politics. The core contention of this book is that a narrative of the Labour Administration’s approach to Whitehall cannot be told without recognising the sustained and dominant influence of the Westminster model. This argument rests on the view that while the model falls short of offering a credible characterisation or organising perspective of the British political system, it is constantly appealed to by Britain’s core executive as a ‘legitimising mythology’ for their actions. In this sense, it is used to justify a particular way of behaviour and reflects an elitist view of power associated with the British political tradition. As with those accounts published some 50 years ago, here too the shadow of the Westminster model looms large. Although, hopefully, a more theorised and nuanced understanding and interpretation of Whitehall is offered. There are of course a number of people who I am indebted to for the various contributions they have made to the writing of this book. First, this project would never have come about if it were not for the willingness of ministers, civil servants, special advisers and others close to the New Labour project to give of both their time and views. I must also thank the ESRC for funding four research projects that have afforded me both the time and resources to conduct the interviews. Each project has been a collaborative venture and has involved over three hundred interviews – no small task. My appreciation is extended to my cocollaborators – David Marsh (Birmingham), Francesca Gains (Manchester),

Preface and Acknowledgements

xi

Martin Smith, Helen Mathers, Andrew Geddes and Matthew Flinders (all Sheffield). They all helped undertake the interviews, commented on some or all of the chapters and whose companionship and insights, often in the most convivial of surroundings, I have thoroughly enjoyed. Others too have read various draft chapters, pointed out numerous errors and helped shape my views on particular issues. Here, I would like to express my warm appreciation to Dennis Kavanagh (Liverpool), Paul Cairney (Aberdeen), Paul Fawcett (Birmingham) and Kai Hon (Hong Kong). I would like to thank the Department of Politics, University of Sheffield for the support it has given. In particular, Sarah Cooke for covering my back and always staying in telephone contact! Amy Lankester-Owen and Gemma d’Arcy Hughes at Palgrave have proved to be a first rate, sympathetic and astute editorial team and I would like to acknowledge all their efforts throughout the writing process. Four people in particular deserve a special mention. Rod Rhodes (Australian National University) the editor of this Transforming Government series. While our views on the nature of British governance at times diverge, a mark of my respect for Rod can be evidenced by the extent to which his intellectual imprint is clearly seen throughout much of this book. His impact on the profession is obvious and I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear of the number of prospective PhD students that, as my Department’s Director of Post-Graduate Studies, I have had knocking at my door requesting to do research using the ‘interpretive approach’. Rod, you have a lot to answer for! Helen Mathers read the whole manuscript at the shortest of notice, identified and helped me resolve various issues throughout and highlighted countless errors in the script. Helen, your efforts are really appreciated. Martin Smith also commented on each chapter as it appeared and was willing to re-read the whole manuscript again at the end. I am indebted to his insightfulness, guidance and willingness to discuss all aspects of the book, which has led to a number of substantial improvements in the final version. We have been collaborators, but more importantly, the closest of friends for nearly two decades and now I have some time freed up, I look forward to doing a few more mountain bike expeditions together without any chains breaking! Finally, my greatest debt of gratitude goes to my wife Emma, for all the love and support she has provided and without which this book would never have been written. Emma became pregnant with our first child at just about the time I started to write the first chapter – I’m not quite sure what should be read into that. So, while I was meant to be offering her all the support and care required by an expectant

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Preface and Acknowledgements

mum, instead it was she who tolerated a number of ‘lost weekends’ and who was there for me as I constantly cursed an approaching publication deadline. Emma, all I can do is apologise and try and make up for it now, by working hard at being a good dad. It is to her and our son Noah that this book is rightly dedicated. Oh, and lest I forget, thank you Caroline for those extra fifteen minutes which made all the difference to the final draft! DAVID R ICHARDS

1 Introduction

In the last thirty years, I think direct power of British Government has reduced substantially, but the ability to continue to use the mechanisms of government, and the influences in new ways, has both hidden the extent of that reduction in power and in some areas compensated for it ... Because of the plurality of our decision-making, because of the growth of private provision for ourselves, the role of the state has both changed and in many instances diminished. But is still very powerful in terms of being able to influence what happens within that plurality of decision-making elsewhere. However, we haven’t yet fully got to grips with it, or explained it, or trained ourselves to be effective at it. (David Blunkett – interview with the author – January 2007) I think there is this legitimate view, although I’ve never taken it, that the Civil Service is a separate estate of the realm which has a constitutional role as a guardian of continuity which is separate from the government of the day. I’ve never seen the difference between the elected government and the Civil Service government. I regard the Civil Service as being there to serve the government of the day. There are still problems of ethics and conscience and so on so if an official is asked to do something that they regard as illegitimate by the government of the day they must advise that it is illegitimate and there must be some kind of protection for them. But there are various types of protection ... With that protection I believe that the Civil Service will do what the government asks of them. (Very senior Cabinet Office official interview with the author – March 1999) 1

2

New Labour and the Civil Service

Explaining change in Whitehall: four contrasting perspectives The period from the election of the last Labour Administration in 1974 up to the resignation of Tony Blair as Labour Prime Minister in 2007 has witnessed a transformation in Whitehall. Any list of change is long. But in terms of prominence, one would identify the managerialist reforms introduced under the auspices of New Public Management (NPM), the ‘de-privileging’ of the Civil Service in the early 1980s, the introduction of Next Steps agencies in the late 1980s, the increasing impact of Europeanisation on individual departments from the early 1990s, the de-layering of Whitehall in the mid-1990s and, since 1997, the effect of devolution and the wide-ranging programme of ‘Modernising Government’ aimed at improving public service delivery. One uncontroversial view is that Whitehall today is a different entity to the one that served the Wilson/Callaghan Governments in the 1970s. Yet, there is a paradox here: on one level, the past thirty years has witnessed, if not a revolution, then at least a transformation in the Civil Service that has seen substantial changes in both the formal and informal rules of the game which shape the way officials operate; at the same time, both ministers and senior civil servants have continued to defend the Westminster model.1 The view the core executive offers is that despite, for example, the radical impact that devolution has had on Britain’s political landscape, substantial change can be grafted onto the British political system without any need to rethink the fundamental elements of the Westminster model.2 For example, to take the views of Tony Blair at both the beginning and near the end of his time in office: I hope very much that when civil servants look back on the early days of this Government they will judge that this was a good and exciting period for the Civil Service. It should be. You have a Government which understands and values the role of civil servants, which welcomes and invites your support and contribution on an impartial, professional basis; which has confidence in your ability to do your job ... I don't believe that any other government is better served than we are by the British Civil Service. (Blair 1998) The fundamental values of Northcote and Trevelyan, lampooned at the time as an alien Chinese import, have survived remarkably intact through successive waves of reform. (Blair 2004)

Introduction 3

And in similar fashion, we can see the opinion offered by Richard Wilson, the first Cabinet Secretary to be appointed by Blair: Because the government of the day commands a majority in Parliament, the Civil Service works under the direction of that government, executes the programme of that government and owes loyalty to that government ... How shall I define its [the Civil Service] character? First integrity ... , second political impartiality ... , third merit ... , fourth, the ability to work for successive governments ... , and finally, public service. (Wilson 2002) And the view of Gus O’Donnell, who served as Blair’s last Cabinet Secretary: Our traditional values of integrity, objectivity, impartiality and honesty are our bedrock. They are just as important today as when they were first developed and are essential to everything we do, whether it’s policy, delivery or corporate services. They need to be expressed clearly in a way which is relevant to all our staff. (Gus O’Donnell, Speech at the Launch of the new Civil Service Code, 6 June 2006) Why is it, despite all the extensive empirical evidence offered by the numerous studies exploring the changing nature of British governance over the past thirty years, that Britain’s political elites continue to argue that the key features of the Westminster model are relevant? The need to answer this question and at the same time explain this paradox forms the centrepiece of this account of the Blair Administration’s relationship with Whitehall. An obvious starting point is to reflect on the existing literature that has attempted to explain the nature of change and its impact on the Westminster model. Many of the transformations that have taken place in both Whitehall and the broader British political system have been explored by what is labelled the ‘Anglo-governance school’.3 This approach questions the traditional view of British politics presented by the Westminster model of government that power is hermetically sealed in the domain of Westminster and Whitehall. It highlights the need to recognise and account for the range of institutions, locations of power, networks of relations and multiplicity of actors involved in the process of governing. There are four perspectives in particular that offer interesting, but contrasting, explanations of how change has affected the

4

New Labour and the Civil Service

nature of Whitehall and, more particularly, the impact it has had on the Westminster model. First, the ‘End of Whitehall’ approach argues that the reforms over the past three decades have destroyed the traditional role of civil servants (see Campbell and Wilson 1995, Foster and Plowden 1996, Foster 2005). It suggests that both the role and power of officials have been eroded to the point at which the view presented by the Westminster model that ministers and civil servants are engaged in a co-dependent, symbiotic relationship is no longer sustainable. Reform has undermined the model to a point at which: Civil servants are increasingly defining their role as policy implementors rather than policy analysts, people who gave ministers what they said they wanted, rather than functioning as what they disparagingly call ‘quasi-academics’ who tried to show politicians the full consequences, adverse as well as positive, of their policy proposals. (Campbell and Wilson 1995: 60) The conclusion it offers is that the Westminster model has been eclipsed by a post-Whitehall, minister-dominated paradigm. Second, Rhodes’ (1997) ‘hollowing out of the state’ thesis examines the wider changes in the policy-making arena. It argues that the power of the core executive has been eroded, as a hollowing-out effect has led to the capacity at the centre being dispersed upwards, outwards and downwards. It concludes that the analytical capabilities of the Westminster model have been ‘found lacking’ and an alternative, the ‘differentiated polity model’ is offered which: ‘... challenges the classical model of a unitary state characterised by a strong executive and parliamentary sovereignty ...’ and presents a neo-pluralist view of power (Rhodes et al 2003:166). Change, in particular in the form of devolution, demands that we move beyond a view of Whitehall as a monolithic or unified entity and, instead, empirical inquiry should be shaped by a decentralised view that accounts for the ‘Civil Services of the UK’ (Rhodes et al 2003: 6). If the ‘hollowing out’ view is conceived as an empirical challenge to the Westminster model, then elsewhere, the ‘decentred perspective’ is concerned with presenting a more explicitly theoretical challenge (Bevir and Rhodes 2003a, 2006, 2007). This interpretive approach criticises the ‘pervasive’ effect the Westminster model has had on existing institutional studies of British politics. It argues for the need to explore the ‘competing beliefs and traditions by

Introduction 5

which governance is made and remade, not only by politicians but also by civil servants’. This requires a decentred approach which moves beyond the limitations of the Westminster model and identifies, understands and interprets a wider range of contingent traditions and beliefs which shapes the actions of Britain’s political elites. In so doing, this has the potential to offer a richer or thicker description of the ‘British story of governance’. All three perspectives challenge the orthodoxy of the Westminster model, which has dominated accounts of how British politics works (see Gamble 1990). However, there is a fourth perspective – the ‘reconstituted Westminster model’ – which places a different emphasis on the influence of the Westminster model in shaping British politics (see Richards and Smith 2000a, 2004a). It criticises the limitations of the descriptive capacity of the Westminster model, in terms of an organising perspective of the British system of government. Nevertheless, it recognises the importance of the normative view of power it presents. It argues that the model acts as a ‘legitimising mythology’ of a particular elitist conception of core executive power, which is in the strategic interest of both ministers and civil servants to sustain. Its account of change in an era of governance is one in which ministers and civil servants continue to draw on the Westminster model to defend their structured, asymmetric position of power in the broader policy-making arena (see Marsh et al 2001, 2003, Richards and Smith 2002). So, unlike Bevir and Rhodes, who argue that change in Whitehall should be understood in terms of a decentred, interpretive approach, what this perspective advocates is to understand the actions of ministers and civil servants as defending or ‘reconstituting’ the Westminster model in a changing political world. I argue that this perspective can be used to address the paradox identified above and explain the Blair Administration’s relations with, and approach to, Whitehall.

The theoretical and methodological framework Rhodes (2001: 111) observes that there is a literature on Whitehall which assumes that: ‘... one can read off the beliefs of top civil servants from their institutional position and their socio-economic background’.4 Indeed, as we see in Chapter 2, the approach adopted in these accounts shares common ground with the elitist or materialist critiques of Whitehall offered by intellectuals from the Left, including Laski (1942), Miliband (1969), Anderson (1964) and Nairn (1977). Their accounts portray senior bureaucrats as representing particular class interests which

6

New Labour and the Civil Service

have left a lasting imprint on the nature of the various institutions of British state. Yet, Rhodes (2001:111) challenges this approach arguing that: ‘beliefs cannot be so determined. Rather, we must study the texts (writings, lectures, interviews transcripts) of civil servants to identify their beliefs.’5 Underpinning this view is a broader critique offered by Bevir and Rhodes which challenges ‘modernist empiricism’6 and advocates the adoption of an interpretivist approach to understand modern British government and governance (see Rhodes 1997, 2007, Bevir and Rhodes 2003a, 2006, 2007).7 This approach rejects a relativist epistemology and argues that actors interpret the world they inhabit in different ways, so: ‘no practice or norm can fix the ways in which people act’ (Bevir and Rhodes 2006: 3). It calls for an approach which identifies and understands the various traditions (or webs of belief) which agents draw upon and from which they: ‘construct varied practices’ (Rhodes and Bevir 2006: 166). This involves moving back and forth between aggregate concepts and the beliefs of individuals. It suggests that actions are related to interpretations of beliefs that develop in relation to sets of traditions and dilemmas. According to Bevir and Rhodes (2003a: 11), in order to: ‘understand actions, practices and institutions, we need to grasp the relevant meanings, the beliefs and the preferences of the people involved’. From these beliefs and traditions, actors form particular narratives to explain events and decisions: Individuals are not autonomous: they necessarily come to hold the beliefs they do within a social context that influences them. To explain the beliefs of a particular individual, we have to appeal to an aggregate concept, such as tradition, that evokes this social context. However, such traditions have no existence apart from in the contingent beliefs of particular individuals. To appeal to a tradition is always, therefore, explicitly or implicitly to make claims about the beliefs of particular individuals. (Bevir and Rhodes 2003b: 42) This version of interpretivism is used to offer an account of British governance. The core of the argument is that the Westminster model has had a ‘distorted influence’, a ‘bewitching effect’ and acted as ‘a smokescreen’ on the study of British politics (see Bevir and Rhodes 2007). The answer is to embrace an anti-foundationalist epistemology and a decentred account which identifies four traditions as crucial to understanding how the British story of governance should be told – Tory, Whig, Liberal and Socialist (see Bevir and Rhodes 2003a, 2006,

Introduction 7

2007).8 Reform should be understood as a: ‘contingent product of a contest of meanings in action’ which stem from agents drawing from these four particular traditions. The Bevir and Rhodes approach is a useful corrective to some of the more descriptive and atheoretical accounts of the world of Westminster and Whitehall.9 The view here is at odds with the way in which a decentred account downplays the influence of the Westminster model and also its anti-foundationalist epistemology. It questions the view that the Westminster model is only one, if rightly important, tradition which needs to be set alongside others, in order to tell the British governance story (see Bevir and Rhodes 2007). Instead, I argue that the Westminster model remains the most important, indeed, overarching, tradition which has shaped Labour’s approach to Whitehall. This account advocates the need to posit the Westminster model at the heart of any analysis of Labour’s reform programme. In particular, it identifies the extent to which over time, the model has shaped the Labour Party’s strategic policy choices and influenced how it has approached government. Chapter 2 argues that Labour has embraced the Westminster model because it allows it to sustain and legitimise an elite-dominated system of government which it sees as necessary to securing its own political goals (see Marquand 1997). From this perspective, it can be argued that the model’s influence on the first Labour Government of Ramsey MacDonald can be compared to the impact it had some seventy years later on New Labour.10 So, in this account, the Westminster model is understood as the aggregate concept which: ‘... explain[s] how British Government works with the beliefs and preferences of the relevant actors as the basic building blocks’ (Bevir and Rhodes 2003b: 25). That is not to say that other influences have not conditioned New Labour’s approach to Whitehall (see Evans 2003, Richards and Smith 2004b), but they can only be understood within the broader setting defined by the Westminster model. Indeed, while the sub-title of this book is Reconstituting the Westminster Model, as it builds on the perspective identified above about understanding change and the nature of core executive conceptions of political power (see Richards and Smith 2000, 2002, 2004a, 2006b, Marsh et al 2001, 2003), it could equally have been labelled Recentering the Westminster Model. To adapt a phrase used elsewhere, by ‘bringing the Westminster model back in’, we can account for the paradox of why change has not altered, in the view of Britain’s political elites, the constitutional status quo.11 In methodological terms, interpretation in this account is not based on an anti-foundational epistemology but on an ontological view of

8

New Labour and the Civil Service

agents as interpretative beings who develop a range of interpretations concerning particular material and institutional relations. This is not a behavioural study and it has not involved any form of participant observation or the shadowing of civil servants and ministers. Instead, it relies largely on elite interviews, alongside other qualitative material in the form of speeches, memoirs, diaries, Select Committee reports and so forth. It is a study that is concerned with the interpretations of events by key actors, and of course, the author’s subsequent interpretation of their accounts. This methodology clearly draws from the new institutionalist tradition, in particular historical institutionalism, aimed at understanding and interpreting the formal and informal rules of the game that shape the behaviour of agents, rather than an anti-foundationalist approach concerned with interpreting their ‘web of beliefs’.12 This is not the place for a detailed appraisal of my epistemological position (but for a more detailed outline, see Richards and Smith 2004a). What is provided here is a critical realist account which, while not offering any predictive models of political and bureaucratic behaviour, does try and explain the nature of Labour’s relations with Whitehall over the past decade, identify what has happened and, where possible, provide some insight into why. It recognises that while social phenomena exists independently of any interpretation, or discursive construction of it, the way in which actors discursively construct their interpretations subsequently affects outcomes. If this study is concerned with understanding New Labour and Whitehall, this involves finding out how agents, be they Labour ministers or civil servants, understand their world and the projected changes to it.13 A key issue, of course, is the status of the researcher, since there is no meaning to data until it has been interpreted. I do quote extensively from the interviews throughout the book, which at least allows the reader to draw their own conclusions on the interpretations I have placed on the interview data. The majority of the data used throughout the course of this book is of a qualitative nature. It is drawn from four ESRC Research projects I have been involved in over the past decade, all of which have been concerned with exploring various aspects of British central government.14 This has involved an extensive number of interviews with Labour and Conservative ministers and shadow ministers, senior civil servants, special advisers and non-governmental organisation representatives. As is usual with elite interviewing, in most, but not all cases, ministers, special advisers and non-governmental organisations are willing to be directly cited,15 while all the interviews with civil servants have been conducted under Chatham House rules (see Richards 1996a). There is

Introduction 9

clearly a potential problem with such interview data. Interviewees may exaggerate their own role or competence. So, for example, a civil servant may be more positive or place a different emphasis on a particular event or issue than that of the view offered by minister, and, of course, vice-versa. However, a substantial number of ministers and civil servants from across Whitehall were interviewed to obtain as broad a picture as possible and enable the checking of the views of one individual, or set of actors, against others. In terms of the interviews, I have tried to ask a variety of respondents for their ‘version’ of events and interpretation of motivations. When this is placed against other sources of qualitative data, memoirs, biography, Hansard reports and so forth – it has allowed for some degree of triangulation (see Richards 1996a). Although, here it is worth restating the view of Jack Hayward (1999: 34): ‘Political scientists have the capacity to offer some hindsight, a little insight and almost no foresight’. I hope the following account of the Labour Administration and Whitehall offers something, in terms of hindsight and insight, as to what has happened over the past ten years, even if it does not attempt to foresee what the next decade might hold.

The structure and themes of the book Owing to the substantial material generated from the various research projects identified above, it is an almost impossible task to address, in a single monograph, all the issues concerning Labour and Whitehall that they raise. However, an earlier publication in this Transforming Government series (Marsh, Richards and Smith 2001) examined the structural and cultural change Whitehall has undergone in the past thirty years, including the whole of Blair’s first term. As such, while I return to some of the themes raised in that book, there is little point in rehearsing the same arguments again. The account offered here does consider a number of topical Whitehall debates that continue to bubble away, concerning, for example, issues of accountability, devolution, agencification, Europeanisation, Freedom of Information and challenges to the public service ethos; the pressure of space again only permits a cursory discussion of each. I have chosen three substantive themes to address the core question of the book concerning the relationship between change in Whitehall and the Westminster model. The first theme, explored in Chapter 4, is an in-depth examination of the 1997 process of transition in Whitehall from the Major to the Blair Government. Eighteen unbroken years of Conservative Administration

10

New Labour and the Civil Service

meant that the 1997 transition was a key test in whether the Civil Service and the new Labour Government would be capable of sustaining the Westminster model. To what extent and how quickly would Blair’s first ministerial team be able to internalise the formal and informal rules of the games presented by the Westminster model? Would the convention of a ‘seamless web in government’ be maintained or would the process expose serious deficiencies in the constitutional conventions defining the British system of government? The second theme concerns an analysis of Labour’s approach to reforming the broader policy-making arena and the effect this has had on Whitehall. It argues that recent governments have all faced a dilemma in trying to resolve a tension between the desire for [central] political control and the need for [devolved] administrative autonomy. Over the past decade, Labour has developed a distinct response to this dilemma, and Chapter 5 offers an analysis of how this has affected Whitehall and its external relations with other actors in the policy arena. The third theme explored in Chapter 6 concerns an analysis of the internal effect Labour has had on Whitehall. It focuses on the governing strategy that it brought with it into government and how this has changed core executive relations. The chapter considers whether or not the Civil Service has been politicised under Blair and the impact which key changes, such as the much greater use of special advisers, has made on the core executive. Underpinning the analysis offered in these three substantive chapters is the need to explain why the Westminster model is the aggregate concept explaining New Labour’s relations with and approach to Whitehall since 1997. This involves recognising the extent to which, over time, the Westminster model has shaped the strategic choices made by the Party’s leaders. It draws on an historical intuitionalist approach presented in Chapter 2 and argues that, throughout much of the past century, the Westminster model has been the dominant force in shaping the leadership’s approach to government. Chapter 3 then explores the extent to which, despite the radicalism often associated with Thatcherism and its prescription for a new state settlement, the reforms pursued by the last Conservative Administration continued to draw from within the framework presented by the Westminster model, rather than directly challenge it. The chapter also explores the response by the Labour Party to the Conservative legacy, most notably in the ideas of the Third Way and its revisionist programme, and the subsequent emergence of New Labour. It argues that the transformation of

Introduction 11

the Labour Party has been played out within the contours prescribed by the Westminster model. The view here is that a path dependency can be identified from the first Ramsey MacDonald Administration up to the Blair Administration highlighting the central importance of the Westminster model in shaping the strategic choices of the Party’s approach to government. In each of the three substantive chapters (4, 5 and 6), I have tried to place the particular themes to be examined within a broader historical context, in order to develop this notion of dependency. Finally, in Chapter 7, I return to the original paradox of the relationship between change and the maintenance of the Westminster model, to consider why, despite the substantial reforms to Whitehall since 1997, Blair, his ministers and senior civil servants continue to defend the model.

2 Labour and the Civil Service: Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

We always demand from our civil servants a loyalty to the State, and that they should serve the Government of the day, whatever its particular colour. That undertaking is carried out with exemplary loyalty. Any departure from this system would mean the adoption of a spoils system, and that would destroy our Civil Service. (Clement Attlee 1948) The [Civil Service] doctrine of its limited and politically neutral role is not merely a convenient defence against outside critics; it helps to blind the Service itself to the need for its own reconstruction. Governments could hardly introduce major reforms in normal times. They rely on the Service too much ... To push a major reform through would lead to real dangers of at least non-cordiality, as well as attacks by the opposition and the press, which would sense that the old order was really being threatened. (Seers 1968: 85) This chapter sets out the extent to which the Labour Party, or more specifically its leadership, has been conditioned by the constitutional architecture of the British Parliamentary state. It has been argued that the overarching framework in the British political system is the Westminster model (Richards and Smith 2004). Despite the more recent criticism that the model has endured (see Chapter 1 and Marsh et al 2001, 2003; Evans 2003), its relevance has always been as an important ‘legitimising mythology’ of a particular elitist system of government, as well as shaping the actions of two key groups of actors in the British 12

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

13

political system – ministers and civil servants. As Bevir and Rhodes (2003a: 26) observe: ‘... [it] could be argued that the Westminster model is the pervasive image shared by British politicians and civil servants.’ It is argued that once the Labour Party under Ramsey MacDonald had established a parliamentary route to power and, in so doing, a willingness to subscribe to the Westminster model, this became the dominant tradition which has shaped the views and behaviour of subsequent Labour leadership teams. This has informed the Party’s approach to Whitehall and the state. The Party’s leadership embraced a view of the British state as neutral and a willingness to accept that its institutions would not be biased against the interests of a Labour Government. The chapter traces the extent to which Labour Governments up until Blair were inherently conservative when it came to Whitehall reform. The hallmark of their approach was, at best, ad hoc. The record of each Labour Government up until 1979 is surveyed to highlight the unwillingness by the Party leadership to embrace an overarching critique of the Westminster model, despite the extent to which other elements of the Labour movement, most notably the intellectual wing, offered a coherent set of ideas to challenge the status quo. Labour’s approach towards both Whitehall and more broadly government throughout the twentieth century cannot be told without locating the Westminster model at the centre of such a narrative.

The Labour leadership: the constitutional path to power and the Westminster model The Labour Party’s attitude to the state is perhaps best understood as a product first of its own history and second, of its experiences in government. McKibbin (1974: 241–2), emphasises the importance of the trade union movement for informing Labour’s position on both its internal organisational structure and its views on the nature of the state. The unions consistently supported the notion of statutory, national, wage bargaining and opposed arguments which proposed that socialism could be achieved through a bottom-up, devolved model of government. This has informed the Party’s own thinking on the unitary nature of the United Kingdom throughout the twentieth century and shaped its view on Whitehall. As Theakston (1992: 6) observes: The dominance of a centralist and statist approach in Labour’s political thinking and practice obviously gives a vital role to the Civil Service

14

New Labour and the Civil Service

and the Whitehall machine in the achievement of socialism. The alternative tradition of decentralisation and ‘municipal socialism’ was rapidly downgraded as Labour became a major parliamentary party. Second, the Party, or at least the Party leadership, has maintained a discernible reverence towards the British constitution (Harris 1982: 134; Evans 2003). When in power, Labour has been primarily concerned with establishing its credentials as a legitimate and responsible party of government. It has been willing to accept the constitutional status quo and the preservation of a system of government which allows for a substantial centralisation of state power. As Marquand notes (1997: 44): Its object has been to win power within the existing political system and to use it to change society in accordance with its ideology and the interests of its constituents. It has shown little sympathy for the proposition that a system permeated with essentially monarchical values might not be compatible with such a project. The dominant strand of thinking within the Labour Party throughout the twentieth century, premised on its Fabian traditions, has broadly accepted the state as being neutral. More generally, Labour leaders have been optimistic about the ability of the state to achieve its goals. In government, the Party has utilised the existing institutions of state, as a long-term strategy of reform based on the principle of the ‘inevitability of gradualism’ and the assumption of ‘permanent revolution’(see Jones and Keating 1985). A belief that once in power, Labour Governments would retain power, allowing for a long-term process of incremental state reform (see Sharpe 1985: 14). As Evans (2003: 19) observes: The Fabian tradition, the dominant tradition within the Labour Party, is a strong advocate of the favoured mode of governance of the British political tradition; strong, decisive and responsible government. Here a belief has prevailed that the existing institutions of the British state could be used as a socialist apparatus for social and political engineering. This position has meant the Party leadership has been unwilling to question the effectiveness of the long-established and firmly entrenched Westminster system of government.

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

15

Labour and the shadow of the Westminster model The choice made by the Party leadership in the early twentieth century to accept a parliamentary route to power has meant that over time Labour politicians have been conditioned, as much as Conservatives, by the Westminster model. As Evans (2003: 18) observes: ‘... the Westminster model forms the basis of the British political tradition and in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries became the political orthodoxy of British government.’ Much has been written about the nature of the Westminster model,1 but it is important to recognise that it is an element of the British political tradition2 which sees governing as a process conducted by a closed elite, constrained by an ethos of integrity and a concern for the public good (Richards and Smith 2000a) and contained within the framework of a balanced and self-adjusting constitution (Tant 1993). The model presents an image of Parliament as sovereign, but in practice, the growth of the party system and bureaucracy over the last 150 years has led to executive or Cabinet sovereignty. A corollary of this model is the notion of ministerial responsibility. It is ministers who make decisions and are at the head of hierarchical departments and accountable to Parliament. Yet, the primary source of legitimacy in Britain is Parliament (see Judge 1993). As Ivor Jennings (1934: 7–8), the Labour supporting lawyer and constitutional theorist, observed: ‘In a Parliamentary Democracy, the legislature is the most important branch of the governmental machine ... It is fundamental that the law of Parliament should provide for justice and order, for that is the basis of all the law.’ He believed the constitution should not be used as a bulwark against the realisation of a socialist programme by any Labour Government.3 The Jennings critique did not go unnoticed by Labour. The Party leadership used it to reinforce its position as a constitutional, not revolutionary, party (see Cole 1953;, Mount 1992). The Westminster model offers a liberal, elitist view of governing (Evans 2003: 16). MPs are representatives and not delegates and act in what they see as the public good. It is predicated on a view that the public does not have the necessary information available to make informed decisions.4 The political elite regard secrecy as the best means of ensuring that the right decisions are made in the interests of the people. It concurs with the ideas underpinning the British political tradition which emphasise that a responsible government is one willing and able to take strong, decisive, necessary action, even when opposed by a majority of the population. This view rests on the idea that ‘government knows best’; it advocates a leadership, rather than a

16

New Labour and the Civil Service

participatory, view of democracy (see Marsh, Richards and Smith 2003).5 The legitimation for what is an elitist model of governing can be traced to two sources: a democratically elected Parliament in which ministers are held to account and a public service ethos which conditions the behaviour of civil servants. Power and the public service ethos The extent to which the Westminster model allows for a high concentration of power at the centre and sustains a top-down, closed and elitist system of government has been defended on the grounds that the public service ethos acts as a safeguard against any potential political corruption. The formal view is that ministers and, in particular, civil servants are imbued with a public service ethos and serve the general, not their own, interest (see Smith 1999; Richards and Smith 2000). O’Toole (1990) argues that the ethics on which Whitehall was shaped were based on the nineteenth-century idealist, T.H.Green (1879, 1883). He contends that, in the same way that Northcote-Trevelyan underpinned the organisational framework of Whitehall,6 it was Green who provided the ethical framework from which civil servants could attain integrity in their work which led to them being politically neutral.7 Massey (1993: 36) argues this analysis of T.H. Green provides public servants with an almost Platonic role in society: Although all people are called upon to lead a moral life, there is one group of people upon which it is particularly incumbent to act with these moral principles in mind: the governors, both politicians and officials. Government is, after all, called upon to create the conditions in which morality shall be possible. However ... it maybe argued that politicians, no matter what their political party, are quite incapable of acting in any other way than with Utilitarian principles in mind. This then leaves officials as being the ‘keepers of the common good’, or to use a phrase they might be more at home with, the ‘public interest’. The core of the public service ethos is built on two separate, but linked, ideas: the political neutrality of officials and their pecuniary and moral integrity. Officials do not go into public service for financial gain: those who are concerned with money-making are seen as narrow and self interested (see Weiner 1981). In practice, the relationship between ministers and civil servants is one of interdependence with ministers providing authority and

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

17

officials expertise (see for example Fowler 1991: 112 and Chapter 6). This relationship has been referred to as the Haldane model8 and encapsulates the notion that civil servants, as advisers, have an indivisible relationship with their departmental ministers (see Richards 1997). This is the antithesis of the US and many other European models of government that are premised on pluralistic aspirations and the separation of powers. It is the issue of power that is fundamental to understanding both the reluctance of the core executive to reform itself over the last century and the enduring shadow of the Westminster model (see Hennessy and Hague 1985; Hennessy 1994; Smith 1999). The Haldane model, premised on an indivisible relationship between ministers and their civil servants and legitimised by the notion of a public service ethos, allows for a high concentration of power at the centre of the British political system. But the public service ethos is not a neutral set of values concerned with the public good, but a key component of the Westminster model that protects a particular conception of the Civil Service (see Richards and Smith 2000a). In this context, the public service ethos is normatively good because it is built round a notion of integrity, which is personal (not open to corruption), political (officials serve their ministers) and financial (individuals are not there to make money). Officials are portrayed as doing good: they are serving the public and ministers and they are doing it for the good of society, not for the good of themselves. As the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Armstrong (1997: 7) observed: I think the sense of being in the service of the public, in the service of the state, if you like, of doing things that are worthwhile in that context and being able to make a personal contribution to the wellbeing of the public interest and the state is a very real consideration which we should be very greatly impoverished if we lost ... that ethos is something of great value and strength to this country. This position has a strong resonance with the British Civil Service because it reaffirms its political neutrality – they serve the elected politicians. The public service ethos underpins the broader ethos of Whitehall because it is concerned with demonstrating officials’ lack of self-interest and reinforcing the view that they serve their ministers and the public. As we see below, there has been willingness by politicians, publicly at least, to robustly defend this view. The problem with these values is that they have been constructed as: independent; normatively good; and politically neutral. In practice, it

18

New Labour and the Civil Service

would appear that they are a set of socially constructed values which protect the interests of officials and to some extent politicians. The public service ethos is about maintaining a particular perception of the Civil Service which both identifies and hides the nature of its power. It identifies the power of officials because it places the determination of the public good in their hands and it hides it by presuming their neutrality and the purity of their motives. Officials are working for the public good and therefore, they have no interest in power for its own sake. At the same time, the ethos identifies politicians as the decisionmakers (see Richards and Smith 2000a). An historical institutionalist perspective, explains the path-dependent nature of the Westminster model and its sustainability over a long period of time, despite the challenges from pressures associated with hollowing-out, globalisation, devolution etc. which question the hermetically-sealed nature of the model. Both ministers and civil servants have a strong interest in maintaining the model and the power it offers them, partly because it is self-regulating and partly because it maintains the façade that officials are only advisors while politicians are responsible for making decisions.

Labour in power: establishing a workable relationship with Whitehall The willingness by the Labour Party’s leaders to accept the Westminster model has conditioned its approach to Whitehall and explains the reluctance to embrace notions of radical reform. To understand how this position came to be, one needs to examine the first two Labour Governments of 1924 and 1929–31. The Labour governments of 1924 and 1929–31 These two brief Labour Governments established both the ideological and political position which future Labour Administrations would adopt towards the state and Whitehall. As Jones and Keating (1985: 43) observe: [Ramsay] McDonald’s evolutionary brand of socialism was not concerned with destroying the state because he rejected the concept of class war and its corollary that the state was the instrument of one dominant class. Instead, he argued an expanded role for the state, creating socialist order out of capitalist chaos. McDonald’s constitutionalist strategy of gaining control of the state by parliamentary means, rejected any philosophy or policy which might call into

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

19

question the very mechanism by which the socialist society was to be progressively introduced. Subsequent Labour Administrations have been willing to accept this as the modus operandi by which they would govern. Whitehall, unsurprisingly, did not find it difficult to accommodate and adapt to the first two Labour Governments. On neither occasion did Labour enter office with any real intention to reform the existing machinery of government, or the way in which the Civil Service carried out its business (see Theakston 1992). As Marquand (1977: 315) observes: ‘All the available evidence suggests that the home departments accepted and in some cases even welcomed, their new masters – in part, no doubt, because no important changes in policy were made.’ There were sections of the Labour movement willing to offer a critique of this approach and the failure to question whether existing state institutions, including Whitehall, would not undermine a socialist programme of reform. Some elements from the intellectual wing of the Labour movement, most notably, the English pluralists or guild socialists, identified one of the fundamental problems of modern capitalist society to be the ‘monistic state’ which: ‘... is a hierarchical structure in which power is, for ultimate purposes, collected at a single centre’ (Laski 1935; Cole 1953; Smith 2006). Radical syndicalists such as Snowden (1917) and, to a lesser extent, guild socialists such as Penty (1906), Cole (1920) and Carpenter (1922) advocated the transformation of capitalism through the labour movement by ‘self-government in industry’. Their arguments for achieving socialism were premised on developing a ‘state within a state’; a system of industrial self-government through national worker-controlled guilds. They sought to challenge not just capitalism, but the British system of government, its existing democratic practices and the concentration of power in Parliament. Guild socialism was federal, often decentralist in character, attacking state monism.9 For example, Figgis believed that the notion of a moral authority that has to be obeyed was dangerous (Nicholls 1994: 45). For Laski (1935: 212): ‘... no association of men in the community is inherently entitled to primacy over any other association’. He understood sovereignty as a mechanism for allowing states to achieve goals and saw it as a tool for legitimising all state behaviour whether it is morally just or not. At any critical moment in the history of a state, the fact that its authority depends upon the power to coerce the opponents of the government to break their wills, to compel them to submission, emerges as the central fact in its nature (Laski 1935: 26–7).

20

New Labour and the Civil Service

This view was of a deep concern to the syndicalists and guild socialists who regarded Whitehall as an inherently conservative institution with a class bias and Oxbridge dominance and which they believed would actively seek to undermine a socialist government. They were: ‘... dissatisfied with both Labour’s parliamentary leadership and the theory and practice of the centralised, sovereign state’ (Evans 2003: 20). They could not countenance the constitutionalist route that the Labour leadership had embraced. Yet, it is important to bear in mind a crucial element concerning the Labour movement. As Theakston (1992: 13) observes, ... another significant distinction to draw is between socialist intellectuals and Labour’s professional politicians, with the former usually being more critical of the Whitehall machine and more active in devising reform schemes, though often these have been just paper exercises because the party machine and/or the parliamentary leadership have not taken them up or made them a high priority. The historical record indicates that when Labour is in office, the Party’s leaders pay much more attention to Civil Service advice and to the findings of government-appointed committees of inquiry on the question of reform of the Whitehall machine than to the views and advice coming from party circles or sympathetic intellectuals. In order to understand the Party’s approach to Whitehall, it is important to recognise that the views of the leadership of the Party have generally held sway. The established position of the leadership of the Party throughout much of the twentieth century has been a willingness to work within the established constitutional parameters identified by the Westminster model, accept the ‘Whitehall status quo’ and give short shrift to arguments for administrative reform. As Evans (2003: 17) notes: ‘... the leadership project, [is] largely informed by pragmatism rather than principle’. This explains why subsequent critics from within the Labour movement, and here Tony Benn and Richard Crossman notably come to mind, have found themselves marginalised by the mainstream Labour leadership (see Wainwright 1987; Brivati and Heffernan 2000; Richards and Smith 2004a; Evans 2003). In the first decades of the last century, as Labour grew both as a Parliamentary party and a party of government, it viewed Whitehall not as a malign institution, but one that it was happy to work with. But there were certain elements of Whitehall that regularly came in for criticism. The Foreign Office was a soft target for the Left, dominated as it was by public school, Oxbridge educated officials, detached from the

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

21

rest of Whitehall and lacking any real transparency or democratic accountability in the way it conducted its business (see Cline 1967; Taylor 1957; Hennessy 1989).10 The Treasury was also regarded as being obstructionist through the brief course of Labour’s first two governments. One of MacDonald’s Cabinet ministers, George Lansbury was vocal in his criticisms of the damaging influence of the Treasury on Labour’s programme in government and cautioned that the Party would do well to ensure that officials were fully committed to any future Labour Administration. Lipsey (2000: 5) suggests that: ‘In 1929, under Philip Snowden, Labour’s Chancellor, the Treasury insisted on cuts which destroyed the government and created a betrayal myth which haunted that party from then until the 1990s.’ Theakston (1992: 22) avers that the real fault lay with the Party leadership for uncritically accepting the orthodoxy of the Treasury and Bank of England.11 Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Party’s rancorous split after 1931, its leaders continued to believe that Whitehall had remained loyal to the government and could be trusted to do so again. During this period, it was Laski who most obviously offered an intellectual critique from the wider Labour movement arguing for the need to protect individual liberty against bureaucratic power. His somewhat contradictory arguments for a strong central state and the need for a greater dispersal of power to civil society made little impression on the Party’s leaders (Hennessy 1989: 128).12 Laski poignantly observed that any future radical Labour Government willing to challenge established orthodoxies would present a severe challenge to the Civil Service’s much vaunted neutrality (Laski 1938). The Attlee government 1945–51 Under Attlee, it has been argued that Labour established itself as the party of the British state. This can be seen by their programme to implement the Beveridge Report, centralised economic planning, state intervention and nationalisation, which Miliband (1972: 272) refers to as the ‘climax of Labourism’. The much expanded role of the state through the years of the Second World War did much to re-vitalise Labour’s interest in bureaucracy. It affirmed the view that Whitehall was more than capable of managing an increasingly technocratic state. The experience of war offered ample evidence to the Attlee Government that the state could be both harnessed and mobilised for the common good. War became the catalyst from which the post-war Keynesian-welfare settlement emerged. The engine-room to drive forward this overtly modernist project was Whitehall.

22

New Labour and the Civil Service

However, in many ways, the impact of the war on Whitehall was for some, a missed opportunity. Hennessy and Hague (1985: 6), mischievously suggest that Hitler could be congratulated for doing more to instil change in Whitehall than anything since Northcote-Trevelyan in the 1850s: It can be argued that the last person to truly reform Whitehall was that well known expert in public administration, Adolf Hitler. He obliged the British Government to find new men and new methods almost overnight. Compared with what had gone before and what came after, wartime Whitehall was a success story, a crucial factor in producing what became the most thoroughly mobilised society on either side, Allied or Axis ... The mix of career regulars and outside irregulars blended between 1939 and 1945 represents the high point of achievement in the history of the British Civil Service. They conclude that a great opportunity had been missed in 1945, when the ‘irregulars’ were allowed to return to their pre-war professions in business, academia and the legal profession. Whitehall could not countenance what would be a tacit acceptance of a radical shift away from the principles embedded by Northcote-Trevelyan. The cult of the generalist was to be re-established. The inherent conservatism of Whitehall and its desire to return to its pre-war, working codes of practice could have been challenged by Labour, particularly on the back of its resounding 1945 electoral victory. But the Attlee Government embraced the approach established some twenty years earlier by the Party leadership and instead went with the status quo. For Theakston (1992: 98): ‘Attlee’s approach as Prime Minister to the Civil Service and the machinery of government was pragmatic and undoctrinaire.’ The Party leadership remained enthralled by the shadow cast by the Westminster model. Despite a Cabinet that was not without some obvious ‘big-hitters’, most notably Nye Bevan, none offered a serious critique of Whitehall.13 They embraced a benign view of Whitehall, believing it would offer the requisite support to ensure the Party’s manifesto would be enacted and therefore there was no need for serious reform. Despite the legacy left by the Attlee Government in establishing the contours of a new economic and welfare state settlement after 1945, when it came to issues of reforming the system of government and the constitution, continuity rather change was the abiding hallmark.14 During this period, it was again left to the wider Labour movement’s intellectual wing to raise a siren voice. J.P.W. Mallalieu’s Passed To You Please published some three years before the 1945 election presented

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

23

the most coherent challenge. It was highly critical of Whitehall’s Edwardian amateurish approach, lack of technical expertise, inflexibility and inefficiency. These themes become constant refrains by Whitehall critics for the next fifty years. Laski had penned the book’s introduction and in it, he was scathing of the administrative class claiming it: ‘... lacked imagination and audacity, was unwilling to experiment and regarded all experience alien to its own as dangerous and impractical’ (Stone 1997: 29). He advocated a series of reforms for a post-war Civil Service including recruitment of specialists, new training methods, abandoning the demarcation between specialists and generalists, breaking down Whitehall’s hierarchical working patterns and creating a Minister for the Civil Service.15 John Garrett observes that these ideas came to the fore some twenty years later in the guise of the Fulton Report and helped shape subsequent Labour thinking on the Civil Service (Garrett 1972). Wilson government 1964–70 Labour’s lengthy period in opposition, 1951–64, coincided with the emergence of the debate on British ‘declinism’. This is an extensive and multi-dimensional debate shaped by what has been referred to as the ‘political construction of decline’ (English and Kenny 2001). The reasons and remedies accounting for Britain’s relative economic decline have been diagnosed in various ways.16 Gamble (2000: 1) reminds us: ‘Decline has no single meaning. It has always been dependent upon seeing the world and Britain’s place within it in a particular way’. Our interest is to examine the institutionalist element of the critique that focused on Whitehall’s shortcomings. Its importance is the way in which the Labour Party under Harold Wilson could use it to construct an image of a backward-looking, out-of-touch and stagnant Conservative Administration sustained in power by an outmoded government machine (see Blick 2006: 346). The Labour Party was able to offer a ‘New Vision’ in its 1964 election manifesto stemming from Wilson’s Projecting a Modern Britain: White Heat of Technology oration at the 1963 Party Conference:17 At the root of Tory failure lies an outdated philosophy – their nostalgic belief that it is possible in the second half of the 20th century to hark back to a 19th century free enterprise economy and a 19th century unplanned society. In an age when the economy is no longer self-regulating and when the role of government must inevitably increase, they have tried and failed to turn back the clock. (Labour Party 1964: 10)

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New Labour and the Civil Service

The focus of the institutional critique centred on a number of targets – parliamentary sovereignty, adversarial politics, the Civil Service, indirect rule and ‘club-style’ government (for example, see King, 1975; Marquand, 1988; Moran 2003). From the early 1960s, a number of commentators from both the Left and the Right identified politicians and, more particularly, civil servants as the ‘guilty parties’ responsible for Britain’s relative decline by failing to modernise. Seers (1968: 85) gives a flavour of this critique: ‘Admirable though many civil servants are individually, the administrative machine as at present constructed cannot cope with the problems thrown up by a world changing as rapidly as ours is now.’ And by Thomas (1968: 9): The ‘cold monster’, the State, has now assumed so many responsibilities, has gathered such power in the community, that its chosen agents, the Civil Service, cannot expect to linger on in the shadows of anonymity and discretion that were its characteristics in the laissez-faire age. The 1960s was a decade in which Whitehall and Westminster endured a sustained attack based on the view that Britain was served by an amateurish, Edwardian bureaucracy and plutocratic politicians with an elitist, narrow and secretive approach to policy-making. This critique was wide-ranging. In June 1961, the Plowden Report was published by a Treasury-based Committee which had conducted an investigation into the Treasury’s control of expenditure. It was critical of the amateurish and short-term approach of the Treasury, especially in relation to expenditure projections. The Report can be seen as a turning point for the Treasury, in which the emphasis shifted to a more professional management approach (Chapman 1997: 43).18 Anthony Sampson’s Anatomy of Britain (1962) was highly critical of the ‘unloved Establishment’, highlighting the narrow, inter-connected, oligarchic nature of Britain’s political elite – both ministers and civil servants.19 W.L. Guttsmann’s The British Political Elite (1963) surveyed the demographic make-up of politicians between 1868 and 1955 and questioned whether Britain had a ruling class or power elite. It concluded that the movement between: ... elite groups with the consequent accretion of responsibility in the hands of a narrowing circle of men, who often make decisions of the utmost gravity, is one of the essential features of the much used and much misused term Power Elite. Behind the individuals who make

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

25

what may appear to themselves and others isolated decisions and behind the events of history linking the two, are the major institutions of modern society. The hierarchies of state, and corporation and army constitute the means of power. As such they are now of a consequence not before equalled in human history. These three institutions interlock as decisions tend to be total in their consequences, the leading men in each of these three domains of power tend to gather together to form the power elite. (Guttsmann 1963: 357) These critiques, all offered ample ammunition to a Labour Party desperate to return to office. They provided a platform from which the Party could construct its own narrative for its 1964 election manifesto The New Britain (Labour Party 1964). Key figures within the Labour movement also contributed to this debate. Laski’s musings twenty years earlier influenced the Party in the 1960s. Throughout the 1950s, Richard Crossman averred that politicians needed to exert a greater degree of control over Whitehall. In a Fabian lecture, he focused on the threat posed to social democracy by an overpowerful, centralised state bureaucracy: ‘For the Socialist ... the State Leviathan is a necessary evil; and the fact that the Civil Service now administers a welfare state does not remove the threat to freedom which the twentieth century concentration of power has produced.’(Crossman 1956: 6) In 1959, Thomas Balogh’s The Apotheosis of the Dilettante embraced the theme of decline to attack the myth that the Civil Service should be viewed as a ‘Rolls-Royce like machine’. It criticised the elite ‘amateurs’ who ran Whitehall in a style predicated on the needs of the late nineteenth century. This was inadequate for embedding a post-war settlement aimed at achieving full employment and establishing a new welfare state. For Balogh (1959: 109–110), Whitehall’s cult of the generalist had left Britain with a self-replicating administrative elite of non-specialists who: ‘... have no professional training ... [and whose] recruitment favouring the smooth, extrovert conformist, with the good connections and no knowledge of modern problems, or of up-to-date techniques of getting that information.’ As Stone (1997) observes, the impact of Balogh’s Apotheosis started a trail that culminated in the 1968 Fulton Report.20 The debate within the Party on Whitehall’s failings was given added momentum in 1964 with the publication of a Fabian Report The Administrators.21 This focused on the amateurish, closed and secretive realm of Whitehall, its isolation from the world of business and, more broadly, society. It was the Treasury that incurred greatest criticism, an

26

New Labour and the Civil Service

established Labour tradition, when reform of Whitehall was on the agenda. The closed nature of the administrative class was attacked and the Report was seen as a clarion call for Whitehall to abandon the cult of the generalist. Yet, it did have its limitations. In accordance with the well-established convention by the Labour leadership not to publicly question the context in which the Westminster model functioned, the Report offered no strong criticism on issues of democracy or accountability (Theakston 1997: 118). Prior to the October 1964 election, it is clear the Party had taken note of these critiques of Whitehall. Harold Wilson had publicly stated the Party’s concerns and the need for Whitehall to introduce more ‘outsider’ specialist staff, especially those with scientific and economic expertise. With portents of what was to become a reality thirty years later under Blair, Wilson demanded the strengthening of the Cabinet Office and Number 10, as the central co-ordinating agencies of the government machine (Hunt 1964; Hennessy 1989; Blick 2006). In February 1966, Wilson announced the setting up of a Committee on the Civil Service under the chairmanship of Lord Fulton. The remit of the Committee was to examine the structure, recruitment and management of the Civil Service and the need for increased effectiveness, efficiency and economy. Much has been written about the extent to which the Fulton Committee was circumscribed.22 As with his predecessors, Wilson was not willing to see the broader parameters of the Westminster model challenged. He made clear that there would be no investigation into the specific structures of the British system of government or the relationship between ministers and civil servants: The Government’s willingness to consider changes in the Civil Service does not imply any intention on its part to alter the basic relationship between Ministers and Civil Servants ... Civil servants, however eminent, remain the confidential advisers of ministers, who alone are answerable to Parliament for policy: and we do not envisage any change in this fundamental feature of the parliamentary system of democracy. (House of Commons Debates 1966, p. 210) In the aftermath of the Report’s publication in 1968, the four civil servants on the Committee were criticised for watering-down the twenty-two recommendations. What becomes apparent is the disparity between the scathing findings of the Committee and the conservatism of its recommendations. It argued that Whitehall remained imbued

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

27

with the amateurish, nineteenth-century philosophy of NorthcoteTrevelyan, it was critical of the class system of Whitehall which undervalued the role of the ‘specialist’ and was scathing of the Civil Service ethos: Too few civil servants are skilled managers ... [administrators] tend to think of themselves as advisers on policy to people above them, rather than as managers of the administrative machine below them ... Civil servants are moved too frequently between unrelated jobs, often with scant regard to personal preference or aptitude ... There is not enough contact between the Service and the rest of the community. (Cmnd 3638:1968) Nevertheless, as has been observed elsewhere: ‘... the recommendations of the Report testify to the constraining influence of the mandarins on the Committee’ (Richards 1997: 21). It proposed that the administrative class should continue, but be grouped into two categories; those specialising in economic or financial spheres and those involved in social administration. As far as recruitment was concerned, there was no requirement for a degree relevant to the job. Instead, a Civil Service College was to be established to improve training. To oversee these changes a Civil Service Department was to be set-up, staffed by civil servants and operating within the contours of the existing system. Writing twenty years later, the ex-civil servant Clive Ponting (1986: 194) pinpoints the shortcomings of Fulton: ‘The way in which Fulton was implemented, or in practice not implemented, is a superb example of the top civil servant’s ability, whilst paying lip service to the concept of the Fulton Report, to subtly redefine questions in ways favourable to the administrators.’23 From its conception, Fulton was flawed. It lacked effective political clout from the Cabinet and was open to manipulation by the insiders of Whitehall (Garrett 1972; Kellner and Crowther-Hunt 1980; Richards 1997: 21). This can be explained by the extent to which, despite entering office having publicly stated the need to reform Whitehall, the Wilson Cabinet became overwhelmed by economic, industrial and foreign policy developments (see Wilson 1974; Pimlott 1993; Blick 2006). As important, the majority of the Wilson Cabinet [and Wilson himself] would not countenance any notion of opening up a broad debate on the parameters of the Westminster model or the Parliamentary State (see Judge 1993, 2005; Marquand 1992).24 In terms of the power it offered, the utility of this model to the incumbent

28

New Labour and the Civil Service

party in government was such, that it was unwilling to consider alternatives. As Theakston (1992: 131) observes: ‘Fulton can be fairly criticised for neglecting the constraints imposed by the political and parliamentary environment on the organisation and working of the Civil Service, but the government had effectively ruled out from the beginning the sort of wide-ranging review that could have properly addressed these matters.’ Wilson/Callaghan government 1974–79 The interest of the Labour Party leadership in Whitehall reform rapidly receded after the initial momentum created by Fulton.25 It was the Labour members who had worked on Fulton that maintained some form of a critique of Whitehall. In 1973, the Fabian Society published a study of the Civil Service (see Garrett and Sheldon 1973) setting out what the next stage should be in order that any momentum established by Fulton should not be lost. But the Party largely ignored their agenda for reform on its return to government in 1974. Garrett (1980: 25) later ruefully reflected on this period of government: ... there was little progress on Civil Service reform. There were some improvements in the presentation of expenditure plans and work on accountable management proceeded but the development of personnel management was virtually halted by public expenditure cuts and labour relations problems ... [A]ttempt by the Expenditure committee to get the Civil Service to restart the Fulton programme was unenthusiastically received by the government, which had clearly lost interest in the matter. One of the main hallmarks of this government was the 1976 IMF crisis with the subsequent implications for public services in the light of the agreed loan. The Treasury took centre stage, persuading the Cabinet to adhere to what had become a standard, anti-inflationary tool, Cash Limits. This was to have obvious ramifications for Whitehall. In 1976 and 1977, the House of Common’s Expenditure Committee chaired by the Labour MP Michael English, conducted a major investigation into the Civil Service. At this stage, Whitehall, with 747,000 employees, was larger than at any time in the post-war period. This prompted the Callaghan Government to seek an economy drive, aimed both at shedding personnel and saving money. Their report findings resulted in the cutting of 15,000 jobs and an estimated saving of £140 million by 1979. What is interesting about the IMF loan, apart from prompting the

Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model

29

subsequent retreat from the Keynesian goal of full employment, was the criticism the Treasury endured from certain quarters of the Party. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey, in his memoirs commented that the Treasury had provided misleading figures concerning the need to take out the loan (Healey 1989). This was ample evidence for some of the malign impact the Treasury wielded on Labour Governments (see Thain and Wright 1995; Jenkins 1996; Stephens 1996; Chapman 1997; Lipsey 2000).26

Conclusion: Understanding Labour’s conservatism – the influence of the Westminster model The theme that most obviously emerges from this analysis of the relationship between the Labour Party and Whitehall is the nature of the ‘hard-wiring’ of the Labour leadership’s mind-set when it came to issues of reform. In the first quarter of the century, Ramsey MacDonald had established the principle that Labour had to be a constitutional party of government and should work with and not against the embedded model of the Parliamentary state. This became the default setting for future Labour leaders. Reflecting on the post-1945 era, Bogdanor (1997: 111–112) observes: During the ... period of supposed post-war consensus, there were in fact quite striking differences between Labour and the Conservatives on social and economic questions, but they agreed wholeheartedly on the virtues of the Westminster model ... For Labour has, historically, been a constitutionally conservative party, not a radical one. The Party leadership was never willing to question the parameters on which the Parliamentary state was predicated. Instead, it considered specific issues of reform, most notably concerning themes of the ‘cult of the amateur’ and ‘elitism’ in Whitehall, or the working practices of particular departments and here the Treasury and the Foreign Office were the usual suspects. But no broader critique of the Westminster model was to emerge. Labour’s leadership embraced a ‘Whig historiography’: A single, unilinear, progressive idea, reason or spirit underlying the evolution of British government. It emphasises gradualism and the capacity of British institutions to evolve and cope with crises. It provides capacity for independent action, leadership and decision, while ensuring that British political institutions would remain flexible and responsive. (Bevir and Rhodes 2003a: 27)

30

New Labour and the Civil Service

This is wholly understandable, as early on, Labour’s leadership recognised the need to establish its credentials as a party fit for government. But their Whiggish outlook resided on a belief that the power offered by the Westminster model’s elitist view of government would facilitate, not constrain a Labour Government in achieving its political goals. This has been referred to above as the ‘inevitability of gradualism’ (see Jones and Keating 1985). The Party leadership was willing to view the state and its institutions as neutral and benign. As Evans (2003: 39) observes: ‘... a trend towards constitutional satisfaction characterised Labour Party constitutional revisionism throughout much of the twentieth century’. This conditioned its approach towards reform. Issues were considered in an ad hoc fashion and questions about the nature of the constitutional framework were avoided (Theakston 1992: 206).27 For the Labour leadership, there was an: ‘... absence of a coherent theory of the state’ (Evans 2003: 39). It fell to the wider Labour movement, most notably the intellectual wing, to question the Party’s constitutionalist strategy, but to little effect. (See for example Laski 1935; 1938, Miliband 1969, 1972; Marquand 1992; Kenny 1995) Finally, the nature of the government machine that evolved from the Parliamentary state model was one the Party believed suited its own needs. In the first quarter of the last century, a battle for ideas within Labour had led to victory for the union-wing of the movement and with it, the rejection of the argument that socialism could be achieved through a bottom-up, devolved model of government. Instead, the establishment of the ‘Old Labour model’28 was built on a faith in: ‘... experts and resembled a top-down, command-style bureaucracy based on centralised rules. The Party became associated with hierarchical patterns of organisation in which co-ordination is secured by administrative orders’ (Bevir and Rhodes (2006: 82–3). The Keynesianwelfare state established by the Attlee government and its ‘one-size fits all’ model for the delivery of public services can clearly be traced back to the earlier political, institutional and ideology choices made by the Party in its fledgling years. This analysis draws on an historical institutionalist approach, emphasising the path-dependent nature of relations between Labour Governments and Whitehall whose equilibrium has rarely been punctuated (see Thelen, Longstreth and Steinmo 1992; Rose and Karran 1994; Hall and Taylor 1996; Richards and Smith 2003).29 It also explains the persistence of the Westminster model and the extent to which it has shaped the behaviour and actions of both ministers and civil servants.

3 Theorising Whitehall: Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

(John Garrett): Is it not the case that we are in the process of moving from a unified Civil Service of some 30 main departments to a Civil Service which consists of 30 Ministerial Head Offices, about 150 Executive Agencies and Units, hundreds of quangos, like TECs, trusts and corporate bodies, and thousands of contracts with private contractors, all of whom are trying to make a profit? Would you agree with that description? (Sir Robin Butler): Yes, I do not think that that is an inaccurate description; nor do I think there is anything that is contrary to the traditions of the Civil Service which is in it. I think that is the way in which one could see a lot of companies and a lot of other organisations outside have gone. (Robin Butler submitting evidence to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee: 1994, Vol.II, p. 52) It is really quite frightening ... if you look at politicians, all the last lot [Conservative Administration] were all lawyers or estate agents and that kind of thing, but very few had actually employed people within organisations. This lot [Labour Administration] are all lawyers or from education, so there is still no intuitive feel for how an organisation reacts to things. They say ‘Go and reform this’, but they do not understand how you change things or attitudes. (Very senior Cabinet Office official interviewed by the author – September 1999) 31

32

New Labour and the Civil Service

This chapter examines the extent to which the 1979 Conservative Administration, often portrayed as a radical reforming government, continued the tradition of its predecessors by pursuing reform within the broader confines of the Westminster model. It suggests that the Conservative approach to Whitehall should be understood as transformative, not revolutionary because it was unwilling to embrace a radical New Right critique of the Westminster model. Nevertheless, 18 years of Conservative Government did change the Civil Service. The state and Whitehall’s role within the state altered, as a managerialist and quasi-market reform agenda was pursued. The chapter also explores the Labour Party’s response to the state bequeathed it in 1997 and examines the response of New Labour, predicated on a progressive, modernising platform often associated with a ‘Third Way’. It is argued that the Third Way offered New Labour an ideational map that shaped its response to the state it inherited from the Conservatives. Labour’s revisionist approach can be understood as an attempt to move beyond the statist approach of the 1970s and the neo-liberal, market orientated approach of Thatcherism. The chapter concludes by revisiting the paradox identified in Chapter 1 concerning the relationship between change and the core executives continued commitment to the Westminster model. It considers why, despite the radical rhetoric of the Conservative years, the extent to which there was substantial transformation in Whitehall and the subsequent revisionist response by New Labour, both parties continued to appeal to the language of the model.

The legacy of Thatcherism: the Conservatives and Whitehall 1979 to 1997 Most accounts of Whitehall reform during the last Conservative Administration are descriptive, rather than explanatory (see for example, Hennessy 1989; Drewry and Butcher 1991; Fry 1995). Exceptions are public-choice accounts (see Dunleavy 1991; Dowding 1995) which explain change by offering a deductive, agency-centred analysis but which have endured some criticism (see Lowndes 1996; Marsh et al 2000a, 2004; Dowding and James 2004; Bevir and Rhodes 2006).1 There is also, the ‘end of Whitehall’ account, which argues that the Conservative reforms of Whitehall led to a new ‘post-Whitehall, minister-dominated’ settlement (see Chapter 1; Campbell and Wilson 1995; Foster and Plowden 1996). The approach offered here is an account of the Conservative reforms of Whitehall which acknowledges the continuing influence of the Westminster model. It argues that despite the availability of an

Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

33

over-arching New Right critique of the state, the Conservative Administration was unwilling to pursue a radical programme of bureaucratic reform. Conservative reform of Whitehall 1979–97: re-asserting executive sovereignty The political context When the Conservatives were elected in 1979 they had no ‘grand strategy’ (Fry 1984) for reforming the state (see also Dowding 1995). When in opposition between 1974 and 1979, they showed less interest in Civil Service reform than the Heath opposition did between 1966 and 1970 (see Heath 1998; Marsh, Richards and Smith 2001). After the Heath Government’s election defeat in 1974, and Thatcher’s instalment as party leader in 1975, the Conservative Party re-examined their attitudes to the state and, more particularly, the Civil Service. Thatcherites argued that state institutions, including the Civil Service, reflected a deeply entrenched, corporatist settlement and that the state had become overloaded and too expansive (Brittan 1975, 1983; King 1975; Jay 1977; Adonis and Hames 1994; Gamble 1994; Cockett 1995; Hay 1996; Kavanagh 1997). As Thatcher (1993: 48) observed about the mind-set of Whitehall in 1979: ‘What lay still further behind this ... was a desire for no change ... The idea that the Civil Service could be insulated from a reforming zeal that would transform Britain’s public and private institutions over the next decade was a pipe-dream.’ Underpinning this view was an evolving critique – voiced as much by those on the radical left of the political spectrum as by the emerging New Right – that the British Civil Service was too powerful and too wedded to a post-war consensus. The New Right asserted that any government with a radical agenda would be hampered by the Civil Service’s commitment to this consensus. This view was substantiated by the increase in state expenditure after 1945 (see Figures 3.1 and 3.2). Here we can see the New Right being influenced by public-choice analyses of bureaucratic behaviour, which regarded the public sector, as self-interested and inefficient. A result of public servants not being exposed to the rigours of the market. It was argued that this had led to overspending, over-staffing and inefficiency. Public sector officials were portrayed as budget maximisers acting in their own self-interest, rather than in the interest of the government (see Niskanen 1971, 1979; Breton and Wintrobe 1974; Migue and Berlanger 1974; Noll and Fiorina 1979). The idea of government overload coupled with public-choice accounts of bureaucratic behaviour provided a powerful political discourse about

34

New Labour and the Civil Service 60

60

51 50 40

40 27

30

43

46

48

27

20 10

11

0 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1975 1980 Expenditure Figure 3.1

Government Expenditure as a percentage of GDP 1900–1980

Source: Smith (1999)

800000 700000 600000 500000 400000 300000 200000 100000 0 1841 1871 1901 1922 1939 1943 1950 1976 1979 No. of Employees Figure 3.2

Civil Service numbers 1841–1979

Source: Smith (1999)

the role of the state, which Thatcherites readily articulated. Campbell and Wilson (1995: 304) observe: ‘Thatcher herself brandished Niskanen’s work on bureaucracy at her colleagues and pressed them to read it.’ It is not surprising that a number of authors suggest that, the post-1979 reforms of the Civil Service should be explained within the context of

Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

35

an emerging ‘neo-liberal’ critique from one wing of the Conservative Party. This explanation concentrates on the role of ideology and on intentional explanation, but it fails to recognise the structural context within which a New Right narrative was mediated after the Conservatives gained office. The diverse composition of the Conservative Party,2 coupled to unwillingness by the leadership to reappraise its views on the Westminster model, acted as a powerful constraint militating against the pursuit of a radical agenda when it came to reform (see Dolowitz et al 1996; Richards and Smith 2004). Throughout the Conservative Administration, ministers’ consistent use of rhetoric to reinforce the Westminster model drew criticism from some in the New Right who argued Thatcherism had failed to pursue a truly radical, neo-liberal programme (see Green 1987, 1993; Letwin 1992; Minogue 1996; Hoskyns 2000). Despite the reforms of Thatcherism in some areas, most notably economic and industrial relations policy, the shadow of the Westminster model persisted when it came to questioning the Parliamentary state. Thatcherism’s mark on Whitehall should be understood in terms of its contingency on the Westminster model and reflects a transformative, not revolutionary approach (see Richards 1997). The last Conservative Administration adopted a pragmatic approach to reform centred on realigning the balance between the public and private sectors, while strategically leaving the Westminster model intact. It adopted a dual strategy of reorganising the state, while undertaking an ad hoc programme of ‘de-privileging’ and reforming the Civil Service. The main aim was political – to realign executive sovereignty in relation to what it regarded as excessive bureaucratic power (see Richards 1997; Richards and Smith 2000a; Rhodes 2001a) combined, in some areas, with reducing the role of the state. But as we see below, the context in which these reforms were executed was a tacit willingness to work with, not against, the grain of the Westminster model. The next section analyses the Conservative’s strategy for reimposing executive authority [political control] over what was perceived to be an overly powerful bureaucracy. Personnel reform The Conservatives’ initial approach to personnel reform in Whitehall was primarily political; it was based on de-privileging the Civil Service. The decade leading up to 1979 provided the Party with a number of strategic, political lessons on how to approach Whitehall. One view was that the emasculation of the Fulton Report highlighted the growing power of Whitehall (see Chapter 2). Yet, a decade after

36 New Labour and the Civil Service

Fulton, the Report proved important to the Thatcher Government. It was used to argue that there was an imbalance in Whitehall, with too many policy-makers and too few effective managers of the machine. As a retired senior official argued: ‘It soon became obvious that, from 1979 onwards, the Civil Service was no longer to be regarded as a “special case” and we were about to come under attack – something unusual from a post-war Conservative Government.’ There followed a period in which the Civil Service Department was abolished (in 1981), performance pay was grafted onto the original system of remuneration (see Ingraham 1996: 260) following the Megaw Committee’s recommendations (in 1982), and the Central Policy Review Staff was abolished (in 1983). There was also an attempt to impose a cultural change across the senior Civil Service by appointing a number of senior civil servants who were more ‘managerially oriented, can-doers’. This involved identifying individuals who displayed an enthusiasm for finding ways of implementing government policies, rather than offering critical advice (see Chapter 6 and Richards 1997). This was part of a broader strategy for realigning the power balance between the executive and Whitehall. The Major years saw the introduction of a whole series of personnel reforms: the Efficiency Unit’s Career Management and Succession Planning (1993); a White Paper, Continuity and Change (1994); a second White Paper, The Civil Service: Taking Forward Continuity And Change (1995); and The Senior Management Review. Gradually – in the view of some Whitehall reformers, far too slowly – the system was changing from one in which an individual gained entry to a career to one in which the individual was appointed to a specific job. This was reflected in the two central aims of the White Papers: to break down the hierarchy in the upper echelons of the senior Civil Service and increase delegation and diversity of advice within the policy process; and, where possible, eliminate layers of management among the 3000 top civil servants in Whitehall. The 1995 Senior Management Review had a pronounced effect on both personnel and the policy-making process. It created the senior Civil Service, the removal of an entire bureaucratic tier (Grade 3) and the devolution of greater responsibility down the Whitehall hierarchy. There were political, economic and organisational factors underpinning this change. At the most formal level, the Senior Management Review was an organisational reform. The rationale was to move closer to European models of bureaucratic organisation; for example, Grade 2 deputy secretaries were to adopt the EU title of Director-General. The hope was that the traditional hierarchical (gradist) nature of policy-

Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

37

making in Whitehall would be broken down and officials would be known by their job titles instead of their grade. The review was underpinned by a Treasury initiative aimed at reducing Whitehall departments to an elite core of policy-makers, with other activities being contracted out either to agencies or to the private sector. In this sense, the reforms were justified in economic and political terms: they would result in cost savings and give ministers greater control over the rump of the bureaucratic machine left at the heart of Whitehall. Institutional reform After 1979, the Conservatives introduced a series of institutional reforms, based on a belief that officials allotted too much time to policymaking to the detriment of efficient management (see Adonis and Hames 1994). The key reforms were Raynerism, the Financial Management Initiative and, most significantly, the ‘Next Steps’. Raynerism A key theme the Thatcher Government wished to pursue was to increase efficiency throughout the public sector. To aid them in this goal, Derek Rayner, a joint managing director of Marks and Spencers, was appointed in 1979 as a part-time, unpaid adviser. He was allocated a small ‘Efficiency Unit’ in the Cabinet Office, in order to conduct a series of in-depth ‘scrutinies’ into various aspects of departmental government work. The Unit asked departments three simple questions of their work; what is it for? what does it cost? and what value does it add? When Rayner left in December 1982, 130 scrutinies had been conducted which had produced £170 million savings, with £39 million once-and-for-all savings and a further £104 million of possible economies identified. In terms of personnel, the targeted figure for cuts had been surpassed, the number of Whitehall posts being reduced by 108,000 (Hennessy 1989: 596). Hennessy (1989: 595) argues that: ‘... the Rayner experience was similar to the Fulton reforms in that both demonstrated how vital the importance of Prime Ministerial patronage: Wilson lost interest; Thatcher did not’. Clive Priestly, an original member of the Efficiency Unit and scrutiniser observed: ‘The critical fact was that Margaret Thatcher was genuinely interested and was prepared to stick at them ... She really was serious about reform.’ Despite this political clout and the seemingly impressive statistical results, the scrutinies were not a total success. Ponting suggests that, similar to previous attempts at reform, Whitehall had absorbed Raynerism. He felt Rayner had

38

New Labour and the Civil Service

underestimated the ability of Whitehall to ‘fudge’ implementing reports it believed were detrimental. Of Raynerism, he suggests: ‘... the whole process grinds into the sand of bureaucratic inertia and little, if anything, is achieved.’ (Ponting 1986: 214) A 1985 Efficiency Report also concluded that the scrutinies were not an unparalleled success (The Guardian, 1 November 1985). Raynerism facilitated a climate for change, but, in terms of logistics, it fell short of its own goals. Its failure was in its scope; it had no mandate to examine the individuals who were to be in charge of implementing the scrutinies’ findings. It was obvious to all those who had been involved in this first stage of reform that something greater than Raynerism was needed (Richards 1997). The Financial Management Initiative In 1982, the Government launched the Financial Management Initiative [FMI]. It was conceived by Michael Heseltine, whilst he was Minister in the Department of Environment [DoE], where he had introduced a Management Information System for Ministers [MINIS]. It aimed to inform him of ‘who did what, why and at what cost’. MINIS was accompanied by Joubert; an organisational structure that apportioned the DoE into 120 ‘cost centres’, each with an annual budget to cover running and staff costs. This enabled the minister to compare actual expenditure with planned expenditure and conduct systematic budget reviews. Heseltine argued MINIS improved both the efficiency and the effectiveness of the DoE. Elsewhere in Whitehall, Heseltine’s initiatives were greeted with scepticism. The one department that did support Heseltine’s scheme was the Treasury (Treasury and Civil Service Committee: 1982) which recommended that an equivalent of MINIS should be introduced across Whitehall. This formed the basis of the Government’s 1982 White Paper announcing the FMI (Cmnd 8616 1982) which called for wholesale reorganisation and a new style of management, based on devolved authority and accountable management. Thirty-one government departments were required to assess their operating procedures and develop techniques to improve financial management. The FMI certainly broke new ground. It encouraged a greater costconsciousness by individual departments and, with it, the greater economies that the Government demanded. It also provided officials with a clearer view of policy objectives. The FMI signalled the first moves towards a programme of decentralisation for Whitehall, which culminated later in the Next Steps reforms. FMI was not a period of revolution

Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

39

for Whitehall, but it did create the framework for the largest Conservative scheme of reform – the ‘Next Steps’. Next Steps Borrowing on the New Public Management3 experience of New Zealand, the Next Steps reforms established a range of agencies, with chief executives that were accountable, and provided a service modelled on that of a private sector business. This was not a radical departure from earlier attempts at reform; rather, it was a reaction to, and consolidation of, previous ad hoc attempts at change. Indeed, the incremental way in which the Conservatives arrived at Next Steps is symbolic of the whole process of evolutionary transformation during the 1980s. A central element of NPM was the belief that organisations should be hived-off and that there should not be a single organisation for all tasks. From a public choice perspective, principle-agent theory was a mechanism for introducing market mechanisms to the public sector by creating contracts between the principal (the controller of services) and the agent (the deliverer of services). These ideas underpinned the Next Steps Agencies. In 1986, an internal Report by the Efficiency Unit to the Prime Minister criticised the time senior officials spent on policy as detrimental to efficient management and questioned whether a unified Civil Service could act as the most effective framework in which to conduct government business. The suggestion was that the system needed to be broken up into units. The Report was referred to as ‘The Next Steps’ and due to its potential to court controversy, it was suppressed until after the election of 1987. It recommended that where appropriate, semi-autonomous agencies should be established to undertake executive functions of government. The broad aim was to have a core of policy-makers remaining at the centre, while public services were delivered by agencies round the country. For example, the DVLA was set up in Swansea and, on a much grander scale, the Benefits Agency was established nation-wide. Although, Next Steps can be regarded as a reform programme based on a managerialist agenda, the rationale underpinning the initiative was political. The Conservatives believed that hiving-off departmental administrative functions would leave ministers with a smaller policymaking elite based in Whitehall, whose role would be to assist the Government in its broader, strategic goals. This would make it easier for ministers to make policy. This casts doubt on public choice ‘bureaushaping’ accounts which argue that the reform process was one that has

40

New Labour and the Civil Service

been pursued by the senior mandarins for their own self-interest (see Marsh et al 2000a).4 It was politicians who drove the reform process to restore executive authority, while claiming it would lead to a more efficient model for conducting government business. By the time of Thatcher’s resignation in November 1990, 34 agencies had been established, accounting for 11 per cent [6,800 officials] of the Civil Service (see Richards 1997). The Major years The Major Government surprised many by not only picking up the mantle of institutional reform but substantially increasing its pace. Between 1990 and 1997 there was a proliferation of Next Steps agencies (see Figure 3.3), increased contracting out (privatisation) of government business, and the introduction of the Citizen’s Charter, which recognised citizens as consumers of public services with a right to expect

90

Line 1

80 % Civil Servants in Agencies

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Line 1 Figure 3.3

1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 3

25

35

45

58

63

66

70

75

The percentage number of civil servants in agencies

Source: Richards (1997)

76

77

Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance

41

quality in what was being delivered. The emphasis was on making service delivery responsive to the needs of citizens. The introduction of market forces and ‘charterism’ to Whitehall in the 1990s questioned the Northcote-Trevelyan notion that the Civil Service should be permanent, unified and centralised. At the same time, the reforms raised further questions about the degree to which the existing Civil Service Code was being attacked (see Metcalfe 1993; Richards and Smith 2000; Rhodes 2001a). It can be argued that the reform process in the late 1980s and the 1990s transformed the structure, culture and operating procedures of Whitehall. Whereas Fulton was defused by the conservatism of the Civil Service, the reforms from Next Steps onwards altered the balance of power between ministers and civil servants. The role of senior civil servants was to be more managerial, and departments were to be less hierarchical, but much of their role, as defined by the Westminster model remained. Senior officials continued as the key policy advisors, they were still loyal, and they controlled the administrative machinery. They also maintained their important ‘political’ role. As one Conservative Minster observed: ‘Civil servants know how to play both the Whitehall game and the Westminster game and thus retain a monopoly on advice to ministers about how to defend themselves in Parliament, in Whitehall turf wars, and in the spending round.’ Consequently, ministers’ dependence on their senior officials continued. Most Conservative ministers were more than willing to trust their officials (see Richards and Smith 2004a). Despite the radical claims often associated with Thatcherism, the rhetoric of Conservative ministers, particularly in regards to Whitehall, continued to draw from within the confines of the Westminster model. For example, Norman Fowler (1991: 112) argued: ‘In countries like the United States, many senior public service appointments change with the administration, but the advantage of having a skilled and objective public service able to serve any elected government should not be underestimated.’ While Peter Carrington (1988: 146) observed that he: Almost always found British civil servants, anyway in the highest reaches of the profession, to be models of what such men and women should be – intelligent, selfless, knowledgeable and fair-minded ... They preserve both integrity and loyalty despite what must frequently be trying circumstances; and every Cabinet owes them a great deal.

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Even Margaret Thatcher (Thatcher 1993: 18), who despite her hostility to some of the attitudes she came across in Whitehall, believed that: ‘... the sheer professionalism of the British Civil Service, which allows governments to come and go with a minimum of efficiency, is something other countries with different systems have every cause to envy.’ This was a view supported by another Thatcherite minister, Nicholas Ridley (1991: 41): Margaret Thatcher’s experiences must have left her with a certain animus against them [civil servants] in general – but she was loyal to them as individuals. She rightly saw civil servants as being in a very different category from ministers. Civil servants could not defend themselves from public attack, whereas politicians could. She was always fierce in her defence of her staff against Opposition attack. And finally, John Major, a confirmed Burkean, was always a robust defender of the traditional view of Whitehall: ‘I am a very firm believer in the need for a high quality, impartial Civil Service. And I know from my personal experience that that is what this country has. I am determined to keep it so’ (Speech by John Major, quoted from Cm2627 1994: 6). Analysing the Conservative reforms By 1997, much had been written about the eclipse of public administration by ‘new managerialism’ (see Clegg 1990; Hood 1991; Rhodes 1997; Weller, Bakvis and Rhodes 1997; Parsons 1998). This argument is often overstated, being ahistorical and failing to recognise the constraining influence of the Westminster model. First, it is important to note the difficulty of measuring change without an appreciation of the past. As we saw in Chapter 2, managerialism was not invented in the 1980s; it had surfaced in the reforms of both the 1960s and 1970s. When explaining the nature of public administration under the Conservatives, it is important to recognise both the continuities and the changes. It can be argued that the Conservatives pursued a course of reform that altered both public administration and the Civil Service. Their reform programme was broadly ad hoc, based on a series of distinct measures that, retrospectively, can be portrayed as transforming Whitehall. But it lacked a blueprint and, in so doing, it contained contradictory elements (see Marsh et al 2001). As Rhodes (2001: 149) observes: ‘Every change throws up new dilemmas, and public sector reform is no exception; unintended consequences are the sour law of all political life.’

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The Conservatives remained committed to defending the key features of the Westminster model. The institutional framework of the Civil Service was partially recast during the Conservative Administration, but key characteristics were preserved by the maintenance of the constitutional status quo. The reform agenda was wedded to a commitment to most elements of the Westminster model. Much to the chagrin of some radical New Right reformers (see Green 1993; Hoskyns 2000), when it came to Whitehall, Thatcherism adopted a predominantly Burkean position – remaining supportive of parliamentary conservatism, an unwritten constitution and a neutral Civil Service. The Administration’s attitude to Whitehall was ambiguous and there was never an attempt to embrace an explicitly New Right model of bureaucracy that would have challenged the Westminster model. Even Thatcher resorted to the rhetoric of the Westminster model when discussing change and Whitehall (see Richards and Smith 2000). If the Westminster model was the dominant narrative shaping the views of ministers and civil servants throughout the Conservative years, then one can argue that the utility of New Public Management [NPM]5 as a framework for analysing change in the British Civil Service is not unproblematic. It often leads analysts to portray the reform as part of a coherent, neo-liberal agenda that swept through Britain and other similar liberal-democratic states, such as New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Canada and the United States throughout the 1980s and 1990s (see Halligan 1996: 295). The managerialist reform process pre-dates 1979 and because the Conservatives lacked an overarching blueprint, it was ad hoc and produced unforeseen consequences. In particular, the NPM thesis avers that a transformation occurred from a stable, unilinear, consensual, centralised, rule-bound and paternalistic Weberian model of bureaucracy to a more responsive, flexible, dynamic, outcomeoriented, decentralised and enabling model. This oversimplifies the process of change. It is crucial to disaggregate. For example, when the Conservatives left office in 1997, departments such as the Home Office and the Treasury remained predominantly rule-bound, hierarchical and centralised, while many of the ‘Next Steps’ agencies displayed flexible, decentralised and enabling characteristics (see Marsh et al 2001). The managerialist reform agenda was clearly tempered by the willingness of the Conservative Administration to preserve the Westminster model. Despite its advocates, the unidimensional nature of NPM based on market discipline and managerialism does not provide the most compelling framework for analysing the process of change. The key variable

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that is often misunderstood and requires further elucidation is power. Existing accounts often pay insufficient attention to political factors. But caution must be exercised. As we have seen above, public choice accounts of reform (Dunleavy 1991; Dowding 1995; James 2003) are able to weave the theme of power into their understanding of this period, but by placing officials, not ministers at the centre of their narrative, they misrepresent the political context in which the dynamic of reform was played out (see Marsh et al 2000a). The contrasting ‘end of the Whitehall’ account, avers that by 1997, a post-Whitehall, ministerdominated paradigm had emerged (see Campbell and Wilson 1995 Foster and Plowden 1996). For example, Foster and Plowden (1996: 244–45) contend that: Not since the seventeenth century has any one element in the constitution arrogated as much power to itself as ministers have recently ... Future politics could be much more overtly ‘political’ in the absence of both effective parliamentary scrutiny and the traditional restraining influence of the civil service.6 The change in power relations between ministers and civil servants is seen as a zero-sum game and suggests that, by the mid-1990s, ministers dominated the policy process. Unlike the public choice accounts, this account correctly identifies ministers as the driving force behind reform. What it fails to understand is the fluid nature of power within the core executive (see Rhodes 1997; Richards and Smith 2002). The relationship between ministers and civil servants is based on dependency. They each have resources that they need to exchange in order to achieve their goals.7 The post-Thatcherite, ‘minister-dominated’ account is problematic in the way it portrays power as a zero-sum game between ministers and civil servants. Instead, it should be understood in terms of an interdependent relationship based on resource dependency. The Westminster model invests ministers with tremendous authority – royal prerogative, parliamentary sovereignty and control of departments – but also ascribes a crucial role to officials – the Haldane model of a relationship, officials’ role as custodians of the rule book, secrecy, and control of the administrative machinery. The Conservatives were broadly successful in realigning the balance of power in favour of ministers within a symbiotic relationship with civil servants. This was one of the original goals of Thatcherism in response to the New Right view developed in the 1970s that the bureaucracy had become too powerful. The Conservative reform of Whitehall was as much based on the reassertion of the power of the executive in pursuit of an image of strong

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government and governing competence, as it was instilling the discipline of the market on public servants (Bulpitt 1986). While this change should be seen as transformatory, it was also contingent on maintaining the Westminster model. In the light of this analysis, the next section considers the Labour Party’s response to the state it inherited after 18 years of Conservative Administration.

The pathology of governance and New Labour’s response As we saw in Chapter 2, the Labour Party’s attitude to the Civil Service is perhaps best understood within the broader context of the Party’s view of the state: a willingness to embrace the Westminster model, accepting its top-down view of the nature of British government. It is therefore significant that in the 1997 election campaign, the Labour Party promised a wide array of constitutional and state reforms – devolution, regional government, freedom of information, changes in the voting system, both in the House of Lords and Commons, a mayor for London and the incorporation of the European Bill of Rights. Within days of electoral victory, the Bank of England was made independent and the first parliamentary session produced 12 constitutional acts (see Hazell and Cornes 1999). By the end of Blair’s third term in 2007, it could be argued that a defining feature of his Administration has been its far-reaching programme of state reform. Despite these extensive changes to the political and institutional map of Britain, it is argued that the Blair Administration continued to defend the view that the Westminster model remained intact. Much has been written about the nature of New Labour. A spectrum defining the contours of this debate could have located at one end a narrative that regards New Labour as the accommodation of Thatcherite, neo-liberalism. An opposing narrative offers a view that Labour has always been a revisionist party and while its social democratic principles have remained intact, the means of achieving them have changed (see Driver and Martell 1998, 2003; Bale 1999; Hay 1999; Rubinstein 2000; Heffernan 2001; Kenny and Smith 2001). In contributing to this debate, what can be offered here is the perspective that when it comes to identifying the exceptionalism or distinctiveness of New Labour, then its programme of state reform, including Whitehall, marks a partial break from both its Conservative and its Labour predecessors. However, the actions of New Labour continue to be shaped within the confines of the Westminster model and the Party’s unwillingness to abandon the Thatcherite inheritance of managerialism and

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quasi-markets. Consequently, what is argued below is that the ideas underpinning New Labour are drawn from an array of influences – Thatcherism, Social Democracy and The Third Way, but they are contingent on the Westminster model which has continued to shape the strategic choices made by the Party (see Richards and Smith 2004b). It is within this context, that Labour’s reforms of Whitehall are explored. Labour’s interpretation of the pathology of governance The re-branding of the Labour Party after 1994, symbolised by the attachment of the prefix ‘New’, can retrospectively be seen as a successful electoral strategy employed by the Blair leadership team to distinguish the Party from its own past (Fairclough 2000). Its aim was to mark a clear binary distinction which signalled that New Labour had changed from the perceptions people carried of the ‘Old Labour’ Party of the 1970s and 1980s. As Fielding (2003: 30) observes: ‘Blair and his “modernisers” (such as Brown and Peter Mandelson) believed Kinnock’s failure to persuade voters that he had transformed the Party was the main reason Labour lost the 1992 General Election, its fourth defeat in a row.’ While the re-branding of New Labour is: ‘... the favoured means of denoting the party under Blair’ (Fielding 2003: 30), the revisionist path the Party has taken since 1979 clearly predates the arrival of Blair. The Party’s well-documented policy review process was embarked on under the stewardship of first Neil Kinnock and then John Smith (see Ludlam and Smith 2000, 2004; Evans 2003; Finlayson 2003; Callaghan et al 2003; Chadwick and Heffernan 2003; Bevir 2005; Driver and Martell 2006). At the centre of these accounts is an attempt to analyse the nature of New Labour: the extent to which it has retained its social democratic aspirations in response to both the Thatcherite inheritance and the processes of state transformation that has been played out over the preceding decades. If one traces the Party’s policy review process – Aims and Values (1988), Meet the Challenge Make the Change (1989), Looking to the Future (1990), Opportunity Britain (1991) – a pressing issue that emerges, but which gathers momentum under Blair, is the attempt to resolve its approach towards the state, in the light of the challenge presented by what can be referred to as the ‘governance narrative’: a perceived inability of elected governments to control and co-ordinate policy across and beyond Whitehall (see Richards and Smith 2002; Newman 2005).8 Labour identified the need to respond to the governance narrative: that during the previous three decades, a shift had occurred from a unitary state to multi-level governance (see Jessop 2002; Richards and

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Smith, 2002; Perri 6 et al., 2002, Bevir and Rhodes 2003a, 2006). The policy-making arena had become more crowded with numerous actors competing for space. The net effect has been the curtailment of government’s ability to maintain some semblance of control by appealing to the traditional form of governing through state hierarchies (see Mandelson and Liddle 1996; Blair 1996; Rhodes 1997; Gould 1998; Newman 2001; Richards and Smith 2000b). In the preceding twenty years, internal pressures, in the form of the Conservative’s attack on the state and, with it, a greater neo-liberal emphasis on markets as a form of self-regulating governance, coupled to external factors associated with increasing pressures in the form of globalisation and internationalisation concentrated Labour minds on the search for alternative models of state delivery (see Mandelson and Liddle 1996; Richards and Smith 2002). The governance narrative argues that the policy process has evolved in such a way that, by 1997, policy was being developed in a much more isolated and segmented manner than during the more corporatist era of the 1960s and 1970s. This problem was exacerbated by the ‘pathology of departmentalism’ (see Kaufmann 1997; Marsh, Richards and Smith, 2001). This can be understood either as departments being more motivated by their own specific, self-interested goals, rather than the broader needs of the government, or policy being developed in one area without taking account of the unintended or unforeseen impact this might have elsewhere. In opposition, Labour recognised that government was seen to have lost the ability to operate in a single, unified and co-ordinated manner across the policy spectrum (see Mandelson and Liddle 1996). As we see in Chapter 5, the initial response of the Blair Administration to the pathology of governance was to try and wire the system back-up, to bring together the many, often disparate, elements of the policy arena. Indeed, Labour gave this the label of ‘joined-up-government’ [JUG] based on a model of strong central control from Number Ten and the Cabinet Office (see Cmnd. 4310 1999; Cabinet Office 2000; Kavanagh and Richards 2001). However, if governance and the issue of political control was a problem identified by the Party in its years in opposition, its solution was to construct a response that transcended the state-centric, hierarchical, command-and-control, corporatist model of the 1970s, but was not simply portrayed as an accommodation of the New Right’s solution of the market. As Mandelson and Liddle (1996:17) observed: ‘Whereas some on the left wanted top-down centralised rules, administered by powerful bureaucracies, and the right wanted to privatise everything public and leave the rest to the market,

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New Labour advocates diversity and decentralisation, with bottom-up solutions and public goals sometimes achieved by market solutions.’

New Labour’s response to the governance narrative It is important to recognise the significance of the challenge presented by the governance narrative. As Bevir and Rhodes (2003a: 60) observe: ‘... the governance narrative counters a view of British government that sees Britain as a unitary state with a strong executive’. In effect, it offers a direct challenge to the Westminster model in terms both of the dominant organising perspective of the British system of government and its understanding of power. The potential implications are clear, for as we have seen above, the Westminster model has been robustly defended by both Labour and Conservative Governments throughout the twentieth century. If New Labour was willing to embrace a narrative that repudiated the claims of the Westminster model, then the logic of this position would dictate the need to reappraise the principles on which the British Parliamentary State had been constructed. But for a Party eighteen years out of office and set on demonstrating to the electorate an image of governing competence, the risk of embarking on such a course was too high. Moreover, as with previous governments, New Labour was aware of the potential usefulness of the extensive powers that the model’s elitist underpinnings conveyed. Reform was to be mediated by ensuring the preservation of the Westminster model. For example, Blair (1996a: 274) observed: ‘By devolving power, Parliament will be deciding that some parts of the UK shall be governed in a distinct manner. The sovereignty of the UK Parliament will of course remain undiminished.’ Moreover, the language of reform employed by New Labour drew more from a Whiggish tradition, than the more radical elements of the Labour movement discussed in Chapter 2. For example, Mandelson and Liddle (1996: 210), when addressing the subject of constitutional reform observed: ‘Some argue for the big-bang approach, wishing away the difficulties and obstacles. That is not our way. Steady, piecemeal reform is the way forward’. When charting New Labour’s revisionism, it is important to recognise that any notion that reform might lead to the eclipsing of the Westminster model were firmly rejected. The influence of the Third Way The Third Way is the label that is most regularly attached to accounts detailing the ideas underpinning the ideational development of New Labour (see White, 2001; Fielding, 2003; Evans 2003). It is not a coherent,

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ideological package, but instead, the Third Way should be understood as a metaphor for centre-left parties in both Europe and the US to help them forge: political settlements that combined a recognition of the increasing importance of the global economy with attention to the importance of social cohesion ... creating an alternative to the state and the market ... addressing issues of civil society and cultural values (Newman 2001: 2). In the British case, most analyses of the ideas underpinning New Labour identify the work of Anthony Giddens (1994, 1997, 2000, 2007) as a key influence. Giddens’ aim was to construct a ‘relational approach’ that transcended the traditional ideological narratives of the state [corporatism] and the market [neo-liberalism]. In The Third Way, he argues that the growth of economic and political internationalisation combined with much greater social diversification has undermined the state’s ability to promote and control social and economic outcomes. Rigid hierarchical state structures – most often associated with Weberian models of bureaucracy – and large, inflexible welfare states are incapable of fulfilling the needs of an increasingly heterogeneous society. In the 1980s and 1990s, the New Right’s response to these problems was the pursuit of a neoliberal programme that advocated a more minimal role for the state in society and a shift in emphasis from collectivism towards individualism. Giddens avers that these changes, pursued under Thatcherism, presented a number of unintended consequences. For example, unfettered markets did not guarantee economic success and produced a number of unacceptable social outcomes (see Marsh and Rhodes 1992; Hay 1999). Where Giddens struck a cord with Labour’s modernisers was his attempt to resolve the dilemma at the heart of the Party – the need to accept some of the key reforms introduced by Thatcherism while not repudiating the goals of social democracy (Blair 1998a). For Giddens, where the post-war, Keynesian welfare state represented the high-water mark of collectivism, the period since the 1980s witnessed the promotion of individualism. Where once the state provided the basis on which social relations were formed, the market had increasingly usurped this role. The Party’s challenge was to recognise this and reappraise its understanding of state–society relations based on a hierarchical, bureaucratic state and universal welfare. The solution offered by the Third Way was constructed from a variety of influences, but the two that most obviously came to the fore are communitarianism and stakeholding (Blair 1998a; Brivati 2000; Callaghan et al 200; Seldon 2004; Hale et al 2004; Hale 2006). Giddens’s use of

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communitarianism draws heavily from Etzioni (1992, 1995a, 1995b, 1997), as an attempt to go beyond statism and individualism. This is an approach which: ... combines moral, social and civil agendas in its focus on the need to build consensus, foster trust and strengthen mutual ties of reciprocity and obligation ... [It] evoked an image of a strong civil society in which the state acts as an investor, enabler and empowerer, an image radically different from the socialist associations of old Labour. (Newman 2001: 148)9 From the mid-1990s, ideas drawn from communitarianism regularly appeared in addresses and speeches made by Blair (see Blair 1995, 1996a; Gould 1998; Richards 2004). The emphasis was on building civic partnerships between the community and the state and recognising the need for responsibilities, as well as the rights that came from such relationships (see Blair 1996a).10 The communitarian influence on New Labour was also coupled to a more pragmatic approach enunciated through a stakeholding narrative. Here, Labour argued that the state should form partnerships and networks based on trust between a whole range of groups in society, including businesses, employees, and the voluntary and public sectors.11 This view was set-out by Blair in his ‘Stakeholder Economics’ speech to the High Commission, Singapore, in January 1996: By trust I mean the recognition of a mutual purpose for which we work together and in which we all benefit. It is a stakeholder economy in which opportunity is available to all, advancement is through merit and from which no group or class set apart or excluded. This is the economic justification for social cohesion, for a fair and strong society. (Blair 1996b) The stakeholder theme can be understood as part of the new realism of the Party in trying to construct a narrative concerning its view of the state in an era of governance. As Freeden (1999: 1) observes: The state is reduced to the status of one actor among many, both internationally and domestically, appearing as pathetically subservient to global economic forces, unwilling to generate policies through its bureaucracies because it no longer believes in the power of politics

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as a central force for change. Societies have simply become too complex for wielders of political power and authority to manage.12 The Party’s view was that throughout the Conservative years, the traditional public service model of a top-down, centralised, commandbased bureaucracy had been eroded. New forms of service delivery, embracing private-sector business models (including contracting out and privatisation) had been introduced with the aim of making the existing public services more efficient. The Civil Service had undergone change, yet the extent to which the traditional command bureaucracy was broken up between 1979 and 1997 was overstated. The politics of New Labour, influenced by Third Way thinking, rejected a wholesale return to a top-down bureaucratic model based on command (see Mandelson and Liddle 1996). As Giddens (2000: 42) notes: The new political culture is sceptical of large bureaucracies and opposes political clientelism. Many citizens see local and regional government as able to meet their needs more effectively than the nation state. They support an increasing role for non-profit voluntary agencies in the delivery of public services. Hierarchy is viewed with suspicion, as are traditional symbols and trappings of power. New Labour shifted the Party’s position on the state to argue that alternatives to traditional state forms should be sought. It advocated the idea of networks of institutions and individuals working together in mutually beneficial partnerships based on trust. The Party were not seeking the outright abandonment of central bureaucracy, nor proposing the wholesale use of markets, but instead embraced a mixture of both. The aim was to use a combination of hierarchies, networks and markets, the mix of which should be determined by the nature of the particular service to be provided. This position was designed to address the problem identified in the latter Conservative years: a failure to develop the notion of an evolving or mutually beneficial relationship between the public and private sectors. Instead, services had been simply contracted out by the former to the latter. It also highlighted the rejection by Labour of the New Right ontology of individuals being simply self-interested actors, by emphasising that they can be motivated by co-operative, social and welfare concerns for others. The Third Way advocated a position in which the public and private sectors collaborate in order to provide the required services. Moreover,

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no formal structure should be adopted to condition this collaboration; rather, different options should be available in order to ensure flexibility and responsiveness. Trust was the key to binding the various relationships together. New Labour argued that this would lead to the creation of a truly enabling state based on responsive relationships within society. This theme was amplified by Blair in the much used sound-bite during Labour’s first term ‘joined-up problems need joined-up solutions.’ As we see in Chapter 5, this approach was adopted in Labour’s first substantial White Paper on the Civil Service – Modernising Government (see Cm 4310; see also Blair 1998b; Wilson 1998). Understanding ‘New Labour’ Since 1997, the lexicon of the Third Way, most notably stakeholding and communitarianism, has faded from both the written and spoken pronouncements of Labour ministers. By 2007, Giddens was pronouncing the need to ‘wave farewell’ to the Third Way and embrace what he refers to as a Contract with the Future (Giddens 2007). This should not diminish from the impact of the Third Way in providing a road map charting the Party’s approach to government. As we see in Chapter 5, many of the themes associated with the Third Way – civic engagement, devolution of power, flexibility, public-private partnerships, rights and responsibilities – have been implemented after 1997. In the context of this book, the importance of the Third Way can be seen in the way it has shaped Labour’s ideational approach to the state and the reform of Whitehall. New Labour wished to demonstrate that it no longer advocated the ‘old Labour’ belief in ‘command bureaucracy’. The Party needed to show that while accepting some of the post-1979 reforms of the state that emphasised the primacy of the market and efficiency; it had not abandoned its social democratic aspirations.13 The Third Way advocated a flexible and pragmatic approach towards the state based on a mix of governing through markets, networks, and hierarchies. The theme developed below is that the Blair Administration has made significant changes to Whitehall within the context of a ‘New Labour’ approach towards the state and public policy delivery. Many of these changes have built on the reforms of the Thatcher and Major governments, while others are important new developments. The impetus for New Labour’s reforms are three fold: the need to overcome the failures of previous Labour administrations; the need to address the pathology of governance and its associated pressures, perceived or otherwise, from globalisation, fragmentation, pluralism etc; and the need to adapt the state and the traditional top-down, bureaucratic model of policy-

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making. Yet, these themes had to be addressed in a way that would not be seen as an abandonment of the Westminster model. As we see in Chapters 5, one of the key themes underpinning New Labour’s reform of Whitehall and its approach to policy-making is an emphasis on delivery. The ‘old Labour’ notion that derives from the Westminster model and the Keynesian Welfare State (KWS) is that of the citizen as a passive recipient of standardized services. Post-1997, New Labour rejected the notion of ‘one size fits all’ welfare and argued that consumers rather than producers should drive the concerns of welfare. But the shift towards a more diverse ‘Third Way’ state has created a series of unforeseen and unintended consequences. At the heart of this debate is the challenge New Labour has created for itself: the need to develop an ‘enabling’ state which avoids the top-down and inflexible approach of past Labour Administrations, enhances the need for greater administrative autonomy by the multiple service-delivery agencies, but does not lead to a loss of political control at the centre.

Conclusion: competing theoretical approaches to Whitehall Despite the longevity of the Blair Administration, there is a lacuna of studies on Whitehall during this period. One partial exception is Rhodes et al’s (2003) Decentralising the Civil Service which provides an examination of the Civil Service through a ‘case-study of the differentiated polity thesis’. Although its focus is not exclusively on the post-1997 era, it does offer an account of change based on an analysis of ‘spatial variation across the Civil Service in the United Kingdom’ in recent years.14 It concludes that Britain has shifted from a unitary, strong executive represented by the Westminster model to a differentiated polity characterised by institutional fragmentation and the unintended consequence of a ‘hollowing out of the state’. The strength of this account is in its use of a governance narrative to expose, as myth, the view of British government that stresses the notion of a unitary state. It has helped to ‘correct faulty maps’ of the present British system of governance in terms of the insular and hermetically sealed image portrayed by the Westminster model (Rhodes et al 2003:166). Fragmentation, devolution, the exponential growth of both, functional differentiation and decentred political authority, act as constraints on the capacity of the core executive to implement policies. The book concludes by suggesting that the potential end-game is that of a ‘disUnited Kingdom’ (Rhodes et al 2003: 165).

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This account of New Labour’s reform of Whitehall questions this conclusion and the view that, in an era of governance, the Westminster model is increasingly unsustainable. In terms of offering an organising perspective of the British system of government, the model is undoubtedly flawed. But, it is also important to recognise the influence of the normative view of power presented by the model. The argument here is that the process of change and reform over the last thirty years should be explained in terms of it being mediated through a resolute defence of the Westminster model by the core executive. This rests on the view that first, it has been in the strategic interest of the core executive to maintain the model and second, it has been able to do this because of its structural position in the policy-making arena and the asymmetric nature of its relations, relative to other actors. To explain this argument, we briefly need to explore an existing critique of the ‘differentiated polity model’ and a number of the assumptions on which the model is based (Marsh et al 2001, 2003, Richards and Smith 2002, 2004b). Without rearticulating this whole debate – the main features of the Differentiated Polity Model (Rhodes 1997; Rhodes et al 2003) involve: • • • • • •

an emphasis upon governance, rather than government power dependence and, thus, exchange relationships policy networks a segmented executive intergovernmental relations and a hollowed-out state

In contrast, the Asymmetric Power Model (Marsh et al 2001, 2003; Richards and Smith 2002, 2004b) identifies five key characteristics of the British polity: • British society is marked by continuing patterns of structural inequality that affect the institutions and processes of British politics. • These institutions and processes are underpinned by a British Political Tradition that emphasises a top-down view of democracy based on the idea that ‘Government knows best’ (see Chapter 2). • The patterns of structural inequality, together with the British political tradition, contribute to the asymmetries of power of the core executive which are perhaps the key feature of the British political system.

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• The British system of governance is characterised by exchange relations between various actors in the policy-making arena and a more segmented core executive. • But the asymmetric power model argues for the need to acknowledge that the nature of exchanges is most often asymmetric, reflected in the position of the core executive. The model recognises that resources have, to an extent, shifted away from the core executive to other actors. The process of governing has become more complex, as the delivery of public goods increasingly involves the creation of networks including government, regulators and private and third sector actors. However, whilst the government is often dependent on these organisations for the delivery of the service, they in turn continue to depend on the government which has a unique set of resources; force, legitimacy, state bureaucracy, tax-raising powers and legislation, which are unavailable to other actors. Thus, the relationship between the government and most other interested actors is asymmetrical. External constraints on executive power, for example the hollowing-out of the British state, should not be over-emphasised. Both of these models present different interpretations of the nature of power in the British state: the Differentiated Polity Model is neo-pluralist and argues that there exists an ‘oligopoly of the political market place’; while the Asymmetric Power Model is more elitist (see Table 3.1). Table 3.1 Three models of the British state Westminster model

Differentiated polity model

Asymmetric power model

Representation

Limited

Diverse

Organisation

Hierarchical

Diverse

Limited with reforms Hierarchical but fragmenting

Distribution of power

Deformed pluralism/elitist

Oligopoly of the political market place

Elitist

Core Executive

Unified

Segmented

Segmented

Role of Executive

Dominant

Weak

Dominant

Sovereignty

Absolute within state

Sovereignty undermined

Sovereignty reconstituted

Form of governance

State centred

Governance without government

State centred with new forms of power

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The analysis in this book recognises the asymmetric nature of the core executive in the British political system which explains why Labour and Conservative Governments, including the Blair Administration, have continued to robustly defend the Westminster model. The view presented by the differentiated polity model that a decentring of the Civil Service has occurred, places too much stress on the notion that political power has ebbed elsewhere, away from the centre. In the next three chapters, New Labour’s approach to Whitehall is explored using the asymmetric power model and explains why, despite extensive reforms over the last decade, the Blair Administration has continued to maintain the Westminster model.

4 Transition in Government

It is not unknown in British political life for those in Opposition to make statements which they do not always carry out if they come to power. This is not necessarily due to dishonesty but often to ignorance. (Harold Macmillan 1963, cf. Catterill 1997: 77) The transition to New Labour after 18 years of Conservative Government was achieved with remarkable ease, a tribute to both of Andrew Turnbull’s immediate predecessors, Robin Butler and Richard Wilson. The myth on which young Labour activists were reared in the 1970s and 80s of a Civil Service that was Tory to its bones, turned out to be just that: a myth. (Tony Blair, speech on reforming the Civil Service, 24 February 2004)

Introduction Labour’s electoral victory in May 1997 marked the first change in party control of British Government for 18 years. One of the implications of the transition was that only a small proportion of civil servants, almost exclusively among the older, senior cohort, had served under anything other than a Conservative Administration. Even fewer of the incoming ministers had any experience of government. Blair was the first Prime Minister since Ramsey MacDonald to take office with no ministerial experience.1 His first Cabinet did not contain a single individual with previous Cabinet experience.2 The 1997 transition was therefore always going to be a challenge: first, for the new ministerial team with virtually no knowledge of working in Whitehall; and second, for the Civil 57

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Service, after such a long period of one-party government. The importance of a successful transition by the core executive, in terms of being able to demonstrate that constitutional propriety had been observed and that the ‘seamless web in government’ remained intact, cannot be understated. It would allow both sets of actors, ministers and civil servants, to claim the sustained relevance of the Westminster model and so continue to protect their strategic interests and position of asymmetry within the broader policy-making arena (see Chapter 3). Conversely, if the transition revealed a number of serious or problems, then this would have the potential to lead to the unravelling of the model. To address this theme, the 1997 transition poses three related, but separate, questions. How was the process handled? How successful was it? To what extent and how quickly would an inexperienced group of ministers be socialised into the formal and informal rules of the games presented by the Westminster model? This chapter examines each of these questions.3 The existing literature on transition in government is scarce. The lack of material can be partly explained by the ‘unwritten’ nature of the British constitution. Elsewhere, small, predominantly snap-shot accounts can be found in the numerous diaries and memories of former cabinet ministers (see Gamble 1994b; Richards 1997), from Whitehall and Government watchers (Hennessy 1990, 1995; Kavanagh and Seldon 2000), constitutional commentators (Brazier 1997,1999; Blackburn and Plant 1999), historians (Catterill 1997), the predominantly dated accounts on the role of the opposition (Punnett 1973; Dahl 1973; Rose 1974; Chau 2002; Heclo and Wildavsky 2003) and informed journalistic accountants (Rawnsley 2001; Rentoul 2001; Pollard 2005). In the light of the paucity of material on this subject, this chapter offers a comprehensive and informed account of the 1997 transition. The material that is used draws from a variety of sources – ministers’ memoirs, autobiographies, diaries, Select Committees reports etc. – but in particular, from a substantial number of interviews conducted by the author with both ministers and civil servants involved in the transition process.4

The background to the 1997 transition process Prior to 1964, any formal contact between the official Opposition and the Civil Service was strictly forbidden. But in that election year and in the light of the fact that the Labour Party had been out of power for thirteen years, new conventions were drawn up allowing for contact between opposition parties and Whitehall in the lead up to the General

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Election. Catterill (1997:81) refers to the guidelines as: ‘... another of those informal embellishments of the British constitution’, and have subsequently been referred to as the ‘Douglas-Home rules’. They allowed for pre-election discussions between opposition parties and senior civil servants on ‘machinery of government issues’, to ensure adequate preparation for a potential change of government (see Brazier 1997; Catterill 1997). A key element in shaping the 1964 guidelines came from exchanges between the then Cabinet Secretary Laurence Helsby, Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home and his Principal Private Secretary, Tim Bligh. It was a letter from Bligh to Douglas-Home that laid out the subsequent modus operandi: The Civil Service are servants of the Queen and serve the Government of the day. They cannot serve the Opposition. But there is a real problem here and the Nation’s well-being might be seriously affected and this, because a newly-elected Prime Minister had, in practice, very little time to form an administration. Certainly there is not enough time for an incoming Prime Minister to have long discussions with officials about machinery of government problems. The amalgamation of existing departments, the creation of new departments, the setting out of new lines of ministerial responsibility and so on. In the particular case of economic affairs this difficulty is sharpened since the Cabinet cannot be formed until the key posts of Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are decided. There is every possibility of an ill-thought out decision being taken which might, as well as rebounding to the discredit of the new administration, do real harm to the country. If, however, discussions between the Opposition and the Civil Service were to be regarded as tolerable, I would have thought that the particular case of machinery of government on economic affairs was such a case. This would not be the Civil Service giving advice but answering questions of fact. (cf. Catterill 1997: 80) Catterill (1997: 81) observes that in operating the ‘Douglas-Home rules’, discussions should take place on a ‘for-information-only’ basis and conducted with the utmost discretion.5 For Hennessy (1989: 283), Whitehall’s understandable wish not to offend the sensitivities of the incumbent government meant that the process had a distinctly secretive air, something akin to John Le Carré’s ‘Moscow rules’: ‘The Whitehall drill for acquiring intelligence on an Opposition party has an overt and

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covert side. It scans pamphlets, party statements, speeches, parliamentary questions and transcripts of interviews. This is rather akin to Kremlinology, learning about personality and policies at several stages removed: paper intelligence for a paper culture.’ Following the Labour Party’s defeat in the 1992 General Election, the then Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock expressed dissatisfaction with the consultative process between his party and the Civil Service as specified by the Douglas-Home rules. In his view, the period of consultation in 1992, at that time running at three to four weeks, was insufficient and more extensive contact between Shadow Ministers and senior civil servants would ease any process of transition. He argued that by broadening the contact, both sides – Opposition and Whitehall – would know more about one another’s ‘personality’ and, in particular, civil servants would have a better idea of some of the thinking of an incoming party. After the 1992 election, Kinnock wrote to the then Prime Minister John Major suggesting that, in the 18 months prior to a General Election, the Opposition should have the opportunity to consult with the Civil Service on matters specifically relating to the ‘machinery of government’.6 Major consulted the then Cabinet Secretary, Robin Butler, and the pair accepted that Kinnock’s Party had not had enough time to familiarise itself with the realties of government. Major accepted that in future, more extensive discussions between the Opposition and the Civil Service would help to maintain the seamless web of government if a transition occurred (Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 249). The previous lack of any real consultation owed much to the widespread belief that in 1983 and 1987 the Labour Party would not be elected. As a very senior Cabinet Office official observed: ‘Under Mrs Thatcher’s governments, which each only lasted four years, you never got to the starting point (of a consultation process). In addition, because the Conservative majority was small, from 1992 onwards it looked possible that the Parliament would not last the whole time.’ Major, despite being a regular defender of the merits of the Civil Service was somewhat critical of the officials handling of the 1992 General Election. He (1999: 250) observed that: ... there was an almost audible dragging of feet in many departments, partly because of a lack of creative energy at the top, and partly because of that inevitable playing for time that occurs when an election is in sight, particularly one where the Civil Service believes that control of government is likely to change.

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After a series of negotiations, Whitehall and the three main party leaders agreed that greater time should be allowed for consultation in the lead up to the next general election. The impact of this agreement was evidenced in January 1996, when consultations between members of the Shadow Cabinet and various Whitehall departments commenced. As one Permanent Secretary noted: The first thing was that John Major, under a request from Neil Kinnock, had allowed the pre-election process of contact with officials to start earlier and the agreement was that this would start from January 1996; so there were possibilities for something like seventeen months of contacts. Previously, talking would begin when you were in the last year of the Parliament or when the election had been called. In January 1996 (the Cabinet Office) circulated documents, which explained that these contacts could now take place. Despite John Major’s willingness to co-operate on this issue, any discussion was, in theory at least, constrained. In constitutional terms, Major was a Burkean conservative. In his view, although Britain did not have a written constitution, its conventions ensured democratic stability and continuity (Major 1999). He was a firm advocate of a Whiggish approach to reform and regarded radical change as anathema. Major opposed constitutional reform and anything that threatened the Westminster model of government. Allowing the opposition to discuss policy matters with officials could undermine confidentiality and damage the relationship of trust between ministers and civil servants. Major responded to Kinnock’s request by requiring that consultations should continue to follow the Douglas-Home rules and be concerned only with the ‘machinery of government’. The Cabinet Office, and in particular the Cabinet Secretary, Robin Butler, were to be given the job of ‘guardians of constitutional propriety’ to ensure consultations were conducted in accordance with the agreed guidelines. The constraints on consultation required by Major raised three issues. First, it meant, formally, that shadow ministers were not allowed to brief civil servants on their own party’s policies. Second, to make a distinction between machinery of government issues and policy issues is to oversimplify a more complex reality. It is an artificial distinction that in practice is difficult, if not impossible, to sustain. Third, in practice, senior civil servants require general discussions on policy with shadow front-bench ministers if they are to have a proper understanding of

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the potential policy initiatives any incoming government might introduce. The interviews reveal that when, in January 1996, it came to operationalising the new guidelines, there was confusion over what was being referred to as ‘machinery of government’ issues. One interpretation could mean a focus on issues concerned with the restructuring of government departments and their functional responsibilities. The two most obvious examples of this type that occurred after the 1997 election were the creation of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and the moving of responsibility for setting interest rates from the Treasury to the Bank of England (both of which are dealt with below). Another interpretation could be on discussions about how any given department should administratively deal with new policy initiatives. As an example, in the run up to the 1997 election, all three of the territorial departments – Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices – were much exercised by the question of how they might deal with Labour’s putative plans for devolution. All three departments were keen to meet with Labour’s shadow teams to discuss this issue. It is difficult to see how they could discuss issues concerned with the handling of devolution without discussing specific policy and what an incoming Labour Government might do. Of course, there are both policy and administrative issues involved in either of these interpretations of what the guidelines include and exclude. For example, the creation of the DETR implied a need to integrate the three separate policy fields – environment, transport and local government – to achieve some semblance of a joined-up or holistic approach within a super-department. The difficulty in establishing a practical distinction between machinery of government issues and policy issues is a key question. However, it may be more important to ask the prior question: is such a distinction necessary? As noted above, this principle can be traced back to the original Douglas-Home rules. Yet, once a General Election has been called, a core task of the senior Civil Service is to prepare briefs for incoming ministers. Within Whitehall, these briefs are commonly referred to as Red and Blue Books or Dossiers and they outline some of the alternative ways in which a party’s manifesto commitments can be carried out, alongside an assessment of the feasibility and costs of those alternatives.7 It is worth pointing out that Yellow Books are also prepared, although one suspects that only on the rare occasion when a hung parliament is likely, will Whitehall divert many resources to this particular task. Hennessy (1989: 509) observes that at the 1987

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election: ‘... everybody made use of the [the Douglas Home rules] facility in May–June 1987. Neil Kinnock and his shadow spokesmen [sic] paid their visits to the permanent secretaries, unlike Michael Foot and his team who had not bothered in 1983.’ Tony Benn has his own individual take on this particular exercise that is worth relaying: During an election campaign they [civil servants] really de-couple themselves from their minsters, disconnect except for day-to-day business. They read the manifestos, then they prepare papers designed to show how part of them could be implemented and how part of them can’t be implemented. They dress it up so that an incoming government will feel that there is a sympathetic Civil Service. In effect what they do, however, is to write massive briefs, which are the most important documents to be found in Whitehall, in which – and it’s the only time it happens – they actually set out Civil Service policy. (Young and Sloman 1982:21–2; cf. Hennessy 1989: 510) The official view is that the Civil Service should be in a position to immediately offer advice to any newly formed government, demonstrating both its non-partisanship and its competence. To prepare these briefs, civil servants read the manifesto and any other available policy documents. As one very senior Cabinet Office official observed: All those who were involved in the transition knew they had to think about it ... Part of the mechanism is that the department prepares briefs for ministers coming in and so the Permanent Secretary will commission them from all of the policy areas of the department who will therefore be forced to ask what is going to be different. So every area will be covered and thought about. Not all the contributions necessarily go into the brief for the incoming minister if there is no issue there and you know if the issue will go on as before or if the minister is not interested in that area. The problem is to boil it down to something that is useful and digestible to ministers. Officials also talk to non-governmental organisations which have a particular interest in an area of policy and close links with the incoming government. For example in 1997, civil servants preparing briefs on devolution were anxious to talk to the Constitution Unit about Labour’s policy. Here it should be pointed out the peculiarity of the new guidelines stemming from the Major directive: when, for example, the

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Scottish Office were preparing a brief based on Labour’s future policy preferences, civil servants could talk to interest groups closely aligned to the Labour Party, but were not supposed to talk to Labour’s Shadow Scottish Ministerial team about such policy matters, even though they might be meeting on a regular basis. As we see below, the 1997 transition unsurprisingly strayed into discussions about policy, even if such matters were formally proscribed by the Major ruling.

The January 1996 pre-election transition period Retrospectively, it can be seen that the extended period of consultation commencing in January 1996 and running through to the General Election in May 1997 was by no means approached in a uniform manner either by Labour’s Shadow Ministerial team or Whitehall. Collectively, the interviews revealed a number of patterns. The internal guidelines issued by Whitehall were not particularly clear and they were interpreted in various ways by civil servants across different departments. In some cases, senior civil servants were not even aware of the guidelines surrounding the talks. For example, one senior official in the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI] commented: ‘There is a set of rules, but do not ask me what they are.’ A senior official in the Home Office was also vague about the rules governing contact with the Labour Party prior to the election: ‘Well I recollect that guidance did come out of the Permanent Secretary’s office about this, but I can’t remember the details’. The pattern and quality of consultation varied significantly between departments and even within departments. As Kavanagh and Seldon (2000: 250) observe: ‘Some shadow ministers held discussions with senior officials with whom they might work in the future but others, to Blair’s regret, did not.’ It should be recognised that the way in which the guidelines were formulated, it was the responsibility of the Shadow Front Bench, not Whitehall, to instigate discussions. This point was clearly made by a senior member of the Cabinet Office, responsible for over-seeing the whole transition process: I would not say there were departments where I was conscious that they were ill prepared. I think the point about this is that the permanent secretaries were eager to meet the shadow spokesman ... so they met them as much as the shadow spokesman wanted. If the shadow spokesman had met the permanent secretary less than their colleagues then that is what the shadow wanted. There were one or

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two cases I remember where the permanent secretary said to me that they had not seen enough of the shadow as they wanted, and could I stimulate things a bit and I did do that through Jonathan Powell. Jack Cunningham [Shadow National Heritage] alluded to the important role of the Labour leadership in determining the degree to which Shadow Teams contacted Whitehall departments: I do not think that there were many cases where it actually began 18 months in advance ... there may be some but I do not know of any. We were given advice from the Leaders office as to when we could start making approaches for discussions. Whether everyone got the same advice at the same time I do not know but I assume that they did. On the other hand there may have been some areas where there were extensive discussions on the advice or with the insistence of the Leader ... but I was not involved in that. The distinction between issues concerned with the machinery of government and those involving policy was difficult, if not impossible, to interpret. As one Permanent Secretary observed: Now in theory you are only supposed to talk about the machinery of government issues but you cannot actually have a discussion solely about the machinery of government. Most of the discussion takes the form of finding out what the Party’s real policies are and then raising certain implications of those policies which they might not have thought of. You do not advise them, but you do get into a discussion about policy issues. Of course, you are guarded and nobody really has a problem with that. Similarly, a senior official in the Department of Social Security [DSS] noted: It is obviously more difficult around the policy substance area, because strictly speaking, our discussions in 1996 excluded that. In reality it is difficult. When you are talking about the process of running a budget where exactly is the border between designing the budget process and discussing policy? So, there was an inevitable ambiguity there. However, we stuck pretty much to the distinction in spirit.

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David Clark, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary (1992–97), highlights that discussions of the machinery of government inevitably strayed into policy issues: I was covering Defence and I had a number of meetings with Richard Mottram [Permanent Secretary] and one got to know the department and as the meetings went on he started bringing in his assistant and deputies so we got to know the top hierarchy. I think we also had some of the military in. I think it was a very useful process as although it was mainly about the machinery of government they were also interested in our ideas. Inevitably then there were discussions of policy. In fact, the ambiguity involved because the distinction is not self-evident provided the actors involved with a legitimate excuse to discuss policy issues. Interviewees reported that the consultation process was slow to get going and varied significantly from department to department. There was extensive contact between the Cabinet Office and Blair’s office in the six months leading up to the election (Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 249–250; Rentoul 2001: 324–325). Seldon (2004: 257) notes that Blair’s lack of Cabinet experience meant he required a number of briefings: Robin Butler had ... detected certain diffidence when they first started to meet, in early 1996, after Major had authorised official discussions between the Civil Service and the Labour Opposition. When he and Cherie went to dinner in Dulwich with the Butlers in the early summer of 1996, he found that Blair knew little about government (despite Roy Jenkins’ best endeavours to teach him). Robin Butler’s role as the Cabinet Secretary was to identify key issues that Blair and his office would have to decide on at the outset of Labour’s first term. These matters included appointments, the machinery of government, priorities for the first legislative programme, how the Prime Minister’s time would be used and, in particular, major policy issues on Europe and Northern Ireland. As one senior Cabinet Office official noted: We went through all of those things and by the time the election really started we were a long way down the track with at least having identified a lot of questions, so we had a great deal to go on which the Civil Service then worked on during the campaign period ... The

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consequence of that was when Blair arrived on the day after the election, although he was absolutely exhausted, it was really a question of crossing ‘Ts’ and dotting ‘Is’. Elsewhere, interviewees thought that the most extensive briefings occurred in the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). Some officials from outside the DfEE were suspicious of the degree to which that department went beyond the rules governing contact. For example, a senior official from the DTI was aware of the extent to which there had been much more contact in the DfEE than the DTI: I had none but there was comparatively little in this department at all in the run up to the election. It depended very much on the personality of the shadow minister. I know there were a lot of contacts between Blunkett and the DfEE but it was not Beckett’s style. A different explanation was offered by a senior official from the DSS: ‘They [Labour] prepared hugely for office and I think it varied departmentally. I get the feeling that both in the Treasury and the DfEE that because their policies were explicit, particularly the New Deal, there was a lot of discussion. In our area, there was less formal commitment.’ Of course, once Blair became Party leader, Brown was always destined to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer and Blunkett and Prescott were two other Shadows whose portfolios were guaranteed. As Blunkett observed: Apart from John Prescott who was elected, and therefore was automatically going to be able to influence his job once we were in government, Tony made it clear that Gordon Brown was going to be Chancellor, and made it clear publicly twice that I was going to be Education and Employment Secretary. Blunkett was given the shadow portfolio for Education in 1994 and inherited Employment a year later when the Conservatives merged the two departments. He felt that knowing he would retain the portfolio when in government was crucial: Because we were certain that we were going to be the actual Ministers responsible, we were able to firstly spend a lot of time on preparation; secondly, it allowed us to get other people [in the Department] to believe that we were going to be there, so we were therefore credible

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and therefore they would work with us on the basis that we were here to stay, which did make a difference to their cooperation ... Tony felt that I was the nearest to his modernising and reform agenda of anyone available, so it made it quite easy for him, but difficult for me because I knew that I had to do what I believed was right, not what was expedient. So there were lots of arguments going on, but on the basis of reform rather than on the basis of retention. In his diaries, Blunkett (2006: 3–5) records the extensive preparations undertaken by himself and his shadow team in readiness for government and the detailed polices they had to present to the department. From the DfEE’s perspective, it was clear that they were prepared to adopt a flexible approach to discussions with the Labour Shadow team during the extended period of contact. One reason why the DfEE, unlike other Whitehall departments, did not strictly adhere to the guidelines was because their then Permanent Secretary, Michael Bichard, was himself an ‘outsider’, having entered the ranks of the senior Civil Service late in his career (see Richards 1997).8 As Blunkett observed: I was very fortunate that Michael Bichard was extremely open to our ideas, and wanted his department to start motoring again, because it had been treading water ... Michael Bichard made the point, without being outside the constitutional arrangements, that ‘if you’re able to tell us the direction you’re going and what policies you’re developing, we won’t waste our officials’ time in doing something that is entirely contrary to what you want and therefore they will feel that they’re doing something meaningful and will be able to carry it forward after the election. So, let’s all have a very sensible view of this, and it doesn’t mean that we’re presuming that we’re going to implement it; we’re presuming that if you win, we’ll have to.’ The ‘success’ of the transition at the DfEE stems from the fact that both parties were willing to partake in extensive discussions, including policy, and the Permanent Secretary and future Cabinet minister were similarly disposed as to where they felt the future direction of the Department should lie. As one very senior DfEE official observed, Blunkett was prepared to go: ... one step further in the sense that he acknowledges and understands the importance of behaviour within the Department to the delivery

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of objectives. He understands the importance of management, in other words, whereas a lot of politicians don’t feel that’s important. They want to create this wonderful policy vision and they expect the department to deliver it and there is the division ... We have this unusual conjunction of Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary who are in management terms talking in one voice. Elsewhere, one shadow minister in the DSS team identified reluctance by civil servants to discuss policy. The minister recalled having one meeting and an exchange of letters. But observed that the officials appeared to want to focus: ‘... on the operational things’, on whether or not they should proceed with contracts or whether: ‘... we would want to renege on them ... they were very micro-transitional in that meeting’. The shadow minister was left without a: ... clue what they were talking about basically. We were trying to win an election and it just seemed like the last thing on my mind. I wasn’t able to give them a sense of what I wanted to do, rather various policy people were analysing what they thought I was about. The case of the DSS also highlights the extent to which, even within departments, there were different degrees to which various departmental directorates prepared in the transition stage. One DSS official made the point that in his own policy area, Corporate Management, there was only a limited amount of preparation, unlike other policy directorates in the Department: In our area there was less formal commitment. We had a number of meetings with Harriet Harman’s team in the run up to the election and I went to a couple of them which were confidence building, but they were not getting to the detail of policy because in a sense we were not one of their key welfare policies. The experience at the Treasury appears rather varied. One senior Treasury official noted: ‘I think Blunkett and DfEE got quite a long way ... the discussions here [The Treasury] were quite limited’. Another senior Treasury figure observed: ‘We pretty much followed the rules expressed at the time, so all we did was prepare briefs and stay on top of Labour Party thinking and waited for them to approach us.’ A member of the Treasury Policy Group argued that there was relatively extensive

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and consistent contact in the 18 months leading up to the General Election: My own personal involvement was based around informal exchanges with the opposition, which initially took the form of a dialogue between Terry Burns [Permanent Secretary] and, particularly, Ed Balls [Treasury Special Adviser]. Ed Balls was building up a pretty close relationship from the Autumn of 1996. I was the first of the other Directors to get drawn into the process because I was running the budget and I had some early meetings with Balls from January onwards. It was an open process of discussion. In the Home Office, contact appears to have been limited. One senior official commented: ‘I speculated about what I would do if someone from the Labour Party phoned and said they wanted to come and talk to me ... but they never rang. We would not have thought it was right and proper to go out and look for discussions.’ Similarly, a Director General in the Home Office observed: ‘The rules are that contact is allowed and Robin Butler did announce some limited contact facility. I’m aware that there were intermittent contacts, but I think that the main contact happened in the last five weeks. My own role and contact was pretty negligible.’ In the DTI, officials were surprised by the lack of contact from the shadow Labour front bench. One senior DTI official commented: The emphasis was very much on the Labour Party to take the lead and as far as I know, we did what we had to. I think there was a sense of frustration that there was not more contact because the process ... in relation to understanding what they wanted, could not really start until after the election. It was not that there was no preparation, but there was less opportunity to prepare. It is not surprising that some of the politicians involved had a different interpretation of events. In Margaret Beckett’s case [Shadow Secretary of State DTI 1995–7], she felt that the contact with the Department was circumscribed, but that: The permanent secretary at the DTI was very strict with regard to official contact and although I was aware that my colleagues elsewhere were enjoying contact with their prospective departments, the permanent secretary here would not allow any formal contact until the official go ahead had been given.

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Beckett had no more than three or four meetings with the department, but she pointed out that her shadow team handled most of the discussions. There was also a well-developed informal network of contacts between her team and the Department which had evolved over the years and been established through conferences, seminars and official dinners. Her account mirrors that provided by Hennessy (1989: 283), where he identified the covert nature of contacts Whitehall insist on, in order to protect the sensitivities of the incumbent government. Hennessy quotes from William Wallace, one time Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and former adviser to the Liberal Party who had experience of pre-election opposition party discussions with civil servants: We are back to all of the awful mechanisms of the British Establishment which are the only way to operate – Oxford dinner tables, country cottages, dinner tables around London where people can talk without being seen – that has to be the main area of operation. The institute world, the conference circuit, provide other areas of contact ... you have to talk when you can. Ian McCartney,9 one of the members of the ministerial team in the DTI, confirmed Beckett’s view that the formal contacts with the Department were limited: When it comes to the DTI, it took a long time to get the DTI to enter a process of discussion and in the end they were very truncated as they happened right up to the election. But I must be fair to the Department and say that this issue has not affected us in any way whatsoever in putting together policies and delivering promises ahead of time. All I can say is that in terms of my relationship and the portfolios I’ve got, there was no perceptible way that the lack of pre-election contact has affected our work. Hugh Bayley, a member of Labour’s shadow Health team found that his contact with officials in the Department of Health was at a minimum: I was involved in the Health team before the election under Chris Smith. I was not involved in a hands-on way. I think there was provision, formally, for a single encounter in the period before the election but I was not involved in the process and do not know how it worked.

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Both Labour and Whitehall insider’s were aware that Chris Smith, the Shadow Spokesperson for Health, was not to be given the portfolio after May 1997. It went to Frank Dobson, who had been the Shadow Minister for Environment. Officials from that department were also aware Dobson was not destined to become their minister. As one senior Department of the Environment official observed: ‘... the discussions I had with Dobson were quite limited although perfectly amicable ... it was as if his heart was not in it. So they had a facility but they did not use it as much as we had expected.’ The Dobson/Smith case highlights another issue – the extent to which some members of Labour’s shadow team were never destined to take up the ministerial portfolio they had been shadowing. As Table 4.1 indicates, of the twenty-two members of Blair’s first Cabinet, eight did not act as shadows for the portfolio they subsequently received on 2 May 1997. This also partly explains the variable nature of the contact between shadow ministerial teams and Whitehall departments during this period. One example is the case of Derek Foster, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster [1995–97] who, prior to the General Election had been leading Labour’s programme for constitutional reform and in particular its Freedom of Information programme. After the election, David Clark was given the portfolio and Foster was appointed to the less prestigious role of Minister of State at the Office of Public Service, under Clark. After two days in this post, he resigned and publicly criticised Blair for reneging on promises he had made to him (Rentoul 2001: 541; Seldon 2004: 215). Peter Kilfoyle, who had worked in the Shadow Education team prior to 1997, but who then served as a minister in the Cabinet Office, observes that: Let us go back to the weekend of May 1997 because frankly I do not think that any of us had any real idea what went on here. There was no role as such spelt out. We turned up at the start of the week not having a clue exactly what the role was and part of that was due to the fact that you will remember there was some confusion over one Mr. Derek Foster. He had held the Shadow and to my knowledge there was no body of policy or thinking which had been handed on either to David Clark or myself, so we were starting with a blank sheet ... I had no connection whatsoever with what Foster was doing.

Table 4.1 Labour’s shadow front bench 1996–7 and first cabinet Portfolio

Shadow front bench 1996–7

Blair’s first cabinet 1997

Leader of the Opposition/ Prime Minister

Tony Blair

Tony Blair

Defence

David Clark

Duchy of Lancaster

Derek Foster

George Robertson David Clark

Education and Employment

David Blunkett

David Blunkett

Pre-1997 Environment Post-1997 Environment, Transport & Regions

Frank Dobson

John Prescott

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Gavin Strang

Jack Cunningham

Foreign Office

Robin Cook

Robin Cook

Health

Chris Smith

Frank Dobson

Home Secretary

Jack Straw

Jack Straw

Leader of the House of Commons

Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor

Leader of the House of Lords

Lord Richard

Lord Richard

Lord Chancellor

Lord Irvine

Lord Irvine

Pre-1997 National Heritage Post-1997 Culture, Media and Sport

Jack Cunningham

Chris Smith

Northern Ireland

Mo Mowlam

Mo Mowlam

Overseas [International] Development

Claire Short

Claire Short

Scotland

George Robertson

Donald Dewar

Social Security

Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman

Trade and Industry

Margaret Beckett

Margaret Beckett

Transport

Andrew Smith

Gavin Strang

Treasury

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown

Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling

Wales

Ron Davies

Ron Davies

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David Clark, the minister caught up in the middle of this issue, adopts a pragmatic view: I do not think that at 18 months in advance anyone knew who would or would not hold on to their portfolios. Nobody could guarantee anything but I do see the point that if you have an incoming minister who has shadowed the department, it does make it very much easier. Me and Jack Cunningham went into portfolios that we had never held before. Theakston (1998:13–14) observes that the shadow for the Duchy of Lancaster is specifically required to consider machinery of government and Civil Service issues. He argues that: ... the rapid turnover of Opposition spokesmen did not help: there were four Civil Service spokesmen between 1979 and 1992, and between 1992 and 1997 a series of four shadow Cabinet members ... [It] was by no means the case that Labour – poised to take power – had in the mid-1990s, a clear and coherent set of policies on the Civil Service, or an effective alternative of its own to the Conservative Government’s programme. One other issue Clark raises is that individual attitudes of Conservative Cabinet ministers were also important. Pre-1997, Clark was the Defence Shadow with Michael Portillo as Defence Secretary: Michael Portillo was an easy man to shadow as when I say ‘easy’ I mean that he understood the reality of politics and he was an honourable man. If you struck a deal with Portillo, he would stick with it, which was not my experience of his predecessors. So Portillo made it easier at the end of the day. In the case of the Welsh Office, civil servants who had contact with the Labour Shadow team were aware that the incumbent Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague, was a staunch opponent of any form of devolution. As one senior official in the Welsh Office noted: I joined the Welsh Office nine months before the General Election and I realised that it was very embattled and a key issue was that William Hague had taken a very strong line against devolution. The department was anxious about doing anything internally about

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the issue or having any contacts with regard to the possibility of devolution. The interviews also revealed the extent to which some key machinery of government issues were not discussed. There were two notable ‘machinery of government’ reforms which the Labour Party in opposition did not openly reveal to the Civil Service: moving responsibility for setting interest rates from the Treasury to the Bank of England and setting-up the Monetary Policy Committee; and the establishment of the Department of Environment Transport and Regions. In the first case, political statecraft played a significant part in explaining why Whitehall was not in the loop. Rawnsley (2001: 31–32; see also Routledge 1998; Bower 2004; Seldon 2004) observes that the decision was one which Brown and Blair [and their closest advisers] had decided on during the weekend after the General Election and that: ‘... delaying until later in the life of the government – Treasury civil servants had initially reacted by saying they needed a month to prepare – would expose them to the accusation that they had been forced into it because they weren’t competent to run the economy.’ When, on Tuesday 6 May 1997, Brown announced that he was transferring these powers, the Labour Cabinet had yet to meet. Rentoul (2001: 331) observes: ‘A decision of momentous importance for the future ... and arguably the sovereignty of Parliament had been taken – Brown proposing and Blair disposing – within the tiny core of New Labour in Opposition.’ Whitehall and, more specifically, the Treasury were caught by surprise at the pace of events. A very senior member of the Treasury argued that Labour’s policy was specifically not to reveal too much, having learnt its lessons from 1987 and 1992: They [Labour] did not give the Conservatives nearly as much to shoot at which proved to be pretty successful. Only one of the key things which affected the Treasury was declared; that was Gordon’s fiscal policy which was quite clear and had been outlined in a number of speeches. In contrast, operational independence for the Bank of England was not declared, although there were one or two hints, and few, if any, in the Treasury knew it would happen. He continued: The granting of independence to the Bank was a very touchy subject with the Governor who felt that when he was told about the

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independence of the Central Bank, he thought this to mean there might be a change in supervision or something. So when he was told ten days later ‘We are going to do this!’ he thought ‘Christ ... they must have known a week ago and they did not tell me’. So in a way there was some bad faith and it created a rather difficult period. At the same time, Brown’s team also announced the creation of a new Financial Service Agency to regulate the City. A role which the Treasury had also previously been responsible for. As another senior Treasury official observed: The creation of a single financial regulator was a surprise ... So some things were well known about in advance but others were a surprise. If you look at the Bank of England decision, we were amazed at the comprehensive amount of work and preparation they had done in opposition. Another Treasury official felt that these events did impact on morale within the department, which was loosing a major lever of macroeconomic policy without any prior consultation: It had hugely contrasting effects. Some people thought it was wrong and did not like the way it was handled. I had always been a proindependence person and had failed at various attempts to get it adopted. By and large people, I think, were very impressed at the amount of thinking on this they had done and so we went ahead with arranging it and everything went ahead. People who write books in thirty years will probably point to that as an example of good government. Brown had a well-documented, uneasy relationship with his first Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, Terry Burns, whom he privately identified with the previous Conservative regime (see Routledge 1998; Rawnsley 2001; Lipsey 2000; Bower 2004; Foster 2005, see also Chapter 6). Seldon (2004: 668) observes: ‘Some officials who had worked in the Treasury all their lives, found themselves out in the cold. Above all, Terry Burns, the ... most senior Civil Servant in the department, found himself excluded from Brown’s inner thoughts.’ In 1998, Burns took early retirement. The DETR merger raised different issues, but as with the Bank of England, political statecraft was a factor. Seldon (2004: 415) claims the

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merger was predominantly about Blair balancing the relationship between Brown and Prescott, by ensuring Prescott had a suitable power base in Whitehall. Richard Caborn, a member of the Shadow team, argued that the Civil Service had been taken unawares by the DETR merger: Well I think that it certainly shocked them. There couldn’t have been much resistance, as nobody knew what was going to happen until day one. It had not been trailed at all. Nobody had written a single world about fusing transport and environment together with the regions. You can look right back through the election and it was never leaked. Caborn was categorical about the lack of contact between the shadow Labour team and the old Department of Environment, despite the obvious ‘machinery of government’ issues involved. His explanation for not making more of the available facility was put down to caution on his team’s behalf: All I know is that besides the normal courtesies that were going on to my knowledge there were only two meetings with the Permanent Secretary before we came in. And he was told broadly what we would like to do. I think the problem was that we’d had so many bloody defeats that we were dubious about actually having too much contact. Remember that none of us had actually been in power before. In contrast, a senior official in the newly formed DETR claimed Whitehall was not totally surprised by the reorganisation: It was sprung in the sense that it was not in the manifesto ... I happened to know, because I had been tipped off, that Prescott was going to be the environment/transport supremo, although the model which would be used was unknown. So I made contact on a very confidential basis with Prescott and had some discussions with him about it. However, neither of us could declare that because it would have looked like Prescott saying ‘Hey Frank [Dobson] ... I’m taking your job’ and it was not clear what job Frank was going to get. This merger and the lack of consultation was counter to the spirit of the formal agreement between Kinnock and Major and the need to extend

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the timetable of discussions between the opposition and Whitehall to address significant changes to the ‘machinery of government’. The themes that emerged from this study of the extended contact time made available to the Labour Opposition between January 1996– 1997 was: the degree of uncertainty or even lack of awareness on the part of Whitehall concerning the revised guidelines; the extensive variation in the nature of contacts across different Whitehall departments; a clear blurring of lines between what actually constituted ‘machinery of government’ as opposed to policy issues; and finally, political expediency dictated that on certain issues, Labour were not prepared to reveal their hand to Whitehall on certain machinery of government issues.

Analysing the 1997 transition process How well-prepared were Labour for office? There is a clear imbalance that exists between the Government and Civil Service and an opposition party on the brink of gaining power. As a very senior Treasury official observed: ‘The problem is not so much with relations between the opposition and us but there is an issue about the resources for policy development provided to the opposition which is, at the moment, puny.’ Whitehall has a vast array of experienced personnel it can draw on, a wealth of institutional memory, expertise in policy-making and continuity, especially in terms of current knowledge on often highly classified issue. An opposition party has a limited team of front-benchers, a small, dedicated research staff and a number of sympathetic pressure groups or think-tanks it can depend on to help formulate its policies and, in the light of the secrecy associated with the Westminster model of government: ‘... an information bank almost wholly restricted to open material in the most closed information society in the advanced world’ (Hennessy 1989: 284). The point at which an opposition party enters office: ... when temporary ministers meets the permanent government, a tussle royal can begin. Unless the politician has a rich personal past experience on which to draw or is particularly well prepared thanks to painstaking opposition staff work, the contest, in the initial stages at least, can be as unequal as that between a small territorial army and regiment after regiment of crack regular troops. This imbalance in resources between Whitehall and the Opposition was exacerbated in 1997 by Labour’s highly inexperienced front-bench

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team. As Theakston (1998:14) observes, the new ministerial team would be: ‘... facing a very steep learning curve’. Blair and his closest advisers were aware of this issue and to address it, seminars were organised for the Party’s shadow ministerial teams. The first seminar series was at Templeton College, Oxford, on the theme of How to be a Minister (see Theakston 1998; Kavanagh and Seldon 2000; Foster 2005). Foster (2005:160) observes that participation by Labour’s front-bench was ‘patchy’, being mainly attended by juniors and special advisers, while Kavanagh and Seldon (2000: 250) note that: ‘... none of the so-called ‘Big Four’ – Blair, Brown, Cook and Prescott – attended’. The second series was organised by the Fabian Society, chaired by Peter Hennessy and involved former civil servants, political advisers and Labour’s frontbench. It addressed the theme of the Hardware and Software of the State (Hennessy et al 1997; Theakston 1998) and aimed to: ... smooth out in advance some of the problems commonly associated with the transition of power between parties; to help an incoming Labour Administration to avoid some of the errors of the Conservative Government ... ; and to get the best out of the Civil Service. The aspiration was that the meetings would contribute towards a clearer understanding between the administrative and political elements of government and achieve a smooth and effective meshing of the permanent and the transient. (Hennessy et al 1997: 1) Elsewhere, in terms of preparation, a new edition of Gerald Kaufman’s How to Be a Minister was published, but much of the advice given was out-dated, drawing from his experience at junior ministerial level in the 1974–9 Labour Administration (see Kaufman 1980, 1997; Foster 2005: 159). Tony Blair, from early in 1996, regularly used Roy Jenkins as a confidant to prepare him for office (see Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 242; Seldon 2004: 269; Ashdown 2000: 346). Despite these preparations, and the extended contact time available to the front–bench to consult with Whitehall, the key resource which the future Labour Cabinet lacked and which it could do nothing about, was experience in office. As a senior member of the Cabinet Office reflected: Of course, not many people in the Labour government had held office before, but they had tried to address that by having the Templeton College courses. I do not think that this is an area where you look back to precedent really. I think it is better to say to

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yourself, ‘Here are the new government and what do they want and what will they be faced with’. The few Labour ministers who had some experience in the last Labour Government cited how important this proved. Jack Cunningham argued that: ‘I had been a minister before and some of the young officials from the 1970s were still around, for example the Cabinet Secretary. So I had lots of contacts – both formally and informally’. In the same vein, Margaret Beckett claimed: Previous ministerial experience was a massive benefit. This helped me understand the dynamics of Whitehall and helped me manage my officials. Of course, it also gives you extra weight in the eyes of your officials. We attended some training courses at Templeton College in Oxford which were adequate and there were no glaring omissions, but the problem had been that a lot of people had been unable to attend. For me, the key issue was that no training could prepare you for the pressure of ministerial life, only experience helps. As one of the few ministers with previous experience, I would often receive informal requests for advice from new ministers from other departments asking what to do if certain problems or issues arose. Finally, of course, being an official front bench spokesperson has also been a great help, as I developed an in-depth knowledge of the department, issues, structure, problems and the sheer workload that being a Cabinet minister involves. Officials concurred with the view that some previous experience in government was beneficial. A senior Home Office official commented on Jack Straw: ‘I think we were fortunate in that we got a Secretary of State who had worked in government before as a special adviser and I sense that he knew very well what government departments are like and how they operate.’ Most ministers felt that the sessions/seminars at Templeton College and the Fabian Society were of limited use. David Clark argued: I do not think there had ever been a Cabinet who had prepared itself so well for coming into power. I think it is not just the efforts of the permanent secretaries but also the training at Templeton College and all that went on ... We had a number of former permanent

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secretaries who talked us through issues. So there was a massive amount of preparation that went on. Another minister, without previous Cabinet experience, was less effusive about the preparations for government: Yes I did go to Templeton college. And I read Kaufman’s book and went to a Fabian seminar. The only thing I took away from all of that, which is irrelevant to me, was that they tried to describe the difference between the private office and the department and said that if I had an affair it would not be possible to keep it from the private office but you can expect the private office to keep it from the department. That was basically the only knowledge equipment I had when I came into government. I’m sure it was wrong as well! Bower (2004: 202) claims that the Templeton College meetings in particular, which emphasised the need for ministers to ‘avoid capture’ by departments, made Labour’s shadow ministerial team suspicious and did more to harm, rather than help build, relations with the Civil Service. Finally, in the lead up to the election, some Whitehall departments observed how well prepared certain shadow ministerial teams were, through their extensive contacts with relevant groups in civil society. The nature of the British political system does little to support opposition parties in terms of research or policy development. An opposition party, lacking a formal institutional structure to call on for policymaking, such as the Civil Service, utilises sympathetic think-tanks, non-governmental organisations or other actors such as the private sector to help formulate policy.10 For example, in the DTI, Margaret Beckett and her team went to great lengths to ensure they had developed their business contacts prior to office (see also Cohen 1999, 2003; Grant 2000; Walden 2001). A senior DTI official observed the extent to which they had prepared: I think they were exceptionally well prepared in terms of knowing what the business community wanted. There had been very clear contacts between the business community and shadow ministers so they came in very well informed. I think the area that they did find difficult was that most of them had been working prior to office

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in very small groups of people. They rarely had more than two assistants and they had to learn to draw on and use the army that they inherited and that was difficult for some of them. How well-prepared was Whitehall for a New Labour Government? When John Major called the General Election on the 18 March 1997 and Parliament was prorogued, Whitehall switched to automatic, having in place a set of conventions and rules defining its modus operandi in this transition period. The formal view offered by the Cabinet Office on the 1997 election period averred that once the manifestos were published, all the political parties were out canvassing the public not talking to the Civil Service. During this time, Whitehall was completing the Red and Blue books based on the different manifestos. These dossiers targeted what the Civil Service saw as the short, medium and long term aims/objectives of the party programmes. Hennessy (1989: 290) claims that the: ‘... manifesto can be greeted in Whitehall with all the enthusiasm that awaits a plague of bacillus.’ But the manifesto is: ‘... only the tip of the iceberg’ (Cabinet Office official). The Civil Service also target the political programmes of the parties by looking at the more detailed manifestos, for example, in the case of the Department of Trade and Industry, it was Labour’s Business Manifestos, as well as examining the available policy statements and shadow ministerial speeches. The Cabinet Office argued that during the lead up to the General Election, Whitehall has to ensure that the incumbent government remained on a: ‘... care and maintenance programme. But the Civil Service has to be careful to decide what is the difference between supporting government policies, or promoting party political arguments’ (Cabinet Office official). The Cabinet Office also claimed that Whitehall was conscious of a new minister being ‘captured’ or swamped, when welcomed into the embrace of the department. Officials therefore tried to be as responsive as possible to a new minister’s demands. As importantly, when in 1997 each Labour Cabinet Minister was presented with the Red Book by their department, it was made clear that: ‘... this dossier to the minister is by no means a fait accompli but is there simply as a starting point for discussion’ (Cabinet Office official). Not all ministers regarded the Red books as an important resource. Margaret Becket, who was generally very positive about her civil servants, argued that she had no files specifying different types of

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agendas when she took office, although she did not regard this as a problem: Transition in the DTI was certainly less formal than in the Home Office. There were no files stating short, medium and long term issues on which decisions needed to be taken. This resulted from the clarity of ideas and policies which were in place. There was, in a sense, no need for great debates or briefings, as everyone knew pretty much what needed to be done and what the schedule was for doing it. The transition process was very much ‘ministerial led rather than official led’. Although this was not the case in several departments where the government policies were rather less well defined. The department had, of course, prepared the standard incoming ministers briefing packs which were helpful to ensure that the realities of office would not spring any nasty surprises. One final point on the dossiers is that each one contained the projected target costs for individual policy proposals. Here, an observation of a former permanent secretary in the MOD, Frank Cooper is worth relaying on Whitehall’s approach to the manifestos: I’m sure they [civil servants] think about them very constructively in all cases. They think, ‘Oh my god, is this really going to happen? But being a decent, hard-working bunch of people, they will then scratch their heads and do at least some ... preliminary thinking if the minister really does insist on this happening ... how could this actually be brought about, what are the pitfalls, what are the consequences? (cf. Hennessy, 1989: 291) The point here is that the costing mechanism involved in compiling the dossiers presents an opportunity for a department that is unenthusiastic about a specific policy to signal its reservations to an inexperienced minister. Although, Blunkett suggested that the costings were really about establishing the territory for future battles with the Treasury: They [the costings] weren’t accurate. In some cases, for instance on class size, they were massively exaggerated. But you’ve got to bear in mind that departments do that instinctively because they want their Secretary of State to immediately to go into battle with the Treasury, and immediately you’re presented with information that would have

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you believe you would have to double your budget within two years. Elsewhere, one senior official from the DSS claimed his department had come under political pressure from the incumbent minister Peter Lilley over the issue of costing: I’m sure there were some areas where Labour were surprised at our costings, although I would not want to be specific. Obviously the costings can vary depending on the assumptions you attach to them. It was difficult for us as officials because Peter Lilley also knew what the proposals were, so there was pressure from there to put the worst possible gloss on things. We were working on the most likely assumptions, but these can be changed to produce the highest possible cost. Finally, the Cabinet Office, reflecting on the 1997 transition experience, highlighted three points it felt important. The first is that the formal transition period, in 1997 it was six weeks, was an insubstantial period of time for analysing each of the political parties’ projected political commitments. An obvious example of this was devolution. This clearly goes back to the issue of all formal discussions predating the proroguing of Parliament being conducted solely on ‘machinery of government’ issues. As noted above, the practice somewhat differed from the guidelines in this case. Second, to properly understand the nature of the existing arrangements, it is important to recognise that they are underpinned by the adversarial nature of the British political system. Conducting discussions with opposition teams while at the same time serving the requirements of an incumbent government requires sensitive handling. Finally, a coalition government has not tested the existing arrangements. The Cabinet Office felt that: ‘... it would be interesting to speculate whether or not the present system could survive such a test and remain intact.’11 It came as no surprise to discover that no individual, either ministers or civil servants, wished for an overhaul of the existing system. This can be interpreted as an instinctive concern by the core executive that radical change would lead to the need to rethink some of the fundamentals of the Westminster model. Throughout the interviews, a defence was offered for the overall principles on which the process was conducted. In the case of the civil servants, they felt their departments played an effective role in the transition process. Ministers felt that the

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process was generally an effective one, but some had reservations. The transition from a Conservative Administration was always going to present a number of teething problems, especially given the lack of experience by the majority of the actors involved in the process. However, the view of one very senior Whitehall official was that it was overwhelmingly successful because it was in the interest of both sides for it to work: I think there was a time when officials were not attuned to the difficulties faced by someone coming in. I think in 1997, the Civil Service was very conscious on giving them practical bits of help in that way. What you are doing is building up a new relationship almost over night. People write in the media about officials capturing ministers, but that is not the way that officials think about it. What the officials want is that things will work with a swing; that they will have good personal relations and it will work out well for the department and for the country. That is what is motivating them. There was a good deal of nervousness on the officials’ part and I’m sure a good deal on the ministers’ side, but in general, both parties will want to meet each other half way and will want the thing to take off and gel. The view from the Treasury was that it felt it was well-prepared in the lead up to the election. As one Treasury official observed: I was quite closely involved and we’d put a lot of effort on the budget process handling arrangements asking ‘how were we going to do all this?’ We looked at all the spending plans and thought through how we would recommend they did things. It was then extremely helpful to have this dialogue with Balls as that enabled us to test out some things which they confirmed and also on some things they said they wanted to do things a different way. So we had a second round of planning in early 1997 and I think that meant that we were well prepared to run this crash budget exercise. We had drawn up detailed plans before they arrived for delivering the budget for either the 10th June or the 2nd of July. In the end, they went for the later date but we were geared up so that we could have gone for the earlier date which would have been within six weeks of the election. So in process planning terms I think it worked pretty well.

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A senior official from the DTI felt that the process of transition had gone smoothly: We were lucky that we’d had a lot of contact with Ian McCartney and we had a good manifesto to work from. In the areas where I was most concerned, we had what I considered to be enough contact to be able to produce stuff which enabled us to bat off the front foot rather than the back after the election.12 A senior official in the Home Office also felt that the transition had been a success: We were, rightly or wrongly, very pleased with how the transition had gone. I think that was partly due to the effort which Richard Wilson (then Permanent Secretary) made. In a sense, we did it collect ively but he gave it enormous drive and was determined to produce something as good as possible. Going through the whole process was helpful in that it got us into the right frame of mind for change. It made us research and open our eyes to what might happen. The efficacy of the transition process did vary across departments, as well as between departments. As one DTI official argued: From my perspective it worked pretty well in relation to policy on small firms. They had said they were going to reform and enhance business links and the emphasis turned out to be on enhancing and improving quality, which was something we were keen on anyway. There was more confusion on the regional side because it was not clear what the Labour Party’s priorities were for regional government. I think devolution is also quite interesting because a lot of work had gone on in Scotland on how exactly devolution would work. So, we suddenly found there was a clear Scottish blueprint for devolution but nothing for England or Wales. The ministers interviewed also reflected on the extent to which the Civil Service had prepared for a change in government. Margaret Beckett who had observed the reticence the DTI had displayed in engaging in pre-election meetings, nevertheless felt that the Department was well briefed on what Labour’s policies would be and that: ‘... they were keen to embrace change’. Dan Corry, a Labour Special Adviser in the DTI,

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while broadly agreeing with his minister, offers a different perspective: When you come in to government it is a frightening moment. They have read the manifesto backwards, but you know that a lot of it is a compromise and some of the words are put in to stop someone going berserk. Similarly, they over-interpreted the speeches. Harriet Harman, Labour’s first Secretary of State at the DSS, expressed similar views. She felt that Whitehall was well prepared for a change of government: ‘On the New Deal for Lone Parents, they were totally on the mark. Absolutely. They had totally worked out what needed to be done’. The New Deal did raise an issue identified by various officials from other departments; even if a departmental directorate had extensive contacts with the relevant Shadow team, the constraints on the discussions meant that they rarely went into sufficient detail on policy for the department to be sure of Labour’s priorities. In the case of the New Deal, a DSS official noted that, despite the extent to which his policy directorate prepared in the transitional phase, they still failed to appreciate the degree to which it would become a cornerstone policy for Labour in its first term: The one thing in retrospect was that we missed a crucial element of their policy proposals. I’m not sure if they did not tell us or if we did not realise what priority they would place on it, but we underestimated the importance of the New Deal which did become quite a significant policy. The priority that they would be affording to that did not come over in those meetings. Elsewhere, there were a number of examples provided by ministers who felt that the Civil Service were obstructive as regards a specific policy issue. David Clark, who of course was later sacked, was critical of Whitehall’s preparation for Labour’s Freedom of Information Bill: Well what was amazing was that ... Freedom of Information ... had been specifically rejected by the previous government and because they had been rejected, the Civil Service were instructed not to work on those areas until an election was declared. So on FOI, when I went into the Cabinet Office not a single ‘I’ had been dotted or ‘T’ crossed when I spoke to the Permanent Secretary. One might say what had they been doing for seven weeks while the election was in full swing? All I can say is that was what I found. This example does raise two issues: the extent to which the incumbent Conservative government influenced how much preparation the Civil

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Service did and on what issues; and to what extent did the low level of preparation on Freedom of Information reflect Whitehall’s well-known antipathy to such legislation and which was later reflected in the deradicalisation of Labour’s original proposals when in government (see Richards and Smith 200b; Flinders 2002; Riddell 2005). In terms of explaining inter-department differences, the first point to make relates to a broader theme concerning the degree of policy continuity or exceptionalism between the last Conservative Administration and New Labour. Where there were clear policy disjunctures, more preparation was required. So for example, a DTI official understandably argued that there was much more work to be done in those policy areas where there was less continuity with the incumbent Government: I was concerned with employment relations and competition policy. On employment relations, there was a completely different approach to life but on competition policy there was a similar approach. So, when we tried to work out what the Labour Government would want to do about competition policy, it was pretty clear and didn’t involve much change. In contrast, on employment policy, their policy was about 180 degrees different to what we were doing at the time, so we were less sure. Another senior DTI official, whose policy-remit covered trade, also discovered that there was a degree of continuity between the Conservative Government and Labour’s manifesto commitments: We prepared for the possible change in government through reading the newspapers and reading the manifestos. I think my boss had some meetings with Stuart Bell, who was a Shadow Trade Minister who never actually came to the Department. Trade policy tends to be somewhat bipartisan and I think they thought there was not terribly much that needed to be done in advance. In those areas where policy change was inevitable, civil servants, who according to the guidelines could not talk to shadow ministers about policy, faced a much more difficult task in preparing briefs. There were a number of areas where discussions between shadow ministerial teams and civil servants addressed policy, but they were rarely extensive. Often, civil servants turned to interest groups with close contacts with the Labour Party. A senior official from the Home Office responsible for constitutional issues provides a useful example of the

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issues involved. He commented on how useful the Constitution Unit and in particular, Robert Hazell13 had been in helping prepare for Labour’s programme of constitutional reform in the run-up to the General Election: I’m responsible for a large chunk of the current government’s constitutional programme. Clearly we had speculated on what the change in government might bring and when you know that the government may well change and if you know that government has a lot of plans for your area you are bound to think about it and consider what the implications are. He continued: I did meet (the Shadow Home Office team) every two or three months and talked in very general terms. We were very conscious that it would not have been appropriate or proper for us to get into a close relationship with them or for us to be working on anything other than the objectives of the government of the day. In that sense, the Constitution Unit played a good role as there was good policy work being done which was relevant and was useful background information to the work we did. He also emphasised: ‘... it was perfectly proper for us to have a dialogue with the Constitution Unit’. There is a peculiarity of the rules governing the 1997 transition. Given that Whitehall had to prepare briefs for the Red book based in large part on Labour’s potential future policy preferences, civil servants could talk to interest groups close to the Party, but were not supposed to talk to Labour shadow ministers about policy matters. This is particularly odd, given that they were often already meeting the shadow teams on a regular basis. Almost without exception, the civil servants interviewed found the guidelines prohibiting them from discussing policy to be unhelpful. As a senior Treasury official put it: ‘I would liberalise the rules, as the rules governing the contact between the opposition and civil servants are out of date. You have to work for the government of the day but in the year running up to the election you need to understand what the opposition are thinking.’ A similar point was made by a senior DTI civil servant: I think we need a somewhat greater degree of dialogue and the breaking down of this distinction which says you can talk about

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organisational matters but not about policy ... So I think a greater dialogue on the substance would mean you could get off to a quicker and a smoother start. Another DTI official expanded on this point: Perhaps a more explicit agreement that, in the run up, officials could discuss policy issues with the Shadow Cabinet (would help). I think that from our point of view, there needed to be some preparatory work put in place to help us deliver the priorities that they came in with. We did go beyond the guidelines and discuss some of those issues, but I think I would have liked explicit approval to discuss more explicit policy issues and how we could deliver them, as that is what we had been working on in the six months up to the election. We had analysed all their documents and we could cost them out in fairly broad terms. However, what threw us slightly was that a lot of what was in the prior policy documents in fact did not appear in the manifesto. There is an obvious point here. The adversarial nature of the Westminster system of government means an incumbent government is reluctant to allow the Civil Service to provide help to the opposition. As a senior DSS official pointed out: As a bureaucrat I would have found more contact helpful. But more contact presumes that there will be a change in government. Part of the problem is always how much work you do which may be important. We can never say to the Secretary of State of the day that we cannot do what they want us to do because we are working on the opposition’s policies and getting ready for them. Rarely do ministers acknowledge that they are not going to win. So there is a considerable tension which I do not think can be resolved. I would have preferred more consultation in certain areas ... It would have been a lot easier if we could have spent more time on the employment relations reform ... competition policy gave us a lot of work to do quickly but the massive change was in the employment field. We did hit the ground running but I think we could have spent more time looking at the consequences of signing up to the Social Charter. There is an issue here, which can be traced back to the adversarial nature of the Westminster model, but it should not be overemphasised.

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In practice though, it would make sense to recognise the comments of the interviewees and advocate that transitional talks should involve policy as well as machinery of government issues. Given the present constitutional conventions and the strategic interest of the actors in the core executive to defend the Westminster model, it would be inappropriate to go as far as one of the officials interviewed suggested: ‘I think that it would help if it were accepted as reasonable for a potential incoming government to ask the senior civil service in the specified transitional period to undertake limited work on substance, as well as organisation.’

Conclusion: Defending the Westminster – sustaining the ‘seamless web of government’ In terms of ensuring that the seamless web of government remained intact, the 1997 transition was predominantly a success story (see Hattersley 1998; Jones 1998; Theakston 1998). It was always probable that the core executive would publicly offer the view that constitutional propriety was upheld. In the interviews, ministers and civil servants often implied that it was in the interests of both Labour and Whitehall to ensure that the process was seen to be carried out effectively. It would afford the opportunity to demonstrate the continued relevance of the Westminster model. In the few weeks after Labour took office, apart from a number of teething problems concerning the greater use of departmental special advisers and clashes with Millbank Tower over the replacement of Whitehall Press Officers with Labour’s ‘own people’ (see Chapter 6; Norton-Taylor and MacAskill 1997; Pollard 1997; Cameron 1998; White 1998), the only carbuncle occurred in the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, where John Prescott insisted on referring to his Permanent Secretary, simply as ‘Humphrey’.14 The conclusion that the transition was accomplished without a serious hitch will no doubt gratify the actors involved, given the fact that the shadow Labour ministerial team was wholly inexperienced in the ways of government and that 18 years of Conservative Government meant that only the most senior officials in Whitehall had any experience of working for a different political party. The 1992 KinnockMajor-Butler agreement to revise the existing Douglas-Home rules by extending the period of discussion between Whitehall and the opposition certainly assisted in ensuring a smooth transition. What is also notable about the transition is the speed at which ministers became socialised into the Westminster model’s formal and informal rules of

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the game. Most of the views presented in this chapter are taken from interviews conducted within twelve months of the change in government. It was striking that the language of the Westminster model was already clearly discernible in the views offered by Labour ministers. The extended period of discussion leading up to the transition no doubt contributed to this process, but as important, is the power of the model in shaping the way ministers present themselves (see Richards and Smith 2004a). If we focus on the specifics of the transition process and the lessons it offers, what the interviews reflect is the extent of variability in the way the guidelines were acted on and the quality of contact across different departments. This can be explained by a combination of factors: shadow minsters who knew that in all likelihood they were not to take up their portfolio in the event of a Labour Government; some permanent secretaries who followed the exact letter of the guidelines, so limiting the range of discussions; others who, while aware guidelines existed, were not well versed on their content and so were more willing to engage in extend policy discussions; and shadow ministerial teams who, for political reasons, did not wish to divulge their intentions for taking office. There were a number of incidents which raise concern about undue political pressure being exerted or inappropriate behaviour occurring. First, the lack of preparation by the Cabinet Office on Freedom of Information during the six weeks leading up to the General Election. Here, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this was Whitehall’s way of expressing its lack of enthusiasm for this policy. Second, the apparent pressure that came from Peter Lilley to encourage his DSS officials to exaggerate the costings of Labour’s policies. Indeed, this leads to a wider issue of the way in which Whitehall costs each Party’s programme and the extent to which there is potential for a degree of dissembling to occur; third, the influence the incumbent Conservative Administration, and in particular William Hague, wielded over officials in the Welsh Office to do little, if no preparation on Labour’s devolution plans. The revised guidelines also highlighted the peculiarity of a system that permits officials to talk to relevant NGO’s about Labour’s policy proposals, but does not allow them to discuss this subject with Labour’s Shadow teams. Finally, it was apparent that the formal requirement that machinery of government issues alone should be discussed, in practice was difficult, if not impossible to sustain. In terms of lesson drawing from the 1997 experience, it is clear that the revised Douglas-Home rules extending the consultation time should

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be retained. Six or seven weeks to prepare for a change in government is inadequate and not one interviewee opposed the change. This change appears to have been accepted, as an interview in 2002 with Andrew Lansley, then a Shadow Cabinet Office minister, revealed that Richard Wilson [then Cabinet Secretary] had contacted William Hague [then Leader of the Conservative Party] in Autumn 2000, in order to set in place an extended period of consultation leading up to the June 2001 General Election. What was also clear from the 1997 transition was the extent to which nearly all officials felt that a mechanism to enable them to discuss policy with the Opposition would have been of benefit. The problem here is the adversarial nature of the Westminster system of government and the need for Whitehall to maintain an effective working relationship with the party in power. A potential solution is to second civil servants to work for the opposition for an extended period of time leading up to a General Election. This would also overcome the issue of the rather limited resources that opposition parties presently draw on, while also potentially improving the quality of policymaking. But of course, such a change would raise concerns over the political neutrality of officials. The alternative is to relax the existing guidelines to enable officials to question the opposition over their policy proposals to gain a greater understanding of party thinking and priorities. This is not to suggest that civil servants should be providing policy advice to the opposition. It is worth pointing out that in 1997, the department that was constantly identified by almost all those interviewed as being best prepared for government was the DfEE. It was this department, of course, that was most willing to adopt a flexible approach to the existing guidelines and where extensive policy discussion had occurred. Policy discussions may marginally help the opposition test out its policy, although they have alternative fora where this can be done.15 In many ways, such discussions are more important for civil servants than for shadow ministers, because they have to be suitably prepared for a change of government. Andrew Lansley revealed that the Conservatives discussed a number of machinery of government issues with Whitehall in the lead up to the 2001 General Election, but also: ... in so far as policy talks took place, they were to discuss the priorities that should be given to particular activities ... The instruction that was given to shadow cabinet ministers in our discussions with

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permanent secretaries was that we could, by all means, explain what some of our policy priorities would be, but this would be for the purpose of information, not for debate. If it is the case that a greater flexibility towards policy discussions has been agreed then this should be applauded. Such an arrangement might take up more of Whitehall’s resources, but any extra expense involved is justified, if it enhances the effectiveness of the transition process.

5 Labour and the Civil Service: From Managerialism to a Reconstituted Westminster Model

The principal challenge is to shift focus from policy advice to delivery. Delivery means outcomes. It means project management. It means adapting to new situations and altering rules and practice accordingly. It means working not in traditional departmental silos. It means working naturally with partners outside of Government. It’s not that many individual civil servants aren’t capable of this. It is that doing it requires a change of operation and of culture that goes to the core of the Civil Service. (Tony Blair, speech on reforming the Civil Service, 24 February 2004) I think there is a big challenge for the Civil Service about whether we’ve created a kind of irreversible shift, but Sir Andrew Turnbull’s tenure as Cabinet Secretary has been very much specifically focussed on a delivery making thing, making a delivery machine. And I think that there’s evidence from what’s happening in terms of targets that that is happening. (Official from the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, interviewed by the author, May 2005)

Introduction This chapter examines the reform process pursued by the Labour Administration and its impact on the Civil Service. It considers the 95

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Table 5.1

Competing narratives of governance Governance narrative One

Governance narrative Two

‘Hollowed-out State’ [Rhodes, 1996, 1997; Rhodes et al 2003]

‘Re-constituted State’ [Marsh, Richards and Smith 2001, 2003; Richards and Smith 2002]

‘Modern Governance’ Approach [see Peters 2000]

‘State-Centric’ Approach [see Peters 2000]

Forces of governance

Globalisation, Internationalisation, NPM, Neo-liberal reforms, Devolution etc.

Globalisation, Internationalisation, NPM, Neo-liberal reforms, Devolution etc.

Nature of policymaking arena

Multiple actors across a variety of terrains

Multiple actors across a variety of terrains

Nature of policyimplementation

Multiple service delivery

Multiple service delivery

Organising perspective of the political system

Differentiated polity [Rhodes 1997]

Asymmetric polity [Marsh, Richards and Smith 2003]

Impact on state power

Oligopoly of the political market place – neo-pluralist

Concentrated – elitist

Impact of change on Core Executive

Core Executive power eroded by state transformation

Core Executive power sustained by strategic response to state transformation

Reform of Whitehall under New Labour

Elite failure to recognise extent of differentiation – reforms therefore premised on a misconceived diagnosis.

Attempt to reinvigorate the Westminster model [WM2] while enhancing autonomy for policy delivery agents [NPM2]

Literature

extent to which Labour responded to the challenge identified by the pathology of governance narrative. But it also recognises the contingency of Labour’s reforms on the need to preserve the Westminster model of government. The Blair Administration’s approach to reform can be framed by a need to resolve a dilemma: how to ensure (central)

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political control while at the same time enhancing (devolved) administrative autonomy. This dilemma is not unique to New Labour, it is one previous governments confronted. Drawing from an historical institutionalist approach, the chapter presents an overview of attempts by past administrations to resolve this issue. From this, an analytical framework is constructed that is used to explore the ‘Modernising Government’ programme New Labour pursued after 1997 (see Table 5.1). This is a dual strategy based on pursuing increased devolution and delegation of service delivery through an enhanced multiple service-agency approach, while retaining and bolstering the Government’s controlling capacity at the centre. The chapter concludes by arguing that this dual strategy can be interpreted as a radical break from the past, as Labour imposed a new bureaucratic settlement on Whitehall. Nevertheless, reform has to be understood in a context in which the Government has continued to sustain, and in many ways reconstitute, rather than challenge, the Westminster model.

Developing a framework for analysing New Labour’s reforms At the heart of the governance debate Labour confronted when in opposition was the extent to which the changing nature of the policymaking arena had eroded the centre’s capacity to exert control. As we saw in Chapter 3, the literature can be characterised by two contrasting narratives: • the ‘hollowed-out state’ thesis which avers that the nature of state transformation is best understood as a transition from a Weberian, hierarchical model to a complex mix of markets, networks, and hierarchies (see Rhodes 1996, 1997; Bevir and Rhodes 2003a, 2006; Pierre 2000; Pierre and Peters 2000; Rhodes et al 2003; Jessop 2004). Whitehall has seen its power eroded through a process of hollowingout, so undermining its capacity to impose control on policy. These arguments are characterised by the ‘differentiated polity model’; • the ‘reconstituted-state’ thesis also accepts that forces such as globalisation, marketisation and new public management have transformed the nature of the state, but argues that the asymmetrical, structural position of the core executive, relative to other actors in the policy process, ensures it is strongly placed to respond to these forces (see Marsh, Richards and Smith 2001, 2003; Richards 2005; Richards and Smith 2002, 2004a, 2004b, 2006a, 2006b; Saward 1997; Davies 2000;

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Holliday 2000; Taylor 2000; Marinetto 2003). State transformation has not merely been a constraint on the core executive, but has also presented opportunities. Here, the relationship between state change and the response of the core executive is understood as contingent and interactive. The core executive possesses both the resources and strategic-learning capabilites to reshape its existing capacities and develop new forms of intervention to sustain its position as the dominant actor in the policy-making arena. These arguments are characterised by the Asymmetric Power Model. From a different perspective, Peters’ (2000) characterisation of the literature on governance embraces similar themes. He identifies two approaches towards governance: the first is ‘old’ or ‘traditional governance’ which refers to a state-centric analysis concerned with: ‘identifying the capacity of the centre of government to exert control over the rest of government and over the economy and society’; the second is ‘new’ or ‘modern governance’ which questions: ‘how the centre of government interacts with society to reach mutually acceptable decisions, or whether society actually does more self-steering rather than depending upon guidance from government’ (Peters, 2000: 36). The various approaches in the governance literature are not mutually exclusive; the ‘hollowed-out state’ literature is broadly aligned to the ‘modern governance’ approach, while the ‘reconstituted-state’ literature draws from the tradition of the ‘state-centric’ approach (see Table 5.1). These contrasting narratives of governance are used to explore the Blair Government’s agenda for modernising government and reforming Whitehall. From an historical institutionalist perspective, an informed account of the Blair era needs to be located within a framework that identifies path dependency – the extent to which strategic choices made in the past have shaped the options available to New Labour when addressing the relationship between political control and administrative autonomy.

Past and present approaches to political control versus administration autonomy Until recently, few commentators have dissented from the view that the nature of Britain’s political system, reflected in the Westminster model, was designed to accrue a high degree of power at the heart of government. For example, in the 1970s, a former Conservative minister, Lord Hailsham, when delivering the BBC Dimbleby Lecture lamented that Britain in effect had a five-year ‘elective dictatorship’.1 More

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recently, Peters (2000: 42) from a comparative perspective has observed that: By appearing to argue that the state, or the centre of government, is largely incapable of ruling, it appears to refuse to consider that indeed there are cases in which the centre may be effective. That variance may be by country, with the state in some countries – Singapore, Iraq [sic], but also the United Kingdom – having a great deal of capacity to achieve compliance from society. If we turn to an alternative literature, a disjuncture emerges. The observations from various politicians portray a different picture. Scattered through the recent memoirs of former Conservative and Labour ministers are testimonies expressing frustration and a sense of failure concerning Whitehall’s inability to deliver on intended policy goals.2 A conundrum emerges between the view that the British state offers a high level of power concentrated at the centre and the testaments of practitioners that there is a lack of capacity to ensure the effective delivery of their policy goals (see Bevir and Rhodes 2007). Marsh and Rhodes’ (1992: 184) case-study approach to analysing policy-making observes that: ‘... the British administrative system is not designed to give the centre hands-on control over local officials.’ As we saw Chapters 2 and 3, governments in the post-war era when addressing issues that have arisen in the policy-making arena, have tended to opt for a broadly state-centric response: to reform the machinery of government in such a way as to further concentrate powers at the centre, in the hope that such a solution will improve the delivery of policy beyond Whitehall (see Kavanagh and Richards 2001). It is easy to discern the imprint of both a modernist value-set and a firmly embedded belief by the core executive in the utility of the Westminster model. Where problems arise, they are not regarded as systemic, but localised. A solution can always be found within, not beyond the existing model. The Westminster model therefore acts as the primary influence mediating the institutional response of the core executive. The boundaries it imposes direct the core executive towards pursuing reforms that enhance its own power, based on a view that this will provide an adequate solution to existing issues within the policy-making arena. A key theme of the governance narrative has been to challenge the Westminster model and the hermetically sealed image it presents of power being located in a single, observable terrain, that of Westminster

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and Whitehall. Governance suggests power is increasingly being delegated to managers and markets. One issue this raises is the extent to which the capacity of the centre to exert political control had been eroded. There is something of a false polarity between the traditional image of an all-powerful, executive depicted by the Westminster model and the governance narrative of power being increasingly eroded or devolved from the centre. There has always been a sense of frustration within the core executive of the Westminster model’s view of government. Theoretically, it offers substantial powers to the centre, but in practice, there is a sense of frustration, when disjunctures surface between the formulation and implementation stages of the policy process. In an era of governance, conflicts have not necessarily become more pronounced, but instead, should be understood as part of an on-going process whereby government makes advances in some areas and is pushed backed in others.3 As we see in Table 5.2, the potential conflict or dilemma between political control and administrative autonomy pre-dates the era of governance. Westminster Model 1 (WM1): 1940s–mid-1970s The Westminster model is based on a simple assumption about the relationship between the political and administrative. Authority is located with politicians. The role of officials is to implement the political decisions of ministers. Ministers are responsible for public goods and there is limited scope for autonomy amongst civil servants. In this model, public servants are what Le Grand (2003) labels ‘knights’ – they are altruistic actors ensuring that politicians service the general interest and act in a public service manner to deliver public goods. The belief was that it was ministers who made policy decisions; policy was formulated by officials and implemented by government departments. Keynesian-Welfare State: 1940s–1970s The experience of total war acted as a catalyst for changing the subsequent trajectory of the British state. A post-war commitment to ‘promises, programmes and planning’, led to the organisation of the state premised on the pursuit of a Keynesian-welfare settlement (Harris 1990: 77; cc. Rhodes 2007; Dutton 1997; Jessop 1990, 1994; Dorey 1995; Richards and Smith 2002). This involved a shift in the relationship between the state and civil society and with it, the evolution of a governing model characterised by hierarchical [Weberian], top-down, state-centric control and a homogenous public service ethos. Despite the dominance of the Westminster model during this era, its importance

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Table 5.2 Political control vs administrative autonomy – four models Nature of political control

Nature of administrative autonomy

1940s–mid-1970s: Westminster Model 1 (WM1)

1940s–mid-1970s: KeynesianWelfare State

• Political authority in centre – bureaucrats implement central decisions • Supported through Cabinet system and Parliament sovereignty (Public servants –seen as knights)

• Keynesian-Welfare State • Dual Polity/Sub-Central Government • Hierarchical [Weberian] • Top-down model • State-central control • Policy networks • Homogenous public service ethos

1970s–1997: Transitional period from WM1 to WM2.

Late 1970s–early 1990s: New Public Management 1 (NPM1)

• WMI challenged by critiques offered from both the New Right and the Left. • Nevertheless, Governments continue to offer a robust defence of WM1, although tacit recognition is given to the significant changes taking place in the policy-making arena.

• Principal-Agent model • Principal makes decisions – agent delivers service controlled through markets and contract (Public servants – seen as knaves) • Supported through creation of agencies • Heterarchy • Privatisation • Heterogeneous service cultures

1997–present: a Reconstituted Westminster Model 2 (WM2)

1990s–present: New Public Management 2 (NPM2)

• Political authority in centre • Administrative authority delegated • Re-imposition of central control though targets, regulation and direct political control (Public servants – seen as knights and knaves). • Supported by joined-up-government, Public Service Agreements and the Delivery Unit

• Governance • Authority is delegated; managers develop services to fit purpose, controlled through markets, choice and contract (Public servants – seen as knaves). • Supported by use of market mechanisms in the public sector. • Greater use of third sector.

in reflecting key features of the British system of government and its role in providing a legitimising mythology for core executive power, the reality, as revealed by many politicians and civil servants officials was that policy deliverers experienced relative autonomy from the centre

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(see Bulpitt 1983; Rhodes 1988; Marsh and Rhodes 1992; Marsh et al 2001) and, conversely, the centre paid insufficient attention to delivery (see Pollard 2005). Various accounts contested the notion of power as being hermetically sealed in Parliament and identified the tensions between the local and the national levels and so challenged the accuracy of the model. This has been most clearly expressed in Bulpitt’s (1983) ‘Dual Polity’ thesis and his identification of a breakdown in the centre’s autonomy from the local, as it became increasingly embroiled in ‘low politics’ issues. Elsewhere, Rhodes’ (1988) survey of sub-central government (SCG) beyond Westminster and Whitehall employed a policy-network methodology to identify the labyrinth of relationships involved in the policy process and the constraints this imposed on the centre. Both accounts highlight the fluid nature and ongoing tension between political control and administrative autonomy during this period (see Lowe and Rollings 2000). The New Public Management 1 (NPM1): late 1970s–1990s In the early 1980s, the first wave of new public managerialism took place, as the Conservatives looked to arrest the exponential growth of the Keynesian-Welfare state, by introducing the discipline of the market to public services. NPM was based on a public choice epistemology which averred that politicians would have greater control over the output of public services, if relationships with civil servants were treated as economic rather than hierarchical. Bureaucrats were assumed to be ‘knaves’ not knights (Le Grand 2003) who responded to market signals rather than political commands (not least because, as Hayek points out, market signals are much better at adapting to local situations than political commands from above which do not have sufficient knowledge to deal with issues on the ground). As a consequence, there was an attempt to introduce the principal-agent model into the public sector so that the relationship between government and service provider became one of purchaser and supplier. The New Public Management 2 (NPM2): 1990s–present During the latter stages of the Conservative era, it became increasingly apparent that the principal-agent model provided a restrictive approach to the delivery of public services. It worked where simple contractual relationships were established between the principal and agent, but was

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challenged where relationships were complex and interdependent, for example, where the potential agents were professional groups such as doctors. Moreover, institutional constraints deformed the pure principalagent relationship. For example, under the P-A model, A has to deliver a service that P has predetermined and usually at a pre-agreed price. Once the contract is established, how A delivers the service should be irrelevant to P. However, political structures are often concerned with ‘the how’ as much as ‘the what’. For instance, if the goal of a policy is to reduce hospital waiting lists, this could not be achieved by refusing treatment to certain groups. Political constraints are different from market incentives and constraints. The limitations of the principal-agent model led governments from the early 1990s to develop more sophisticated approaches to public sector reform, recognising that a range of mechanisms could be used. Rhodes (1997) observed that it is the mix that matters. Increasingly, governments have accepted that different types of services need different forms of organisation and delivery mechanisms. Such mechanisms range from traditional public bureaucracy through to privatisation, the use of the third sector and the establishment of semi-autonomous government agencies. In the 1990s and, in particular post-1997, NPM 2 evolved to take account of a broader range of techniques and the difficulties of imposing market mechanisms on the public sector. Reconstituted Westminster Model 2 (WM2) From the 1970s, governments continued to offer a sustained defence of WM1, despite the emergence of various critiques from both the New Right and the Left. But, as we see below, after 1997, the Labour Government introduced public sector reforms to improve the delivery of services. Some of the new mechanisms allowed for the increased autonomy of those involved in the delivery of services. However, greater autonomy reduces the level of political control by Whitehall. Yet, departmental ministers faced with public criticism, crisis or a desire to change outcomes, were concerned with having their ability to assert control curtailed. The last decade has seen attempts by ministers to reassert state authority either directly through bringing delivery agents back within the ambit of Whitehall or indirectly through regulation. Increasingly, Whitehall has been using targets as mechanisms of control because it implies that managers are free to choose the means of delivery, as long as they meet targets (see Hood et al 1998, 1999; Moran

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2003; Barber 2007). According to Tony Blair: ‘Some commentators assert a false dichotomy between national standards and local decentralization. In reality, a strong framework of national standards backed up by enforceable entitlements is an important lever for users and citizens to drive local improvement’ (Speech to the Guardian’s ‘Public Services Summit, 29 January 2004). Along with the delegation of responsibility for delivery (NPM 2), we also increasingly see that the core wants to re-impose old patterns of control (WM2). From this perspective, the approach by New Labour continues a familiar pattern of reform in which the shadow of the Westminster model continues to loom large.

New Labour, delivery and the pathology of governance Unlike its Labour predecessors, the present Blair Administration has shown and maintained an interest in reforming Whitehall with a view to improving policy delivery. Two and a half years into his first term, Tony Blair complained of having ‘scars on my back’ from his attempts to persuade Whitehall departments to improve on policy delivery;4 public servants, he implied, were concentrating on operating in ‘policy chimneys’, protecting their turf and their own interests rather than advancing government programmes (see Kavanagh and Richards 2001; Hyman 2005). By 2002, Blair’s attitude become more strident, when he implied that there were ‘wreckers’ in the public sector trying to undermine Labour’s modernisation programme (see Blair 2002; Peck and Perri 6 2006:1). The signs that Labour was to take up the challenge of reforming Whitehall to change the way policy is made and implemented could be discerned prior to 1997. In opposition, key Labour figures believed that government had lost the ability to operate in a single, unified, coordinated manner across the whole policy spectrum (see Blair 1996; Mandelson and Liddle 1996; Gould 1998). They concluded that this was leading to policy failure predicated on a view that an increasingly fragmented policy-making arena had emasculated the ability of Whitehall to pursue holistic policy programmes that cut across the different functional areas of Whitehall (see Richards and Smith 2000). New Labour saw the key issue as the inability of elected governments to control and co-ordinate policy across Whitehall. One effect of the changed political environment was that policy was being developed in a more isolated, segmented manner, often leading to unintended and

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unforeseen consequences, most notable when different departments pursued conflicting policy goals (see Smith 1999). Since 1997, the Labour Government has implemented a series of reforms aimed at increasing the power that the centre wields. But also seen is the extent to which the Westminster model has conditioned their response. New Labour has drawn from within the confines of this model to find a solution to the problem of fragmentation, a loss of central controlling capacity and implementation failure. In 1996, Blair declared: ‘People have to know that we will run from the centre and govern from the centre’ (see Richards 2004: 37). When in power, the response of the Labour Government has been to impose a model of control across Whitehall and its satellite agencies to wire-the-system back up. Labour’s answer to perceived failings in policy-making has been ‘joined-up-government’ and ‘improvement in service delivery’ based on a model of strong central control from Number 10, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury (Cm4310 1999; Cabinet Office 2000, 2002, 2004, HM Treasury 2006). Labour has also set in place a potentially countervailing force by pursuing a strategy of increasing the local autonomy of the multiple service deliverers (Office of Public Service Reform 2002a; Peters 2000). This prompts the question, to what extent have Labour’s reforms resolved the tension between the need to ensure effective political control and enhance devolved administrative autonomy? To answer this question, the chapter considers the reforms that Labour has introduced at the centre of Whitehall to improve the overall quality of policy-making – this can be understood as a state-centric analysis (WM2). It then addresses the extent to which greater autonomy has been extended to actors beyond Whitehall in order to improve policy delivery – a modern governance analysis (NPM2). IMPROVING POLICY-MAKING IN WHITEHALL – STATE-CENTRIC, CORE EXECUTIVE CONTROL (WM2) How does a government, even one with all the apparent powers of a Prime Minister such as ours, ensure that the vast bureaucracies that are government departments and the even vaster public services actually deliver measurable improvements in performance within a three-to four-year period? (Barber 2007: 71) The view of the newly-elected Labour Government was that it aimed to ‘govern from the centre’. This approach was chosen in the light of

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concerns over the tendency by previous Labour Governments to engage in internecine battles, exacerbated by the functional divisions within Whitehall in the form of departmentalism (see Crossman 1975; Benn 1990; Castle 1984; Callaghan 1987; Healey 1989; Kooiman 1993; Rhodes 1997; Richards and Smith 2000). The seeds of the Blair Administration’s approach can be traced to what is referred to as the Millbank model of control (see Kavanagh and Seldon 2000; Seldon 2004). The model of governing that Blair sought to pursue after 1997 was shaped by the experience of reforming the Labour Party in opposition. These reforms – restructuring the party organisation, abandoning Clause 4 and overhauling its policies to create the ‘New Labour’ brand – were driven from the centre by Blair and a close set of advisers. It was this approach which Blair wished to graft onto Whitehall. The challenge on coming to power was whether such a model was compatible with the firmly entrenched working practices of Whitehall. The rhetoric of the new Blair Government rejected the statist approaches of past Labour Governments for achieving its policy goals. Instead, the emphasis was on control: ‘... the era of “big government means better government” is over ... Leverage, not size, is what counts. What government does, and how well, not how much, is the key to its role in modern society’ (Blair 2003: 132). ‘Control’ was to be the new mantra.5

Labour’s reform programme Mark 1: improving Joined-up Government [JUG] To achieve control, the Blair leadership team initially concluded that it should prioritise greater co-ordination. One of the slogans of the government’s first term was the need for joined-up government [JUG] across Whitehall. From this perspective: The ‘tubes’ or ‘silos’ down which money flows from government to people and localities have come to be seen as part of the reason why government is bad at solving problems. Many issues have fitted imperfectly if at all into departmental slots. Vertical organisation by its nature skews government efforts away from certain activities, such as prevention – since the benefits of preventive action often come to another department. It tends to make government less sensitive to particular client groups whose needs cut across departmental lines. It incentivises departments to dump problems on each other – like schools dumping unruly children onto the streets to become a headache for the police ... Over time it

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reinforces the tendency common to all bureaucracies of devoting more energy to the protection of turf rather than serving the public (Mulgan, 2001: 21). To overcome departmentalism, the main thrust of Labour’s JUG strategy was an approach that enhanced the powers of the centre. New Labour’s programme for strengthening the centre led to the introduction of the Strategic Communications Unit, an expanded Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, a new Social Exclusion Unit and the appointment of a Minister without Portfolio to assure co-ordination in government policy. These changes, introduced in Labour’s first 12 months, extended the reach of Number Ten into departmental affairs under the guise of ensuring a co-ordinated approach (see Kavanagh and Richards 2001; Taylor 2000). If Whitehall reform pre-1997 was aimed at introducing and improving managerialism and economy in government, post1997, Labour’s initial approach emphasised the need to improve on policy-making, in particular, policies which cut across traditional departmental boundaries. As the former Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson (1998) observed: I do worry that the management reforms of the last decade may have focused our energies very much on particular objectives, particular targets, performance indicators in return for resources and delegations. And that we have in some measure taken our eye off what we used to be good at – and still can do – which is working more corporately across the boundaries. And it may be ... that personnel reforms that we have introduced have also given people a sense that they work more for Departments rather than for the wider Civil Service. The initial stages of Labour’s JUG strategy can be seen as a mechanism for increasing the control of the centre to ensure that strategies developed in Number Ten were not undermined by the conflicting goals of departments. As Blair told the Liaison Select Committee in July 2002: One thing I do say though very strongly is that I make no apology for having a strong centre. I think you need a strong centre, particularly in circumstances where, one, the focus of this Government is on delivering better public services. In other words, the public sector for this Government is not simply a necessary evil we have to negotiate with; it is at the core of what the Government is about. Therefore, delivering public service reform in a coherent way it is, in part,

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absolutely vital for the centre to play a role. (Liaison Committee 2001–2, para 5) Strengthening Number Ten Blair’s chosen approach to governing the Whitehall machine soon prompted an assortment of labels – ‘control-freakery’, ‘presidentialism’ and ‘bonapartism’ which the new Administration found hard to repudiate. These labels appeared to confirm that the Millbank Model was being implemented. The popular perception of the Blair style of government was one based on strong central control, demands placed on departments to be ‘on-message’ and the rise of a powerful coterie of special advisers, in particular at Number Ten, from which emanated key government decisions, taken in private, with limited, if any, consultation. The most potent symbol of this style was the so-called ‘Den in Downing Street’ inhabited by a variety of Blairite courtiers – Alistair Campbell, Jonathan Powell, Geoff Mulgan, Anji Hunter, Sally Morgan, Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould. This was seen by some as the real engine room of the government. It prompted claims that such a style was leading to undemocratic, unaccountable and poor quality policy-making (see Cook 2003; Beckett and Hencke 2004; Short 2004; Foster 2005; Lodge and Rogers 2006; Wilson 2007). Critics of the Blair style accused him of circumventing the traditional Whitehall practices of Cabinet committees, minute-taking and the need for officials to offer critical advice. As Beckett and Hencke (2004: 324) observe: [Blair] ... gobbled up the theories of management gurus like Handy. And what they said to him was: tear down all the bureaucratic Civil Service structures, all the paraphernalia of meetings and minutes and consulting; do everything like the business leaders we admire – on the hoof, in your shirtsleeves, in the sofa, latte in one hand and mobile phone in the other. Run Great Britain plc as though it were a City investment company. The former Head of the Civil Service, Robin Butler (2004: 148) offers similar, indeed surprisingly, forthright comments on Blair’s approach to governing, expressing concern about the: ‘... the informality and circumscribed character of the government’s procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq’. This, the media quickly labelled, Blair’s ‘sofa style of government’.

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Despite the compelling image presented by these arguments, as Blair soon found out, the reality of governing is markedly different (Barber 2007). The Blair style of governing was originally to run the operation from Number Ten, but it gradually became apparent that such an approach was unrealistic. He quickly recognised that the nature of the British political system ensures that it is departments, rather than the centre, that are institutionally strong, which in part, prompted the 1999 ‘scars on my back’ speech. As Geoff Mulgan, a former adviser in the Policy Unit observed: I think there’s an issue about what is the appropriate role for the centre, where usually the centre will have power, but less knowledge and usually dramatically less capacity. And even the bigger centre, which there is now, is still of course far smaller than any department. While one of Blair’s special advisers, Peter Hyman (2005: 174) noticed: Tony’s frustration showed regularly. It was partly the impotence that every Prime Minister feels when the departments over which he has some, but not much control, do their own thing ... In February 1999, Tony’s view was that: ‘The basic problem which I guess is not new for Prime Ministers is control. How do we drive our will down through the system, monitor progress and then achieve delivery? A stronger centre could give more direction and keep on the job until we are sure people are moving in the way we want’. If the Millbank Model of control was to work, Blair and his inner circle concluded that there was a need to enhance the resources at the centre, in particular, those available to the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the centre of British government focused around the Cabinet Office and Number Ten has been adept at resolving Whitehall squabbles, conflicts and coordination, but it has been weak at developing policy or controlling departments (see Marsh et al 2001). Its focus has been on processes not outcomes. Blair explicitly wanted to augment Prime Ministerial influence over departments and in a manner that did not rely on the personal interests or intervention of the Prime Minister. The size of the Policy Unit, initially re-branded as the Policy Directorate, was expanded with almost doubled the personnel compared to the Major years. Kavanagh and Seldon (2000: 266) argue that it: ‘... combines the roles of being a think-tank (working up policy and seeking ideas outside from policy specialists) and a French-style cabinet (reinforcing the political direction of the Prime Minister)’. The

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Directorate formally does not make policy, rather it ensures that departments are aware of the Prime Minister’s agenda and develops policies in line with Number Ten’s wishes (see Donoughue 2003; Scott 2004; Hyman 2005; Richards and Smith 2006a). As a former member of the Directorate observed, its raison d’être was based on: ‘... the Prime Minister and his closest advisers in Downing Street feeling that they had to evolve an architecture which would give them more reach into the Whitehall set-up.’ Blair reinforced his policy steers through regular bilateral meetings with ministers to ensure that they agreed on policy objectives. This is an important development because it means that there is an institutional relationship between departments and Number Ten. Also, Prime Ministerial policy activism does not rely on the whim or attention span of the Prime Minister. Number Ten developed capabilities to direct departments, which are based on special advisers within Number Ten overseeing and commenting on the policy proposals coming from departments. As Patrick Diamond, a former adviser in the Policy Directorate observed: There was a desire for coherence and for joined-upness, while at the same time fragmentation had taken place, and actually you can see those two things rubbing up against each other all the time ... We began to conceive our role at the Policy Unit, because we tended to be those that were looking out, we were also linked to all the other units at the centre. We spent a lot of time mediating between central units and the department, and we felt that we had to be the people that tried to facilitate these various relationships. This is an important change in the pattern of dependency between departments and the Prime Minister with departments becoming more reliant on the Prime Minister for policy initiatives. Kavanagh and Seldon (2000:266) suggest that: ‘... some ministers were heard to remark about the Unit’s staff being “Tony’s narks in Whitehall”.’ For example, much of the policy drive in the DfES has been from the Policy Directorate and Number Ten rather than from the Department suggesting significant policy development within the centre. As Blair told the Liaison Committee: I have regular bilateral stock-takes with ministers. The Departments, of course, are charged with policy, but the reality is for any modern Prime Minister you also want to know what is happening in your own Government, to be trying to drive forward the agenda of change on which you were elected. (Liaison Committee 2001–2, para 4)

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This point is illustrated by Andrew Turnbull (Cabinet Secretary 2001–5): ‘It is clear that the Prime Minister wanted a bigger, stronger centre. So we went through a period of very rapid growth, some of it before the election in 2001 and some of it immediately following it with the creation of new units’. The work of the Policy Directorate has been supplemented by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) (based in the Cabinet Office) and the Forward Strategy Unit (based in Number 10). In 1998, the centre was strengthened by the addition of a number of new units that were primarily a response to the Wilson Report.6 Most important, was the creation of the PIU which crucially reported directly to Number Ten and hence commanded Prime Ministerial support. The Unit’s aim was to improve the effectiveness of government policies, their implementation and service delivery mechanisms by working with departments on cross-cutting and innovative projects. The Unit was not too dissimilar to the Central Policy Review Staff established under Heath in 1970 but abandoned by the Thatcher Government. The key functions of the new unit were to evaluate the performance of existing policies, while providing innovative thinking in policy areas which have traditionally been locked-in by the strength of the departmental view. Bernard Donoughue (2003: 335) observes that: ‘... inevitably the Policy Unit gets almost wholly absorbed in short term issues ... but somebody must monitor the long term priorities. Blair effectively did that with his new Performance and Innovation Unit.’ Finally, the Wilson Report prompted the creation of a Civil Service Management Board (CSMB) to: ‘emphasise and harmonise the corporate objectives of Government as a whole’.7 Elsewhere, the Forward Strategy Unit was created to provide: ‘... a complimentary capacity for doing more private work, generally working bilaterally with departments rather than on cross-cutting issues, and reporting directly to the Prime Minister and Secretaries of State’. Blair stated what he has been trying to do: Strengthening the centre, yes. That is not an admission; I am openly avowing that. I am saying this is the right thing to do. I cannot believe there is a Prime Minister sitting in Downing Street saying, “Let them just get on with it, I don’t mind much”. It is not the real world. The real world is that with the Prime Minister the buck stops with you; that is the top job and that is how it should be. As I say, I think there are very particular reasons why the centre has been strengthened in this way. Future Prime Ministers may decide to do it differently, but I have a kind of hunch that most Prime Ministers will

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want to keep that strength in the centre. (Liaison Committee 2001/2, para 8) In 2002, the newly appointed Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull announced plans to: ‘clarify and simplify organisational arrangements in Government’. The Strategy Unit was established which brought together the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU), the Prime Minister’s Forward Strategy Unit (FSU), and parts of the Centre for Management and Policy Studies (CMPS). The Unit has three main roles: • to carry out strategy reviews and provide policy advice in accordance with the PM’s domestic policy priorities • to support departments in developing effective strategies and policies – including helping them to build their strategic capability • to identify and effectively disseminate thinking on emerging issues and challenges e.g. through occasional strategic audits. (Strategy Unit 2007) Geoff Mulgan, a former member of the Strategy Unit argues that its aim was to: ... get something which was more like every bit of that ‘end-to-end’ policy process that was integrated. A move very much away from the late-1980s fashion for separating policy and delivery which I always thought was extremely dangerous, counter to learning and at risk of all sorts of mistakes happening in the handover process. So to do that, we tried to always have practitioners on teams, to have them in the policy formulation process, a much greater involvement by the different agencies which would have a role in delivery. This can be seen as an attempt to pursue a more holistic approach to policy-making, involving various actors throughout the policy cycle in decision-making, but also an attempt to consolidate control over policy by Number Ten, with the Unit reporting to the Prime Minister through the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Cabinet Secretary. Throughout its first term, Labour’s approach to machinery of government issues was not just about enhancing capacity and central control by unit building at the centre. It also looked to alternative sources of advice beyond Whitehall. This reflected the Government’s distrust of

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the policy advice its permanent officials could provide. This is not related to the ideological disposition of officials (see Chapter 6), but instead, Labour questioned Whitehall’s ability to develop and deliver policy. The element of distrust was revealed in significant changes in the way policy was made. As with its Conservative predecessors, Labour looked more to outside sources for policy advice, using consultancy firms, but also task forces, tzars and special advisers. In terms of task forces, Labour created an array of ad hoc bodies that would cross departmental boundaries and provide greater plurality in the advice it received. In their original guise, they were used to address ‘wicked issues’, such as teenage pregnancies or homelessness, which have no single, departmental home. As Daniel (1997: 27) observes: ‘Unlike the Royal Commissions and reviews of previous governments, the task forces are not intended to sweep issues under the carpet. They are emblems of Labour’s desire to be seen to be implementing manifesto pledges briskly and in a spirit of trust’. As their usefulness to ministers as an alternative source of advice became increasingly apparent, their numbers increased and a shift occurred from what they had originally been conceived for. In terms of the architecture of and relationship to Whitehall, the nature and role of task forces has from their inception remained rather nebulous. The Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (2000) identified that the membership of task forces should be drawn from the wider public, private and voluntary sectors, they would have a lifespan of less than 24 months8 and their focus should be on a single issue. The topics they have covered are diverse, reflected in for example, the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force, Social Exclusion Task Force, E-Learning Strategy Task Force, Community Housing Task Force and the Football Task Force. They have subsequently been redefined as ‘Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies’ which provide: ... independent and expert advice on particular topics of interest. They do not usually have staff but are supported by staff from their sponsoring department. They do not usually have their own budgets as costs incurred come within the department’s expenditure. (Cabinet Office 2006: ii) Cabinet Office (2006: v) figures revealed that in 2006 there were 447 Advisory NDPBs in operation. The second element, the creation of Tsars, was a strategy employed by Labour to improve both horizontal and vertical ‘joined-upness’ within

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and between departments. Tsars are an eclectic mix of outside appointments, bearing an array of informal titles – ‘Drugs Tsar’, ‘Health Tsar’, ‘Transport Tsar’, ‘Anti-Cancer Tsar’, ‘Children’s Tsar’ etc. They are appointed by the Prime Minister, but then work within individual departments; the third element saw an increased role for special advisers which have more than doubled in number since the last Conservative government. These political appointees offer an alternative source of advice to ministers (see Chapter 6). The development of these new policy and strategic capabilities emerged in the context of the overall framework of JUG. Although JUG was initially concerned with bolstering horizontal connections in Whitehall, it also focussed on vertical connections. It is not possible to understand the development of the various units at the centre without understanding JUG. As we saw above, British government is faced with a tension between central political control and devolved administrative autonomy. What is argued in this chapter is that the Blair Administration has embodied this tension through a desire to multiply the sources of policy advice, pluralise service delivery and decentralise power. JUG was seen as a panacea, intended to reassert central control over a system perceived to be fragmenting. Many of the bodies outlined above were part of a process of finding joined up solutions to policy problems and several relatively successful policies were developed. But elsewhere, issues were raised. For example, the Labour Government’s Sure Start programme was a policy intended to deal with issues of poverty and education in relation to pre-school children in deprived areas. The first comprehensive evaluation of the programme’s impact partly questioned its effectiveness: Only limited evidence of SSLP [Sure Start] impact was detected and that which emerged was often limited to specific sub-populations ... The differential beneficial and adverse effects that emerged indicate that among the disadvantaged families living in the deprived SSLP areas, parents/families with greater human capital were better able to take advantage of SSLP services and resources than those with less human capital (i.e. teen parents, lone parents, workless households). (Melhuish, Belsky and Leyland 2005: 6–47) From a governance perspective, several problems arose from joined-up government in this policy area (see Richards and Smith 2006a). First, there has been a proliferation of bodies which has exacerbated rather than reduced fragmentation. Second, there has been confusion about

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where responsibility lies for policy and what relationships should exist between these bodies and departments. Finally, perhaps the greatest problem was that joined-up government did not lead to improvement in the delivery of public policy. It appears that there has been a shift from horizontal to vertical integration. Blair’s first term was seen as a disappointment in that it did not achieve many of its stated objectives in areas such as education, health service reform and the reduction of poverty (see Toynbee and Walker 2001; Richards 2005). Blair learnt an important lesson: After five years in government, I know only too well that passing legislation or making a speech will not solve vandalism on estates, raise standards in secondary schools, look after the elderly at risk. Indeed the state can sometimes become part of the problem. (Blair quoted in Liaison Committee 2001–2, para 37) Labour believed that the challenge presented by the pathology of governance meant it was not enough to change the strategic capacity for policy-making in Whitehall. There was also a need to develop a capacity for policy-implementation beyond SW1. In his first term, Blair had learnt it was not easy to get the Civil Service to deliver policy (see Donoghue 2003; Seldon 2004; Mandelson and Liddle 2004; Hyman 2005). As one senior official observed: ‘He did not realise that delivery would be such a problem’. A similar view was expressed by a PMDU official: I think it [policy implementation problems] reflected a specific problem in relation to the centre, that, historically governments have never been very good at getting the sort of transmission mechanism from an idea to getting it delivered on the ground. So we can look back over you know, a kind of post-war history and find pretty patchy delivery of policy. [italics added] Despite the perception of British government as highly centralised, the central executive has little responsibility for policy-implementation (see Rhodes 1988). The NPM 1 reforms of the 1980s and 1990s such as agencification and privatisation have exacerbated the distance between the centre and policy delivery. Moreover, the Civil Service’s interpretation of the constitution is that it is the departments that execute, and not the prime minister. The prime minister is there to coordinate as primus inter pares. Blair wanted to control delivery because despite

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significant increases in public expenditure, the electorate did not see public services improving. In an attempt to re-impose key features of the Westminster model, the Blair government shifted its focus in the second term to improving policy delivery.

Labour’s reform programme Mark 2: improving delivery If the hallmark of Labour’s first wave of Whitehall reforms was based on a strategy of pursuing joined-up government, by 2001, the Government concluded that the key problem it faced concerned policy delivery. Labour could not appeal to political factors to explain why it had experienced policy-implementation problems in its first term. As Peck and Perri 6 (2006: 2) observe: ... the government had a huge parliamentary majority, faced relatively weak opposition, possessed what was generally regarded as a formidable communications machine and worked under a constitution that permitted no other authority to have a mandate powerful enough substantially to restrict its ambitions – then we must surely look for explanations of Prime Minister Blair’s frustration that lie not in political factors but within inter-organisational processes. The rise of the Delivery Unit Tacit recognition by the Government of the need for further organisational reform emerged after the June 2001 election, with the restructuring of Whitehall through the creation of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU). The objectives of the Unit are: • monitoring and reporting on delivery of the Prime Minister’s top delivery and reform priorities; • identifying the key barriers to improvement and the action needed to strengthen delivery; • sharing knowledge about best practice in delivery and • supporting the development of high quality PSA targets that will effectively incentivise improvements in public services. (PMDU 2007) The Unit reports directly to the Prime Minister and aims to ensure that the government delivers on its priorities in terms of health, education, crime and transport (see Hyman 2005: 84). The timing of the creation of the PMDU is interesting. A PMDU official observed: ‘I think there

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was a general frustration from Number 10 and Number 11 about how tricky it was just to get stuff transferred through the machine’. Geoff Mulgan observed: ‘I always thought it was very dangerous for policymakers just to sit at the top of the hierarchy and push things down expecting that if you pull a lever something predictable will happen at the other end’. The view from the centre was that two key problems had arisen in the course of Labour’s first term concerning effective policy delivery. First, that there had been too much emphasis on imposing national [i.e. uniform] standards in a top-down, hierarchical manner. Frameworks of national standards had been established across different public services – health, education, policing – but even clearly defined standards imposed from the centre did not necessarily translate across individual policy fields to the street-level. Second, departments were still not responding to the wishes of the centre. This reflected the nature of the British system of government and the power and resources available to departments compared to the relatively weak structural resources available to Number Ten. For example, one official in the Delivery Unit observed how in Labour’s first term, the objectives of permanent secretaries were still set by their own departments. The centre’s perception was that the age-old problem of departmentalism was still prevalent, as departments continued to follow their own interests and agendas. As one senior official reported: So there’s a sense in which the government wanted to break out of the traditional policy being made in the centre, and then just sort of being sent out through emails and post to the world, and expecting change on the ground. So it can be seen as a sort of piece of technology to link policy with what’s going on and what we used to call a delivery chain, you’d probably now be inclined to call it a delivery system to reflect its sort of complexity. There was an attempt to change the focus from one of process – which has always been the traditional Civil Service forte – to one of outcomes, where the Civil Service has been weak. As the former Cabinet Secretary, Andrew Turnbull emphasised: Ultimately we need to be judged by outcomes as they are at the frontline. Are standards in schools getting better? Are standards in the Health Service getting better, the service it offers and the outcomes it achieves in terms of how long people live and avoid disease? Is crime

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coming down? Is the criminal justice system working better? Those are the things we would be judged by. If you look at the whole collection of PSAs you will have to make a judgment and the electorate will make a judgment on those (Select Committee on Public Administration Select Committee 2003/4, para 67). Originally located in the Cabinet Office, in 2002 the PMDU moved to the Treasury, but continued to report directly to the Prime Minister (see Figure 5.1). This move was predominantly at the behest of its first head, Michael Barber, who believed that success would be

CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER/ MINISTER FOR THE CABINET OFFICE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO

CO-ORDINATION AND PROMOTING STANDARDS Security and intelligence coordinator, accounting officer for SIA. Acting Director, Intelligence and Security Secretariat. Director, Civil Contingencies Secretariat. Perm. Sec. Government Communications.

CABINET SECRETARY AND HEAD OF THE CIVIL SERVICE

BUILDING CAPACITY Acting Head, Corporate Development Group Acting Head of the Strategy Unit Acting Head, Delivery Unit.

MANAGING THE CABINET OFFICE Managing Director Permanent Head of the Dept. and Accounting Officer. Communication Director

Head of E-Government Acting Director, Office of Public Service Reform.

Acting Business Development Director Finance Director

Executive Chair, Better Regulation Executive.

HR Director

Chief Executive, Better regulation Executive.

Infrastructure Director

Head, Economic and Domestic Secretariat

Chief Government Social Researcher

Head of Internal Audit

Head, Ceremonial Secretariat.

Chief Executive, Office of Government Commerce

Head of Histories, Openness and Records Unit.

Head, European Secretariat. Head, Overseas and defence Secretariat.

Head, Property and Ethics.

Figure 5.1

Cabinet Office Organogram – November 2005

Source: Cabinet Office http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/

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dependent on establishing a close working relationship with the Treasury, and in particular the Public Services Directorate (see Barber 2007).9 In 2007, the Unit is led by Ian Watmore who is also the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser on Delivery. It has a team of around 40 individuals, not solely drawn from the ranks of the Civil Service. Individuals have been seconded from both the public and private sectors, including for example, the education regulatory agency OFSTED and the management consultancy firm McKinsey and Company.10 As one official from the Unit observed: We’ve probably got 60 per cent of our people from outside of Whitehall, you know, from the big consultancies ... So, it feels to me that there is a greater porsity, a great flow of people out also from the Civil Service into the kind of outside world. And I think that’s got to be a good thing for long-term policy-making in a more kind of egalitarian sense of institutions. You know the idea of a kind of flat public service really. The Unit also draws on what it refers to as: ‘... the expertise of a wider group of associates with experience of successful delivery in the public, private and voluntary sectors’ (PMDU 2007). Since 2005, the Unit is part of the wider Building Capacity Section within the Cabinet Office which includes other units responsible for delivery including the E-Government Unit, the Better Regulation Unit and the Office of Public Sector Reform. In terms of the latter, Peck and Perri 6 (2006: 3) observe that it is: ‘... dedicated to building longer term strategic capacity; overall however ... [its] agenda was overshadowed by the focus on short-term “delivery”’. Since 2001, the PMDU has remained the centrepiece of Labour’s central capacity building programme and it experiences direct and frequent access to the Prime Minister. There are two contradictory tensions here: the government is attempting to extend its control over the delivery of policy. As we will see below, the Delivery Unit created new mechanisms aimed at ensuring that departments and sub-national government delivered on the government’s policy goals – the re-imposition of central control; Labour is also insisting that the mechanism for better delivery is greater managerial autonomy with the devolution of more resources and greater decisionmaking discretion to front line staff. This is the WM2 model (see Table 5.2) – the centre developing the capacity to control an increasingly

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fragmented delivery system. According to the former Cabinet Secretary, Andrew Turnbull: We are not saying we have gone through an era in which we set targets very tightly from the centre and now all of that is being let go. We are trying to move on, not go back, to a world in which certain things we set very tightly, certain national standards and minimum standards, while encouraging greater freedom to tailor how that service is delivered and how that target is achieved and also to vary in local areas that you match more closely what people want. (Select Committee on Public Administration 2003/4, para 64) The Delivery Unit has created a direct relationship between the centre and the multiple service deliverers which, in particular instances, is not mediated by government departments. There is an important change in resources with executive power shifting from departments to the Prime Minister’s Office. The Delivery Unit creates a direct line of responsibility between those in the field and Number Ten in a way that has not hitherto existed. Consequently, the centre is increasingly determining the role of the locality. The question that arises is: what are the tools that enable the centre to control how policy is delivered? The Delivery Unit and tools of control The Delivery Unit is important because it involves the centre of government, and indeed the Prime Minister, in policy-implementation in a way that has not occurred before. It has had to develop new tools of control. As one Delivery Unit official stated: ‘... if you look at that old model, that traditional model, it simply didn’t work very well. And it didn’t work very well because there’s a sort of inherent ‘small c conservatism’ in Whitehall that is trying to produce – justifiably so – defensive lines for ministers.’ The Civil Service has always been effective at developing rhetorical shields for ministers rather than delivering policy. The PMDU sought to create the tools for assessing whether policy is being delivered and whether the process of delivery can be improved. The same official points out: What Michael Barber said – and the Prime Minister asked him to do this – to kind of ‘show me the numbers’. So, that was a key shift. If we don’t have numbers it’s really very hard for us to kind of drive stuff out. So the development of the PSA targets, and the underpinning of

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those with what are a kind of numerical value to those aspirations. We all know that that can be constraining, but what it did do was move the kind of discussion on from words to numbers. Departments and agencies were asked to demonstrate how well they were doing and, where there were problems, consider how they were to be addressed. Where it was determined that the PDMU should become involved in the delivery process, an official from the office would ask: ‘Right, so, this month you said you’d be there, and there’s a gap, what’s going on? What are you going to do about it? Do you want us to come in and help you?’ Our business model is to say: ‘okay you’re off trajectory, what’s the problem, let’s come in and do a bit of work with you to fix that’. And part of that work often involves people from the delivery system. A key tool in this process have been the use by Whitehall of targets and other audit mechanisms, which have developed under the auspices of Public Service Agreements (PSAs). Governing by target and audit The growth in the use of targets and audit mechanisms reflects an attempt by Whitehall to ensure it maintains control over the multiple service agencies delivering services to the public (see Hyndman and Eden 2002). Hood et al (1999) observe that the regulation of publicsector bodies grew substantially in the last two decades coinciding with the perceived fragmentation of the state. For example, individuals employed in ‘oversight bodies for public organisations’ rose approximately 90 per cent between 1976–95, whilst at the same time Civil Service numbers were cut by about 30 per cent and local government service by 20 per cent. The institutionalisation of this process by central government was reflected elsewhere in such initiatives as the ‘Citizen’s Charter’, introduced by the Major Government and then extended and re-branded by the Blair Government as ‘Service First’. The rationale behind this approach was to shift power away from service providers to consumers. In practice, this has become an explicit process of auditing the public sector – by publishing performance lists for schools, hospitals, universities etc. Accompanying this process has been the rise in magnitude of an array of regulatory units including; the Deregulation Unit, also created

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by the last Conservative Administration but again re-branded by Labour – firstly as the Better Regulation Unit and later, the Regulatory Impact Unit; the Better Regulation Task Force; the National Audit Office; the Audit Commission; and the Public Sector Benchmarking Service. Stemming from these government agencies has been the growth of governing by targets and auditing which has taken a variety of forms: • the creation of numerous regulatory agencies; by the mid-1990s, Hood et al. (2000) estimated that the number of national-level regulatory organisations ranged from between 135 to 200, with runningcosts ranging from between £750 million to £1 billion. • the appointment of a set of regulatory or inspectorate officials; the figures were estimated in the mid-1990s to be between 14,000 and 20,000. Here, there are numerous examples: the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales created in 1980 to look at the condition of prisons and the treatment of prisoners; or the GM Inspectorate created in 1990 to inspect release sites of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to ensure that they comply with the terms of the consents granted for trial release or marketing of a GMO. Inspectorates cover almost all areas of social life including health, education, building, the fire service, police, wildlife, vehicles etc. • the establishment of a wide array of performance-indicators and league-tables for services (see Painter 1999; Cutler and Waine 2000; Hyndman and Eden 2002; Ling 2002; Perri 6 and Peck 2004). The most obvious institutional form in which target-setting has been pursued by the present Labour Government are Public Service Agreements (PSAs) (James 2004; Barber 2007). PSAs are developed in discussions with the Treasury, but also form a key element of the work of the PMDU. The Treasury sets targets that departments have to meet. A key role of the PMDU is to check that progress is being made in achieving departmental policy goals as specified in the PSAs. Departments are set specific targets for the delivery of policy. PSAs were established after the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review and contain the aims, objectives and performance targets for each main government department. They include value-for-money targets and a statement of who is responsible for delivering these targets. PSAs are agreed on by the individual department following discussions with the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. The historical tensions between the Treasury and Number Ten are institutionalised through the PMDU and to an extent, it is a ‘Prime Ministerial’ unit still

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based on Treasury capabilities for collecting and processing financial data. However, to reiterate an earlier point about personalism, PSAs can be overlain with targets set by the Prime Minister. For example, in the case of a policy such as Street Crime, it was the Prime Minister who set targets for it reduction and decided that this was to be the key focus of delivery within the Home Office (see Geddes et al 2006; Barber 2007). The use of PSAs is not simply a mechanism of audit, but has a clear political element. They have proved to be a powerful, if at times rigid, mechanism used by the centre for control (James 2004). As one senior departmental official with responsibility for ensuring his division meets three PSA targets observed: The issue with targets is that they are not just performance tools, they are also political and economic tools as well, and those three things muddled up together make for the kind of thing where targets are set, there is a decision made and they’re not prepared to change the outcome for political reasons. In 2005, the Treasury estimated that it had 130 PSAs in place (see Cm5571 2002, HM Treasury 2005a). One example is the Department of Health’s PSA, which includes a variety of targets set for the National Health Service: since 2005, no patient should have to wait longer than six months for an in-patient appointment; no patient should have to wait longer than 15 months for surgery; no patient should be waiting longer than three months for an outpatient appointment; patients should not have to wait more than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge in Accident & Emergency (see HM Treasury 2005b). Where organisations fail to meet the prescribed targets laid down by government, they can incur an array of penalties ranging from a simple cut in government funding to the outright closure of an organisation, such as has occurred for example with a number of ‘failed’ comprehensive schools in recent years. The rise in the use of ‘governing by targets’ and its importance as a tool of control for the centre has been a lengthy process, but one that has now been firmly embedded in Whitehall. In 2000, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, focusing specifically on Next Steps Agencies, testified: ‘... performance measurement and reporting are intrinsic to the whole process of public management, including planning, monitoring, evaluation and public accountability’ (National Audit Office 2000: 2, see also National Audit Office 2001). A follow-up report in 2006 noted: ‘... performance information is considered critically important in meeting reporting

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requirements, both internally and externally, and informing strategic planning and development processes’ (National Audit Office 2006: 9). The PMDU does not take responsibility for overseeing every PSA. The aim of the Unit is to ensure that policy priorities identified by the Prime Minister are attended to. Under Tony Blair, the emphasis was on health, education, crime and transport. As one PMDU official observed: I think those were viewed as the key policy issues of the Prime Minister and in that sense they emanated from Number 10; it wasn’t a sort of you know, cabinet committee or kind of official committee that sat round and said ‘these things are important’. So we ended up with our list of things. During Labour’s second and third terms, the PMDU identified 20–25 key PSAs to concentrate on, and it predominantly worked with five departments: the Home Office, Health, Department for Education and Skills, Transport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Michael Barber, the Prime Minister’s one time Chief Adviser on Delivery and the first Head of the Delivery Unit (2001–2005) argued that for the PMDU to be successful, it needed to concentrate on key targets and indicators, rather than trying to address a whole range of targets across every policy field (Seldon 2004; Barber 2007). Narrowing its focus to a relatively small proportion of PSAs allowed the PMDU to maintain a clear, strategic focus over key policy areas. As Geoff Mulgan observed, the aim behind the PMDU: ‘was to help the system focus better on a few really compelling targets and to use those targets really to fix problems rather than just to become compliance exercises or to divert attention from other important priorities.’ Analysing the Impact of the PMDU In organisational terms, the use of PSAs and the PMDU has led to a major change in the relationship between the centre (the Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury) and departments. Previously, departments had responsibility for the delivery of services. Now, the PMDU institutionalises Number Ten’s and the Treasury’s role in overseeing what has been a relatively autonomous area of departmental activity. A 2006 survey by the National Audit Office (2006: 2) identified where departments sensed a loss of control over the process: Departments feel that they have relatively low levels of influence (or attribution) over their PSA results. The majority of target owners feel

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that their efforts are not reflected in the outturn data reported for their PSA targets ... Department’s responses also suggest that many feel they currently have relatively low levels of influence over the key stakeholders on whom delivery of the PSA target depends. This is because it is the PMDU in bilateral discussions with individual departments, which agrees on the process of delivery and how success is to be measured. Of course, constitutionally, it is ministers who are responsible to Parliament for the delivery of services, but the PSAs create a new line of responsibility directly to the centre. This has shifted the nature of resource distribution within the core executive, from departments to the centre. This leads to an intensive relationship between PMDU, the departments and those responsible for delivering policy, especially in negotiating the target. As one PMDU official observed: Like any governmental process, establishing targets is partly rational and partly political. So the targets that emerge at the end reflect different kinds of power bases within Whitehall and different power bases out there in the real world. So, and I think if you were to kind of line them up end-to-end the 126 targets, you would find some would have been done really well, and at the other end some probably less well if I’m honest. Once the targets are agreed, there is a planning process which follows up the implementation of the targets. Formally, this includes: ‘the Prime Ministerial “stock-take”, the Delivery Report and the Delivery Planning Process’. The delivery planning process involves examining the data flows and operationalises the targets by relating them to deliverables. In the delivery report, the PMDU examines the processes of delivery to assess whether targets are realisable (see Richards and Smith 2006a). For example, if the target is to cut waiting times in accident and emergency units to less than four hours, do hospitals have the management systems for achieving this goal? The focus is on the way targets are achieved rather than just the target. This leads to a final meeting – ‘the Prime Ministerial Stock take’. This is where the Prime Minister meets with his officials, the Secretary of State and his/her officials to discuss the delivery of policy. This occurs for the all 25 key PSAs. As one official observed, these meetings can be extremely tense if targets are not met. It is remarkable that such a proportion of Prime Ministerial time is invested in this process and involves such detailed examination of policy delivery.11

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The establishment of the PMDU has had considerable implications for Whitehall. It has shifted resources from departments to the centre and changed the focus of the Civil Service from process to outcomes. There are some significant changes: • It involves the centre in detailed policy-making. Indeed, the assumption is that the centre can tell departments and policy implementers how to improve on the delivery of policy. Despite the rhetoric of enhanced managerial autonomy, there is a clear assumption that the PMDU knows how to deliver or can develop, better delivery mechanisms. In many ways, it is a return to the adage that the ‘the man in Whitehall knows best’ or at least ‘the people in the centre know best’. It can be seen as an attempt to re-impose a revised version of the Westminster model. The government is convinced it is developing the right balance. Moreover, it is involving Whitehall in outcomes as well as process. • It is a highly empirical process. There is a belief that data reveals all – policy success and policy failure. One of the problems with this quantitative approach is that it indicates if a target is being reached, but not what it means when a target is not met. For example, the drug rehabilitation programme Drug Treatment and Testing Orders is seen to have failed with only 28 per cent of offenders adhering to the programme (National Audit Office 2004, Green 2004). But in relative terms that rate could be construed as highly successful and contributing to a significant difference in the level of drug abuse and drugrelated crime. This rather limited, positivist approach maximises the opportunity for game playing. • The PMDU changes the balance of resources between the centre and departments and the centre and locality. The centre has for the first time direct contact with the locality but perhaps more importantly it has developed alternative information resources which give it leverage over departments. In the past, Number Ten was largely dependent on departments for information. This has changed the structure of resource dependency both within the core executive and with the actors beyond Whitehall that it works with. • New tools of control have been introduced, particularly, targets. The view of both the Labour inner circle and senior Whitehall figures is that the use of targets is increasingly sophisticated and that many of the perverse outcomes resulting from targets have been addressed. Nevertheless, there continues to be considerable scepticism about the use of targets among MPs and public sector managers and a general feeling that game playing is rife.

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• Central capacity has been institutionalised as never before. While this is true, this does not mean that personalism has disappeared. Up until his departure in 2007, Blair had two elements to his governing strategy. First, the formal, based on the role of the Policy Directorate and the PMDU. Second, the informal, based on his use of close advisors and friends involved in day-to-day decision-making. As we saw above, one revelation of the Hutton Inquiry was that many of Blair’s meetings were completely informal and often not minuted. Seldon (2005: 425) observes that: He [Blair] developed an approach to government that relied heavily on diktat ... Policy was run from his own office in Downing Street, the so-called ‘denocracy’. The Delivery Unit, from 2001, was to provide the storm troopers of his crusade to transform the public services, and targets and monitoring was to be the strategy. Also, the PMDU’s agenda is set by the Prime Minister and its impact depends on his authority. In that sense, it continues the personalism of the British system. • Increased complexity at the centre. The marked increased in central capacity based on a programme of creating more units at the centre of Whitehall has the potential to exacerbate the complexity at the heart of the core executive (see Figure 5.2). One effect has been to leave those in the traditional government departments unsure over which power centre to engage with to secure their own department goals (see Richards and Smith 2004b). The role of Whitehall has undoubtedly changed in terms of the policy implementation process. In the early stages of reform (1980s), the Thatcher Administration attempted to distance the executive from policy delivery. Policy delivery was hived-off to agencies which were supposed to take responsibility for how policy was delivered. Of course, this division created a false dichotomy between policy and delivery. More importantly, politicians were fearful of being excluded from politically salient issues and their policy goals not being delivered. Subsequently, the unit building by New Labour at the centre of Whitehall and, in particular, the creation of the PMDU has re-imposed the power of the centre. As the former Cabinet Secretary, Richard Wilson concluded: ‘One of the characteristics of New Labour when it came to power was the way it asserted political control over the machinery of

Press Office

NDPBs

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Policy Unit Chief Policy Adviser

Chief Whip

TREASURY

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CABINET/ CABINET COMMITTEES

Political Secretary

Chief of Staff Cabinet Secretary and Head of Home Civil Service

Political Office

Secretariat

Minister for the Cabinet

PRIME MINISTER

Chancellor of the Exchequer

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Social Exclusion Unit Figure 5.2

Complexity at the centre

Source: [adapted from Barberis 2000: 32]

Office of Public Service

Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit

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government. It staged a political coup, first of all against the Labour Party and then against the processes of government’ (BBC Radio 4: 2007a).

Understanding WM2: New Labour’s strategy of state-centric, core executive control At a generic level, Labour’s broader reforms of Whitehall were originally identified in the 1999 White Paper Modernising Government (Cmnd 4310). This committed the Civil Service to six key changes that derived from Labour’s modernising government agenda: stronger leadership with a clear sense of purpose; better business planning from top to bottom; sharper performance management; a dramatic improvement in diversity; a service more open to people and ideas, which brings on talent; and a better deal for staff. The White Paper suggested that past reforms: ‘paid little attention to the policy process and the way this affects the ability of government to meet the needs of the people’ (Williams 1999: 452). Labour’s concern was not simply about improving efficiency; it wanted to change relationships within government and between government and the citizen. This relates to the need to increase the autonomy and devolve power within each wider policy field. Labour’s first two terms saw some significant changes in the organisation of Whitehall and the way that policy was made: an emphasis on joined-up government; the multiplication of the sources of advice; an upsurge in the use of targets and auditing tools; the strengthening of the centre; and the shifting role of the Civil Service. The goal of joined-up government created tensions within Whitehall. The ability of departments to work together was constrained by the continuation of departmental structures and the notion of ministerial responsibility (Marsh, Smith and Richards 2001; Bogdanor 2005). Further problems arose because these changes partly built on the reforms introduced by the Conservatives, but also reflected the concerns of New Labour and the changing external environment. This produced contradictory demands, for example, between the notion of market mechanisms as a principle of reform through contracting out and empowering managers and centralized notions of reforms through the use of targets. IMPROVING POLICY DELIVERY – MODERN GOVERNANCE, SERVICE DELIVERY AUTONOMY (NPM2) The previous section has focused on the reforms New Labour introduced in Whitehall, particularly at the centre, aimed at improving

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policy delivery. To return to Peters (2000), it has been a top-down, statecentric analysis emphasising New Labour’s attempt to reconstitute the Westminster model to exert control over the policy process. This section embraces a modern governance analysis which looks at the impact of reform beyond Whitehall. Establishing an effective and co-operative relationship between the centre and the different actors involved in policy delivery is a vexed question. It is also one which, in an era of agencification, segmentation and devolution has become more complex. New Labour certainly recognised the need to address this issue, as Geoff Mulgan, who served in both the Delivery Unit and the Strategy Unit, testified: It was very dangerous for policy-makers just to sit at the top of the hierarchy and push things down expecting that if you pull a lever something predictable will happen at the other end. In part because of the need for information, and I always used to use the phrase ‘triangulate’, we had to always spend at least one day out of the office almost in disguise and going to see what was really happening, what was really being delivered. Otherwise, the risk you have of being essentially conned by your own system into believing things are working well, when they’re not, is extremely high. In Chapter 3, it was observed that when in opposition, New Labour was no longer willing to countenance a monolithic approach to public service delivery. The Party’s revisionist agenda, drawing from Giddens’ Third Way, argued for the need for new and flexible forms of public service delivery based on an appropriate mix of hierarchies, networks and markets. In theory, this would involve a variety of state and other actors working together in mutually beneficial partnerships. Since 1997, Labour’s approach to public service delivery has seen the further detachment of agencies from Whitehall, the development of new management techniques and an increase in local autonomy, as key mechanisms for improving delivery. To avoid a rigid and standardised approach to service delivery, it is not surprising that the Blair Administration viewed agencies as one mechanism for enhancing flexibility. Since their creation in 1988, agencies have released government departments and the delivery of public services from uniformity. Policy delivery via agencies can be organised not according to a standardised formula, but in ways that are deemed to best suit the service they are delivering. In opposition, Labour had no plans to abandon the process of agencification. After 1997, it was more

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than willing to continue the programme set in place by the Conservatives (see Foster 1996). In July 2002, a review initiated by the Labour Government – Better Government Services: Executive Agencies in the 21st Century – concluded that the agency model had been successful at: ‘... improving, and in some cases transforming, services and functions delivered by central Government and had brought customer focus and a performance culture into the Civil Service.’(Office of Public Service Reform 2002b: 5) As Figures 5.3 and 5.4 indicate, since 1997 the official figures for agencies and the percentage number of officials working in them initially increased, but have subsequently flattened off.12 Since 1997, the agencification process has not been unproblematic. There have been a number of individual failures ranging from the Passport Agency’s inability to deliver a new IT system in 1999 to the most high profile case, that of financial and managerial mismanagement in the Child Support Agency. The latter culminated in the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, John Hutton announcing in 2006 that the agency was failing and would be replaced by a smaller,

Percentage of civil servants (full-time equivalent) 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Figure 5.3 Civil Service staff in executive agencies, or working on next steps lines Source: Civil Service Statistics

132 New Labour and the Civil Service 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 2001

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more focused organisation. Flinders (2000) has examined the extent to which agencification raises issues about accountability and has stretched the notion of ministerial responsibility. Elsewhere, some agency chief executives have expressed concern at their lack of autonomy from Whitehall. James (2003) highlights that ministers and other senior officials in the parent departments often intervene in the day-today running of the agencies. An issue identified by the Office of Public Service (2002: 6) report was that: ‘... the main problem in achieving more effective performance ... is that some agencies have become disconnected from their departments.’ It argued that a: ‘shared understanding of overall and relevant cross-cutting objectives’ needed to be developed. Of most concern was the: ... the gulf between policy and delivery is considered by most to have widened. The trust needed to delegate effectively requires mutual understanding and a ‘no surprises’ rule, as well as clear frameworks. Without these, agencies cannot have the authorities they need to deliver ministers’ objectives or excellent services to customers. Despite the rhetoric offered by New Labour concerning the need for enhanced flexibility and autonomy in service delivery, the picture

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that emerges is complex, being one of greater control by the centre, but elsewhere, a more distanced, arms-length approach by some departments (Gains 2003a, 2003b). Finally, the problem of increased control has been exacerbated by the continued use of targets. In 2004, the Treasury claimed that the number of targets being set by central government had fallen and would continue to fall between 2005–08. This is factually correct, but what has become embedded in the public services is a culture of multiple targetsetting by agencies to respond to centrally defined targets. This effect can be referred to as a ‘cascading culture of targets’. Gains (2003a: 14) concludes: ‘In this context, agencies have been reined back into departments and harnessed strongly back to the centre to ensure their efforts are subject to a corporate and centrally driven agenda of public service agreements and targets.’ New Management Techniques and Local Autonomy From a modern governance perspective, it is important to assess the impact of new management techniques and enhanced autonomy to the multiple-service deliverers. As we saw above, the reform programme was initiated by the Modernising Government White Paper (CM4310: 1999) which outlined its managerial strategy: • improving policy-making through the identification of best practice, the development of evidence based policy-making and increased training for ministers and civil servants. • making public services more responsive to the public. For example, developing one stop shops where benefits and state supports can be accessed at one site. • improving the quality of public services through effective use of targets, identifying the best suppliers and monitoring performance. The key theme of enhanced autonomy for multiple service agencies is set out in Reforming Public Services: Principles into Practice (March 2002). In its foreword, Tony Blair enunciates four ‘Principles for Public Service Reform’: National Standards: mean working with hospitals, schools, police forces and local government to agree tough targets and to see performance independently monitored so people can see how their local services compare.

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Devolution: means Whitehall is serious about letting go and giving successful front-line professionals the freedom to deliver these standards. Flexibility: means removing artificial bureaucratic barriers which prevent staff improving local services. Choice: acknowledges that consumers of public services should increasingly be given the kind of options that they take for granted in other walks of life. (Office of Public Service Reform 2002a: 3) The notions of choice and flexibility are explicit references made by the government in response to what it regards as an entrenched approach by Whitehall to delivery in public services based on a view that ‘one size fits all’. Diversity of provision had become the mantra for New Labour. This is to be achieved through devolution and delegation13 to front-line professionals who are best placed to understand the most appropriate means of delivery to meet the specific needs of their individual client groups. As Hill and Hupe (2002: 27) observe: ‘Enhancing street-level discretion may, under certain conditions, be more functional for the implementation of those policies than curbing it.’ Here, a proviso must be added. Labour had no intention of abandoning the state-centric, controlling tendencies of the core executive when pursuing reform. The right to increased autonomy for front-line professionals was not to be dispensed carte blanche. Instead, it is based on a ‘carrot and stick’ principle: Better services should get more freedom and flexibility – earned autonomy for schools, hospitals, local government and other public services. Failing services should be given the incentives to improve, and receive intervention in proportion to the risk of damaging underperformance (Office of Public Service Reform 2002a: 17). The Government’s rhetoric has emphasised, since early in Labour’s second term, the freeing up of those frontline staff that have earned this right through a proven track record in meeting centrally imposed national standards14 in the form of PSA agreements. In developing this strategy, Gordon Brown announced in the 2003 Budget Statement, a review of: ‘... new ways of providing departments, their agencies and other parts of the public sector with incentives to exploit opportunities for efficiency savings, and so release resources for front line public service delivery’ (HM Treasury: 2003). This culminated a year later in the

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publication of the Gershon Report (2004) – Releasing Resources to the Front Line – which outlined a programme of efficiency savings15 for cutting the size of the Civil Service (see Figure 5.5). The financial savings would then be used to fund the cost of the Government’s front-line delivery strategy. The Gershon Report portrays what it understands to be the delivery chain within the policy-making process (see Figure 5.6). The Report identifies gaps in the knowledge of individual Whitehall departments relating to the way in which policy chains function: Work on the policy funding and regulation work-streams during the Efficiency Review identified that departments in general have insufficient understanding of the efficiency (and effectiveness) of key delivery chains. Departments should undertake robust holistic scrutiny of priority chains where either delivery of key outcomes are not meeting targets or the costs of the chain are disproportionately high compared to the value added. (Gershon 2004: 28)

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Government Policy and Key Targets

One or More Core Departments

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Outcome Figure 5.6

Generalised delivery chain

Source: Gershon ( 2004:17)

The Report’s interpretation of the first stage of the delivery chain (see Figure 5.6) conflates government policy with key targets. It is important to recognise that while targets can be measured, control over actual delivery still remains with the street level bureaucrats. The incentive principle identified in Reforming Public Services: Principles into Practice – that agencies which are ‘successful’ in meeting prescribed national standards are subsequently rewarded with greater autonomy in the form of increased devolution and delegation from Whitehall – ignores existing disparities in levels of autonomy already experienced by different types of street-level bureaucrats in the policy field. For certain types of organisations, the autonomy of street level bureaucrats is particularly circumscribed. For example, we might consider a schoolteacher having to address issues related to drug misuse who is provided with a clear set of directives to be followed. However, a police officer also dealing with crime related to drug misuse, whilst in a similar hierarchically-based organisation to that of a teacher, has

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considerable discretion over, for example, whether or not to arrest someone or caution them. It is also important to contrast the scope for variation in autonomy that occurs depending on which level within a policy chain one is examining. If we adopt the Gershon (2004) interpretation of the delivery chain, then in returning to the example above, a police office already experiences a certain degree of autonomy within the delivery chain. S/he operates as the primary interface in the delivery of front-line services to consumers – in this case law and order. Within that same delivery-chain, a Chief Inspector of a Constabulary who is identified by Gershon as an ‘intermediate supervisory manager’, has much greater levels of autonomy in determining how to respond to government policy and centrally imposed targets. What the proposed incentive structure ignores is the existing wide variety in levels of autonomy experienced by different sets of actors in the delivery chain (see Geddes et al 2006; Richards and Smith 2006a, 2006b). A final issue concerns New Labour’s adherence to a specific understanding of the nature of policy delivery. Since 1997, its approach to delivery has been compared to that of the postal service delivering a letter or a courier delivering a pizza (see Peck and Perri 2006: 4). From this perspective, delivery is understood to have no bearing on the intentions and aims of the original policy. It is something that is simply dispatched out in the field. Where policy on the ground deviates from the intentions of the original policy-makers, then Government explains this as a failing on the part of the multiple service agencies, either through a lack of will or commitment, not through a lack of capacity. Blair’s ‘scars on my back’ speech reflects this particular outlook. Peck and Perri (2006: 8) argue that the narrowness of Labour’s view of delivery based on a ‘post and pizza’ metaphor can be traced back to the ‘new public management’ and ‘reinventing government’ schools of thought of the 1980s and 1990s and which is manifested in NPM2 (Osborne and Gaebler 1992). To insure against policy deviations in the field or ‘undemocratic obstructions of the popular will by the nonelected elements of the executive’, Labour has embraced a narrow view of delivery with a WM2 demand for central control. This has led to the centre resorting to mechanisms of audit, regulation, performance measurement and targets. But as Peck and Perri (2006: 7) conclude: ‘... by thinking about implementation as merely “delivery”, politicians and policy-makers are led to misunderstand the way in which authority has to work, and the way in which motivation is actually organised and elicited.’

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Conclusion: Reconciling WM2 and NPM2 – Reconstituting the Westminster Model The view that tension between political control and administrative autonomy is a relatively new feature of British political life is misconceived. The relationship between the core executive and local delivery agents over the last forty years has been in a state of flux, marked by shifting patterns between local autonomy and central control (see Table 5.2). This chapter has observed that since 1997 this pattern has continued. New Labour has made a distinct break from its own past by rejecting the return to a command-and-control, top-down, model of bureaucracy. It has been willing to work with a wide array of actors to secure its policy agenda. This reflects a new realism by Labour in coming to terms with the governance narrative and its impact on the contemporary nature of the policymaking arena (see Newman 2005; Giddens 2007). This realism has been coupled to a wish to shift away from the principle of public services based on the notion that ‘one size fits all’. The Government has recognised the need to devolve and delegate to a variety of front-line service deliverers who are better placed to identify the more specific and variable needs of particular client groups. This change is captured in what is referred to above as the development of a NPM2 strategy. The devolution of more autonomy to multiple-service deliverers beyond Whitehall has not simply been offered unilaterally, but is one that has to be earned by meeting centrally prescribed goals and targets. It can be argued that in terms of administrative autonomy (see Figure 5.2), Labour’s NPM2 strategy presents a clear disjuncture from the past. But its desire to retain and sustain central political control when reforming the policy-making arena reflects the continuation of a firmly embedded tradition embraced by past governments in the post-war era. The defining hallmark of Labour’s approach has been the dominance of the state-centric element of its response. This has been symbolised by the increased concentration of power at the centre, rather than a commitment to a more ‘modern governance’ orientated approach based on a broader understanding of the dynamics involved in real devolution of autonomy and power beyond Whitehall (see Davies 2000; Holliday 2000; Taylor 2000; Richards 2005; Richards and Smith 2006b; McAnulla 2006). This comes as no surprise, if we return to the view that it has been in the strategic interest of the core executive to defend the Westminster model rather than to look for alternatives. The Blair Administration has retained a belief in the virtues of the Westminster model. To reiterate a point, borne out by the actions of

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previous Labour Administrations when confronting issues in the policymaking process, the Blair Government has regarded such problems as localised, not systemic. There is a belief that solutions can be found within, not beyond the existing Westminster model of government. Labour’s approach of state centric-control [WM2], through the use of targets, regulation and other management tools, has been about applying a traditional approach to control associated with the Westminster model to contemporary NPM2 systems of delivery. Its reforms can be characterised as the centre’s attempt to restore control across the delivery system, by using departments as a mechanism to re-impose centrally determined policies on multiple service agencies (see Richards and Smith 2006a, 2006b; Kelman 2006; Barber 2007). The dominance of a state-centric approach, reflected in WM2 and based on the concentration of greater resources at the centre, suggests that Labour’s reforms have reinforced the characteristics associated with the Asymmetric Power Model. Its approach can be understood as reconstituting the Westminster model in the face of the pressures and challenges identified in the contemporary policy-making arena. It also suggests that: ‘... the pluralist and post-modernist assumptions informing the [differentiated polity] model mean that the extent of decentralisation and increased participation in the policy process are exaggerated’ (McAnulla 2006: 49). Although, it is worth recalling Greenleaf’s view that: ... organising perspectives ... are theories that operate at the most general level. They provide a framework for analysis, a map of how things relate, a set of research questions. Such perspectives are not normally testable or falsifiable. (Gamble 1990: 405) Finally, if we reflect on ‘the maps’ presented by these two perspectives, they both identify various contradictions and dilemmas raised by Labour’s approach. Where the accounts differ is in their contrasting view of the capacity of government to resolve them. For Rhodes et al (2003: 165–166): The administrative elite’s concern for ‘joined-up’ government shows that the centre recognises that it has to manage not only packages of services and packages of organisations but also packages of governments. Managing intergovernmental relations is the new skill that the Civil Service must learn. Distinctions between types of organisations and levels of government become blurred as the centre seeks to manage a seamless web. But hands-off is a lesson no government has

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been willing to heed since 1945. Hands-on controls predominate although they are no way to manage a differentiated polity. Unless governments grasp this nettle and devise a central operating code that fits an institutional structure characterised by functional and political decentralisation, the sour laws of unintended consequences will prevail and public cynicism will spread. This view has been challenged in this account on the grounds that differentiation, fragmentation and hollowing-out have been over-stated. The asymmetric relationship the core executive has with other actors in the policy-making arena suggests it possesses the resources and strategic capabilities to effectively respond to its changing structural environment (Marsh et al 2003). The Labour Administration’s approach should not therefore be consigned to failure because it has been pursuing the ‘wrong operating code’. This is an argument I return to in the concluding chapter.

6 The Core Executive under Labour: Politicising Whitehall?

Let me also make it clear that we have no intention of politicising the Civil Service. A neutral Civil Service is one of the great assets of our political system and we will not put it at risk. I and my colleagues can look after the politics. That is what we are paid for. We set the general aims and priorities. It is your job to respond with high quality advice and excellent public services. (Tony Blair, speech to the Civil Service Conference, 13 October 1998) Promotion in the Civil Service increasingly needs to reward delivering results on the ground. Already this is beginning to happen. The challenge now is to apply this approach at every level of the service, with results and outcomes paramount ... we will radically extend one of the central principles of Northcote-Trevelyan – that of merit – by applying it to existing posts as well as new ones. We are establishing a new norm that all senior Civil Service jobs will be four-year placements, with no presumption of permanence in post. Indeed the burden of proof, as it were, will shift with change becoming the norm and continuity requiring justification. (Tony Blair, speech on reforming the Civil Service, 24 February 2004)

Introduction If the concern of the previous chapter has been to understand Labour’s reforms within the broader context of the policy-making arena – an external examination of the Civil Service, then this chapter focuses on the Government’s relationship with Whitehall – an internal examination. 141

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What is presented is an analysis of core executive relations over the last decade and the Blair Government’s approach to a key set of actors – the senior Civil Service (SCS). When analysing the relationship between New Labour and the SCS, the most prominent theme to emerge is whether Whitehall has been politicised. This issue involves returning to the view rehearsed in Chapter 3 concerning the Blair leadership’s aim to impose the Millbank Model on Whitehall. If this model was realised in government, then, as with the Thatcher era, one would expect accusations of politicisation to arise, as Blair set out to install key political allies in strategic, top jobs in Whitehall. The argument here is that Blair has pursued, by subterfuge, something akin to a US ‘spoils’ system or a French cabinet system to ensure the ‘right’ people could drive the New Labour project on. An alternative view would posit that as with previous Labour Governments, the dominant narrative of the Westminster model has conditioned the Blair Administration’s approach to core executive relations. This would suggest that constitutional norms have been maintained since 1997. To address this theme, the chapter reviews the various narratives in the literature used to analyse power relations in Whitehall. It locates these narratives within an account of previous Labour Governments to consider the extent to which the Westminster model has conditioned their approach to power relations with Whitehall. The chapter then explores the Civil Service that Labour inherited from the Conservative in 1997 and whether or not 18 years of Conservative Administration led to any form of politicisation. It then considers the different perspectives concerning the issue of politicisation that have arisen during the Blair era, before presenting both a quantitative and qualitative analysis to address this issue. The chapter concludes by considering the extent to which the Westminster model has shaped New Labour’s approach to Whitehall and to what extent the nature of core executive relations have changed during the Blair Administration.

Approaches to analysing Whitehall power As we saw in Chapter 2, debates on the loci of power within the core executive have been framed by interpretations centred on constitutional precedent and have tended to focus on such questions as: whether Prime Ministerial power has replaced cabinet government; who are more dominant – ministers or civil servants; and, does the executive control Parliament (see King 1985; Kavanagh 1989; Pryce 1997). The analysis is on identifying institutional positions, motivations and agent

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behaviour, with power interpreted simply as an object. It has been argued that such debates offer a limited, static and binary understanding of power relations, presenting it as a basic zero-sum game between politicians and civil servants (see Smith 1999). The aim here is not to reappraise these various approaches; that has already been done more than adequately elsewhere (see Smith 1999; Marsh et al 2001). Instead, a brief overview outlining the formal, constitutional view of Whitehall power is presented, alongside a set of critiques of this view. This provides a framework to contextualise the subsequent analysis of a New Labour effect on Whitehall. The constitutional view The well-established, formal convention is that policy decisions are taken by Cabinet ministers and implemented by a neutral Civil Service. Theakston (1995: 46) captures the key themes of the ‘formal or constitutional model’: The Civil Service has no constitutional personality or responsibility distinct or separate from that of the government of the day; it is a non-political and neutral bureaucracy, loyally committed to the aims and the interests of that government; the duty of officials is to ensure that ministers are fully appraised of the problems, constraints and options they face, but then it is also the duty to make the best of the policy that ministers lay down and to put into effect their decisions, for which ministers are responsible. The key emphasis is on the notion of an indivisible relationship between ministers and civil servants. The 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Report established the principles of the modern Civil Service,1 but it was the Haldane Report (1918, see Chapter 2) that formalised the relationship between ministers and civil servants. In normative terms, it offered the view that the relationship was based on interdependence – civil ser vants, as advisers, have an indivisible, symbiotic relationship with ministers. This was subsequently formally conferred by the Carltona doctrine2 – which formed one of the key components of the Westminster model of government. The view of power that it offers is one that is clearly objectifiable: ministers are identified as the dominant actors within a fixed and static relationship with their officials. It also reflects a belief system that is drawn from the Whiggish tradition and a specific view about the ideas and institutions that underpin the British state (see Greenleaf 1983, 1987; Gamble 1990; Richards and

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Smith 2000a). The dominant view, and one which has been widely exported elsewhere, is that it prescribed a state that was neutral, enlightened, benign, unitary, representative and parliamentary (see Chapter 2 and Judge 1993). The conspiratorial view From the 1960s, a critique of the Westminster model and the constitutional view it presented emerged in both political science and political practitioner circles (see Miliband 1969, 1972; Crossman 1972, 1975; Mackintosh 1977; Johnson 1976; Walkland 1976; Hailsham 1978). The barbs offered against the constitutional view were wide-ranging, but as Gamble (1990: 410) observes, they tended to be: ‘... internal critiques of the assumptions of the dominant paradigm [the Westminster model and the British political tradition] rather than independent alternatives’. One element of this critique questioned the normative view of power presented by the Westminster model. It was argued that ministers failed to translate the formal authority ascribed them into real power over the senior Civil Service. This was predicated on a number of arguments: the size and complexity of Whitehall; the limited tenure of ministers in office; the constraints on ministers’ time; and the impact of firmly embedded ‘departmental views’ in conditioning the advice ministers received and their effect on policy formulation. It was the latter theme, that a number of ministers from both the left and right of the political spectrum appealed to and which subsequently formed the foundations of the conspiratorial view. What is interesting about the conspiratorial view is that while the politicians who embraced it tended to come from the more radical wings of their respective parties, the view they offered of the Civil Service is strikingly similar. Whitehall is seen as an adversary, rather than an ally, actively undermining the policy goals of the democratically elected government of the day. For example, John Nott, a former Conservative minister from the neo-liberal wing of the Party argued: ‘Whitehall is the ultimate monster to stop governments changing things’ (Hennessy 1989: xiii; cf. Theakston 1995a: 48; see also Hoskyns 2000).3 Nott’s comments reflect a sense of frustration based on a belief that the radical ambitions of the last Conservative Administration were being frustrated by Whitehall. As we see below, a similar view was offered by former Labour ministers who regarded the Civil Service as a bulwark against socialist measures. The focus of the conspiratorial view is on the strength of bureaucratic power. As with the constitutional view, power is understand as an object that can be located at the interface between ministers and civil servants and ascribed to a particular

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actor. Although, here, it is officials who are identified as dominant, within a fixed and static relationship with ministers. New Right/public choice view The emergence of the New Right also challenged the assumptions of the Westminster model, most notably that of the Whig notion of an enlightened state which could be trusted to act for the public good. The New Right rejected the view that the state was neutral, instead placing its: ‘... faith in markets and hostility to any processes that extend the sway of politics over individual choice and behaviour’ (Gamble 1990: 419). It viewed the Whitehall of the post-war era as an advocate of ‘big government’ and defender of the Keynesian-welfare settlement. Public choice theory, the roots of which can be traced to the ‘Chicago School’ of economists (see Niskanen 1971; Hindmoor 2006), offered a clear theoretical challenge to the Westminster model. It questioned the constitutional view that officials and ministers are conditioned by a public service ethos in which they act for the common good. Instead, it regards civil servants as imbued with a self-interested ontology; rather than being loyal to ministers and concerned with the public interest, officials are portrayed as ‘budget-maximisers’.4 This view was used to explain senior civil servants’ commitment to ‘big government’, acting as lobbyists for increases in public spending. Although, as Rhodes’ (1997: 174) observes, it is: ... important to distinguish between academic contributions to rational choice theory and New Right doctrines. The latter exercised a major influence. They were the source of policy innovations ... [while] rational choice ... represents a challenge to orthodoxy which has been greeted with indifference bordering on hostility. Again, the view offered by the New Right and public choice accounts regarded power as something that could be objectified, with ‘selfinterested’ officials portrayed as the dominant actors in their relationship with politicians. What the various approaches above have in common is a narrow and over-simplified understanding of power. They each present a view of power as something that is directly observable, located within a specific, hermetically sealed location – Westminster and Whitehall – and is static. It is a view of power that resides on a simple zero-sum game; the constitutional model suggests that it is ministers that dominate in their relationship with civil servants, the two other approaches argue the opposite. As Smith (1999:14) concludes: ‘These debates are repeatedly endlessly, never to be resolved.’

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The power-dependence approach to analysing Whitehall More recent developments in core executive studies have moved the debate beyond the limitations of the Westminster model to capture the changes in the contemporary political environment highlighted by the governance narrative. The power-dependency model attempts to rectify the limitations in the accounts above, by conceiving of power as fluid and shared within a number of constantly changing relationships between a range of actors, across a variety of terrains (see Rhodes 1981; Dunleavy and Rhodes 1990; Smith 1999). Power is a positive-sum game based on resource-dependency; actors within the core executive command a range of resources which they utilise in an exchange process with other key groups to secure a particular policy. To understand civil servant-minister relations from this perspective, we need to take account of structure, resources and agency. Power concerns the exchange of resources within a structured setting, but is dependent on the choices of actors. This analysis portrays power as dynamic and fluid, based on interdependency, rather than individual volition within the core executive. As we saw in Chapter 3, the ‘power-dependency’ approach was used to challenge the ‘end of the Whitehall paradigm’ account, which argued that by 1997 a new post-Whitehall, minister-dominated paradigm had emerged (see Campbell and Wilson 1995; Foster and Plowden 1996). The weakness of this account is that it relies on a narrow, zero-sum understanding of power. The power-dependency approach argues that the Thatcherite reforms of Whitehall realigned the balance of power in favour of ministers within a symbiotic relationship with civil servants. Thatcherism could be seen to have successfully responded to the New Right critique that the bureaucracy had become too powerful (see Dolowitz et al 1996). While some key resources may have shifted towards ministers during this period, the Conservative Administration continued to be dependent on exchanging resources with officials to secure its policy agenda. This section has outlined the various approaches for understanding Whitehall power. It has argued that the power-dependence model offers the most analytically compelling means of conceptualising the relationship between ministers and civil servants. The next section uses these approaches to explore the critiques from different elements within the broad Labour movement concerning the influence of Whitehall on past Labour Governments. Whitehall, Power and the Labour Party One of the arguments presented throughout this book is that Labour Administrations have been willing to work within the framework of the

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Westminster model. This implies a tacit acceptance of the formal and informal rules of the game presented by the model which define the executive’s relationship with Whitehall. The claim by Hennessy (1989:128) is that: ‘... strangely for a party whose effectiveness when in government is crucially dependent on the efficient use of state power, Labour has never really developed a theory of bureaucracy ...’ Of the different approaches for analysing Whitehall power, the two that have most regularly surfaced in debates within Labour circles are the constitutional and the conspiratorial views.5 The view here is that it is the former that has dominated, in terms of the leadership of the Party. The commitment to defend the Westminster model and with it the constitutional approach to Whitehall was established by Ramsey MacDonald’s first Labour Government, a position embraced by future leaders of the Party. It has provided the framework for understanding Labour’s relationship with the senior Civil Service, characterised as being one of broad mutual trust and acceptance. While particular departments, most notably the Treasury and the Foreign Office, received intermittent criticism from individual Labour ministers, Whitehall as a whole has continued to receive public support from the Party’s leadership. For example, Attlee (1947: 436) stated that: ... our Civil Service is the best in the world and that it has in its ranks very many men and women of great ability whose devotion to the public interest is unsurpassed. The Civil Service has never failed to be a faithful servant, not only to successive Governments but to the country as a whole. Attlee’s comments closely mirror the views of most party leaders and their tendency to evoke the rather clichéd metaphor of the British Civil Service being comparable to a ‘Rolls-Royce’. As we saw in Chapter 2, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, both former civil servants, were willing to defend the Westminster model and ipso facto the Civil Service (see Wilson 1974; Callaghan 1987; Pimlott 1993). The political commentator Alan Watkins (1966: 171–2; cf. Theakston 1992: 34) observes of Wilson that he displayed a: ‘... profound reverence for the orders and the mysteries of the Civil Service’. To the chagrin of Marcia Williams (1972: 122–133), Wilson’s political secretary, It is the fact that he does have such an admiration for and such a working knowledge of ‘the System’ that he tends to lean over backwards in his relationship to it. He gives it the benefit of the doubt. He

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doesn’t really want to argue with it. He admires the way it is organised and its methods of working. He admires its efficiency and he is often myopic about its failings. In the case of Callaghan, he understandably had an uneasy relationship with the Treasury (see Hennessy 1989; Theakston 1992, 1995b; Lipsey 2000; Donoghue 2003), but was nevertheless a defender of Whitehall (see Callaghan 1988; Morgan 1997). For would be Whitehall reformers in the broader Labour movement, the history of Labour in power is one of ‘missed opportunity’. There is a sense of ennui that past Labour Governments have been so willing to work with, rather than challenge, the parameters of the Westminster model. What this account suggests is the need to centre the Westminster model, to confer on it the status of being the ‘aggregate concept’ to explain past Labour Governments’ approach to Whitehall. If the Westminster model is the dominant influence shaping the view of the Party’s leadership, it would be amiss to overlook the conspiratorial view which has found expression in some quarters of the Labour movement. As we saw in Chapter 2, dissent was often located in the intellectual wing of the Party, in the views offered by the likes of Snowden, Cole, the Webbs, Laski and Balogh and, more recently, in the work of Ralph Miliband (1972, 1984) and Hilary Wainwright (1987). The latter, in particular, argued that the potential radicalism of the Party has been dissipated by successive Labour Governments, when faced with the challenge of government. Miliband emphasised how pressures for reform from below spurred on by class conflict had been contained, managed or deflected by elite state actors – most notably, the permanent administration. This prompted more specific questions concerning the: ‘... class composition of the higher Civil Service and allegations that the social and educational biases evident in its recruitment patterns skew its political sympathises to the right’ (Theakston 1992: 12). Gamble (1990: 410) observes that the ideas from the British Left: ... have produced a powerful anti-Whig and anti-pluralist account of British politics but they base it not on a comparative political theory but on an alternative historical interpretation of the British political tradition, which continues to treat it as a unique historical formation. If the intellectual wing of the Labour movement was concerned to make a case for change that remained within the contours of the dominant

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paradigm associated with the British political tradition, then elsewhere on the Left, the conspiratorial view of Whitehall has been taken up by a number of former Labour ministers. An array of diaries, memoirs and other commentaries by former ministers provide a rich source, which offers an array of criticisms charting their experiences in dealing with senior civil servants (see Benn 1990, 1991; Castle 1994; Crossman 1972, 1975; Brown 1972; Williams 1983; Pimlott 1986; Morgan 1987). More often than not, the focus is on isolated clashes with individuals or incidents, or criticisms directed at specific departments, the sum of which does not make a collective case for conspiracy. It is left to Richard Crossman and Tony Benn to provide a more developed critique, centred on the perceived problem of bureaucratic power and Whitehall obstructionism. The criticisms by Richard Crossman are wide-ranging. Initially, he had been under-whelmed by the Attlee Government’s unwillingness to question the commitment of the permanent administration to a programme of radical social reform and a failure to bring in outside appointments. Crossman (1965: 155) concluded that the Administration had: ‘... quietly expired in the arms of the Whitehall Establishment’. More latterly, in diaries, he records his experiences as a Cabinet minister in Housing and Local Government (1964–66) and Health and Social Security (1968–70). Here, he makes constant reference to the perceived imbalance in power relations between a minister and the department. He expresses frustration at: the way in which officials withheld information; overwhelmed him with unnecessary paperwork;6 steered policy through inter-departmental committees without ministerial cover; the constant run-ins with an obstructionist Treasury; and the infamous battles with one of his permanent secretaries, Dame Evelyn Sharp.7 In his reflections of the Wilson government, his criticisms were aimed as much at his own Party – its lack of thorough preparation when in opposition, its rapid descent after 1964 into ‘departmentalism’ as colleagues became enveloped by the embrace of their individual Whitehall empires and with it, the decline of Cabinet Government – as at the malign influence of senior civil servants on policy. Theakston (1992: 35) observes: ‘... an important – but often overlooked – theme of the Crossman diaries is how clever and determined ministers (such as Crossman ...) can triumph over this opposition.’ Elsewhere, Tony Benn’s observations, drawn from his ministerial experiences as Secretary of State for Industry (1974–5) and Energy (1975–9), form a major contribution to the conspiratorial view. Benn was convinced that the Civil Service frustrated his own attempts at

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radical change (Benn 1980). As he observed in an interview with the author: ... civil servants think that continuity of government works within the department and people come in and stay for a year or two in the bridal suite of the Grand Hotel but they still run it ... I think they do think that and its your job not to get angry about that, but just to shift it. Benn wanted the Department of Industry, and subsequently Energy, to become departments of economic planning more supportive of the interests of the trade unions rather than of business. He argued that his Permanent Secretary at the Department of Industry informed him: ‘“I take it you are not going to implement the manifesto”. He actually said it to me. I said, “You must be joking” and I circulated the manifesto to all civil servants and told them, “That’s what we have been elected to do”’. Benn believed his officials intentionally thwarted the implementation of his agenda. One official who worked with Benn felt: ‘... he was not thwarted exactly, but he was certainly subjected to a good deal of advice that he found unwelcome’. The problem was that Benn failed to recognise the informal rules of the Whitehall game and the lines of dependency that needed to be maintained with civil servants to achieve his goals. From Whitehall’s perspective, he upset various senior officials by ignoring and questioning their advice and by developing an alternative advice network through: ‘... his rather pernicious political advisers’ (one official); the ‘... dreaded Frances Morrell and Francis Cripps’ (another official). He also used his contacts in the Trade Union movement as an alternative source of advice; often playing-off the advice he had received in Department briefs with that which union officials had provided. Although constitutionally permissible, these actions did not endear Benn to his officials (see Marsh et al 2000b; Richards and Smith 2004a). As one official concluded: ‘Of course, it didn’t do him any good, because we immediately started writing different kinds of briefs.’ By the end of the Callaghan Government, Benn (1980: 62) had formulated the view that a devious and conspiratorial Civil Service represented a formidable obstacle to the achievement of a Labour government with a socialist programme: The problem arises from the fact the Civil Service sees itself as being above the party battle, with a political position of its own to defend against all-comers, including governments armed with their own

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philosophy and programme. Whitehall prefers consensus politics ... they are always trying to steer incoming government back to the policy of the outgoing government, minus the mistakes that the Civil Service thought the outgoing government made. If we recall Gamble’s observation that the radical, intellectual wing of the Labour movement has tended to draw from a narrative that embraces the notion of British exceptionalism, then in a somewhat similar vein, Theakston (1992: 4) observes of the ‘radical view’ offered by former Labour ministers: It is an interesting comment on the nature of the British Labour Party that some of its leading left-wing figures, such as Aneurin Bevan, Michael Foot, and Tony Benn, should be the strongest defenders of parliamentarism and of what is essentially a pre-socialist view of the constitution. This view can be explained by their particular construction of the Parliamentary state and model of democracy. At the heart of this interpretation is the importance attached to the Party manifesto. Crossman and Benn argued that they were there to implement party policy but, unlike most of their colleagues, they interpreted their legitimacy as deriving not from Parliament or the Cabinet, but from the Party and, in particular, the manifesto. The manifesto is presented as an unchallengeable contract between the executive and the electorate – and the role of the Civil Service is to ensure the effective implementation of this contract. This interpretation emphasises particular elements of the Westminster model: the constitutional notion of ministerial authority and responsibility; and a belief that officials are there to do what they are told by their minister. The manifesto is not a document to be challenged either by unelected bureaucrats, or to be watered down through lobbying and negotiation. As Crossman (1972:19; cf. Theakston 1992: 61) observed: ‘The point of the manifesto is not to persuade the voter. The point of the manifesto is to give yourself an anchor when the Civil Service tries to go back on your word.’ It is an explicitly top-down interpretation of the Westminster model which draws on the extensive powers located at the executive level. This view has some parallels with the Marxist-Leninist principle of ‘democratic centralism’.8 The sense of frustration and in many ways the source of much of the conspiratorial view, arose when ministers such as Benn or Crossman had their own interpretation of the manifesto challenged, by civil servants or Cabinet

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colleagues with an alternative political outlook, or with whom they were engaged in a departmental turf battle. From the different approaches outlined above for analysing Whitehall power, we can conclude that past Labour Governments’ relations with Whitehall have been formulated within the constitutional parameters set out by the Westminster model. It is argued that any explanation of previous Labour Administrations approach to dealing with Whitehall requires recognising the Westminster model as the key aggregate concept. That is not to dismiss other narratives, such as the conspiratorial view of Whitehall, which have found some expression on the Left, but clearly, its impact on the Labour leadership has been relatively marginal. If this chapter is concerned with exploring the Blair Administration’s approach to its relations with Whitehall and more particular, the senior Civil Service, then the analysis above offers a framework for exploring this theme. It suggests the centrality of the Westminster model in accounting for New Labour’s approach to Whitehall. It offers a view that, as with previous Labour Governments, a Whiggish outlook and a willingness to work with and not against the constitutional status quo has shaped the Blairite approach. To address this theme, it is important to understand the nature of Labour’s inheritance. In particular, the extent to which eighteen years of Conservative Administration conditioned Labour’s response to the senior Civil Service it inherited in 1997.

The Blair Administration’s inheritance: a Conservative effect on Whitehall and New Labour’s response As we saw in Chapter 3, the Thatcher Administration’s strategy for realigning the power balance between the executive and Whitehall emphasised themes of de-privileging and changing the culture and attitude of senior civil servants. Richards (1997) demonstrates that the last Conservative Administration did not attempt to overtly politicise the senior Civil Service by appointing a series of Conservative Party sympathisers to the most senior posts in Whitehall (see Hojnacki 1996). Prior to the 1992 General Election, Neil Kinnock, the leader of the opposition, maintained the constitutional status quo, stating that in the event of Labour Government, he would accept the Civil Service inherited from the Conservatives. Elsewhere, he indicated that he would not have

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retained Mrs. Thatcher’s special advisers, but as regards Permanent Secretaries: We obviously have to examine the degree of enthusiasm and loyalty that they are prepared to demonstrate in support of a Labour Government and in the implementation of the policy of that Government. I’m prepared to work on that basis, the conventional basis, which has stood us in good stead in Britain. (Kinnock interviewed for A Week In Politics Channel 4, 29 May 1985) The longevity of Margaret Thatcher’s term as Prime Minister, led to her approving a large number of appointments to the top two grades in Whitehall.9 In so doing, it has been argued that she personalised the appointments system, ensuring that a number of key individuals with a more ‘managerially oriented, can-doer’ outlook were appointed to strategic posts (Richards 1997). The aim was to affect a cultural change at the highest tiers in Whitehall, with the hope that it would permeate down through the rest of the senior civil service. Senior officials were encouraged to concentrate on finding ways of implementing government policy, rather than focusing on the more traditional ‘snag-hunter’ role of previous Whitehall generations.10 After 1990, a further dimension was added to this debate. It was suggested that the longevity of the Conservatives in power had undermined the neutrality of the Civil Service. By 1997, no one under the age of 37 in Whitehall had experienced serving any other government than that of a Conservative hue. This prompted concerns about the ‘mindset’ of a growing proportion of officials. The former Labour M.P. Oonagh McDonald summed up this view: I don’t think it’s the problem that people often suggest: that you will have ... a group of Tory civil servants around you. But you will be so used to looking at the world in a particular way and they will be so used to having collected their particular range of options for consideration, it’s going to be quite a shock to take a wider view, to look for other solutions and to think freshly about the issues. So I think this is a serious problem. (Hennessy and Coates 1992: 9) The former leader of the Party, the late John Smith was more ambivalent, believing that the Labour Party would have to review the situation when taking over the reins of power (see Hennessy and Coates 1992). In

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1992, James Callaghan, who as Prime Minister had defended the status quo, believed a Conservative effect had occurred:11 The Civil Service has now reached the stage where it is simply a fiefdom of the Conservative Party, the Conservatives having been in power for so long. Traditionally, the Civil Service has acted as a buffer between politicians and the public. A conscientious civil servant was capable of saying ‘no minister’. This is no longer the case. The Civil Service has been ‘socialised’ into becoming simply a further branch of the Conservative Party. Implicit in Callaghan’s observation was the view that civil servants were no longer prepared to provide their ministers with critical, but nevertheless essential advice; a role previous generations of mandarins emphasised as fundamental to the ethos of Whitehall. Hennessy concluded that: If the government does change in the 1990s, it will be essential that the seam does not show. Any suspicion that a ‘Bluehall’ has become established will not simply imperil the Civil Service. It will inflict lasting damage on our system of government as a whole. (Hennessy and Coates 1992: 19) In the 1990s, the transformation to ‘New Labour’ gathered momentum and the likelihood of a Blair Administration looked increasingly certain. The Party’s front-bench team needed to address a series of pressing questions concerning the practicalities of government. One issue was the position it would adopt in relation to Whitehall, particularly in the light of the longevity of the Conservative Administration. As the analysis above of the 1997 process of transition argues, it was in the interests of both New Labour and Whitehall to ensure that the seamless web of government remained intact. Theakston (1998: 15) sums up the view of Whitehall: All the signs were that Whitehall was ready and willing to serve a new Labour administration. Its morale had been hit by the job losses and managerial upheavals of the Tory years. Conservative ministers grew arrogant in office and some did not hide their contempt for officialdom. Senior mandarins were dismayed by the evidence of disarray in the conduct and policies of the Major government ... Officials were desperate to demonstrate their political neutrality after 18 years of one-party rule and a series of challenges to the traditional public service values.

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New Labour needed to demonstrate its suitability for office, which was coupled to a desire to ensure the establishment of a cooperative and productive relationship with Whitehall. A co-ordinated or sustained attack targeted at a ‘Bluehall effect in Whitehall’ was therefore never likely to emerge from the frontbench.12 In an article in The Economist (4/1/1997), the Party made it clear that in terms of the existing mandarinate: ‘... there will be no bloodletting’. The former Labour front-bencher, Kevin McNamara argued that the Party does not: ‘... start off with a conspiracy theory’ (cf. Theakston 1998: 16). Mandelson and Liddle (1996: 248) observed that it would be wrong and unjustified: ‘for new ministers to come into office with a hit list of senior civil servants they want to remove ... and there is no evidence that they will be unenthusiastic servants of a Labour government’. Despite 18 years of Conservative rule, on taking up the reins of power New Labour had no intention of inflicting a ‘night of the long-knives’ on the senior Civil Service. There were concerns about the effect of the longevity of the Conservative Administration on Whitehall’s mind-set. As Mandelson and Liddle (1996: 247–8) observe: Whitehall officials have been colonised rather than politicised. They have worked in the service of government by a single party for a long time, and this is bound to have had an effect on their policy values and habits of mind. In some cases ... senior officials have learned to be too quiescent for their own or the government’s health ... [T]he main issue is not that they have given partisan advice to suit Tory ministers’ prejudices but that, very often, they have not been asked for their advice at all. Relearning how to give honest, objective policy advice to Labour ministers and rediscovering their courage to speak up after years of keeping their heads down will be the chief challenge for them. A more strident view was often taken by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook: After a decade and a half in power, the Conservatives have surrounded themselves with senior officials who are incapable of distinguishing between their loyalty to the political ambitions of their minister and their duty to the nation to provide a Civil Service above party politics. (cf. Theakston 1998: 15) As the likelihood of office increasingly grew in the 1990s, New Labour rejected the notion of overt politicisation of Whitehall occurring during

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the Thatcher/Major years. But it was concerned by the extent to which civil servants ability to offer necessary, but critical advice had become dormant. Their views reflects the findings of Richards (1997) that, in particular during the Thatcher years, policy ‘can-doers’ rather than policy ‘snag hunters’ were appointed to some key positions in Whitehall. Competing perspectives on New Labour’s approach to the senior Civil Service From the arguments presented above, we can identify a number of competing perspectives on the potential impact of New Labour on the senior Civil Service: • Maintaining the constitutional status quo – the continued dominance of the Westminster model: as with previous Labour Administrations, the Blair Government continued to accept the MacDonald position that the Labour Party is a constitutionalist party and was therefore willing to work within the existing architecture of the Westminster model. From this perspective, Labour was happy to view the senior Civil Service as neutral with impartial officials who would be more than capable of switching their allegiance from a Conservative to a Labour Government. • Overt politicisation – the desire by the Blair team to impose the Millbank Model of control across the core executive, and/or Labour’s suspicions that Whitehall had been ‘colonised’ under the Conservatives, led to the appointment of Labour sympathisers to key departmental posts in the senior Civil Service. This could occur in two different ways: either through the rapid promotional advancement of known Labour sympathisers already working in the Civil Service, or by the appointment of ‘outsiders’ with Labour connections to particular top jobs in Whitehall. This would be seen as Labour abandoning the Haldane model and introducing its own version of a US ‘spoils’ system or a French cabinet system based on the systematic appointment of large numbers of party political appointees. • Covert Politicisation Mark 1 – as with the Thatcher years, the Blair Administration appointed ‘can-doers’ to senior posts in Whitehall. These were individuals identified as possessing the requisite skills to ensure the implementation of Labour policy, but at the expense of ignoring the more traditional, but crucial role of questioning the fundamentals of government policy. Here, style, rather than political outlook, is important for preferment in Whitehall. The concern

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is that such an approach could result in poor policy-making or potentially lead to high-cost failures in government. It would establish a new cadre of senior civil servants lacking the traditional ‘virtues’ associated with the Westminster model of integrity and objectivity. • Covert Politicisation Mark II – this relates to the notion that the Blair team wished to impose the Millbank model of control; rather than overhaul the existing senior Civil Service (at a potentially high political cost to a new and inexperienced government), a more expedient alternative, would be to impose control through the extension and enhancement of the special adviser (political appointees) faculty. Here, criticisms centred on: the increase in the number of special advisers after 1997; the lack of clarity concerning the procedures for their appointment; a perceived loss of probity and the political manipulation of the ‘facts’ in the presentation of government briefings; concern that advisers were acting as ‘gatekeepers’ between their minister and the department; and finally, the view that: ‘The Blair Government are stopping most officials from being policy-makers, except for the few who de facto become special advisers’ (Foster 2005: 285). This view suggests that the impact of special advisers has lead to a covert form of politicisation. Of these four perspectives, the first three are all concerned with whether or not Tony Blair used the Prime Ministerial prerogative of approving appointments to the most senior grades in the Civil Service to affect a change in the type of individual serving at the top. The fourth perspective is more concerned with the Blair Government’s approach to the use of special advisers. To address these perspectives, the chapter sets out how the top appointments system in Whitehall has operated since 1997, before analysing a variety of empirical sources concerning Blair’s approach to senior appointments. The chapter then considers the issue of special advisers to assess an overall ‘New Labour effect’ on Whitehall since 1997.

The senior appointments system Richards (1996b, 1997) has set out how the system of appointing senior civil servants in Whitehall operates in both theory and practice. In the light of this account, this section identifies the main changes that have taken place to the system of top appointments since 1997 and presents a brief overview of how the system now operates.

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Formally, the constitutional convention concerning top appointments in Whitehall decrees that the Prime Minister, on the advice of the Head of the Home Civil Service, approves all appointments to the two most senior grades in the higher Civil Service which, since March 2006, is now referred to in Whitehall circles as the ‘top 200 Senior Civil Servants in the UK’.13 The key actors involved in top appointments are the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Secretary, the Senior Leadership Committee (SLC), the Civil Service Commissioners and the Cabinet Office’s Corporate Development Group.14 It is the Head of the Home Civil Service who makes the final appointment, having listened to the views of the SLC and the minister of the relevant department in which the appointment is to be made. For obvious reasons, the ‘top 200 group’ are regarded as key appointments, as it is their responsibility to offer a vision of leadership, direction and management for Whitehall. As a Cabinet Office official observed: We need to develop these top 200 civil servants as a leadership cadre, as a body of people who are going to be very important to the business, they need to work together on things, they need to be aware of problems in each other’s areas, they need to have corporate and collective resources, if you like, for running the large bits of business they tend to be running in the Civil Service. The importance of this group in Whitehall and the potential influence it can wield explains why the Prime Minister is involved in formally approving appointments at this level. Prior to the appointment of an individual to the top 200 group, two of the key bodies involved in the process are the Civil Service Commissioners and the SLC. The role of the Commissioners is to ensure appointments are based on merit and the principles of open and fair competition, as specified in the Code of Practice, are observed (Civil Service Commissioners 2003; see also Richards 1997: 51–3).15 The SLC was established in 2003 having previously been referred to as the Senior Appointments Selection Committee (SASC). In an interview, a Cabinet Office official explained the background to the change: I think what changed was that there was a recognition that the function of the Committee had changed, in that the reason SASC existed up to that point was to, if you like, oversee appointments that departments wanted to make, and to make sure that they were the right appointments; that everything was fair; that it was being done

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correctly. Whereas, I think the idea of turning it into the Senior Leadership Committee was to give it a little more of a proactive role and a cross-departmental role in negotiating appointments, and getting these sort of things moving. Calling the thing the Senior Leadership Committee also meant that one of the key roles of the body is to set leadership strategy for the senior Civil Service. The role of the Committee, which meets monthly, is to look strategically at the senior staffing position across the Service in the light of succession plans for the most senior posts, alongside career development management arrangements. The SLC also meets every month with a Permanent Secretary to discuss their top team, how it is functioning and to identify potential ‘high-flyers’. When a vacancy arises, and on the basis of the succession planning material, SLC considers the relative merits of civil servants for promotion to the top 200 group and advises the Head of the Home Civil Service on the candidates to be recommended. In March 2007, the SLC’s membership comprised of various permanent secretaries, a Civil Service Commissioner and two outsiders: Gus O’Donnell (Cabinet Secretary), David Bell (Chairman Pearson), Peter Ellwood (Chairman ICI), Helen Ghosh (Permanent Secretary DEFRA), Bill Jeffrey (Permanent Under-Secretary MoD), David Normington (Permanent Secretary Home Office), Janet Paraskeva (First Commissioner, Office of the Civil Service Commissioners), Gill Rider (Director General, Corporate Development Group, Cabinet Office) and Jon Shortridge (Head of Department, Welsh Assembly Government). When a vacancy in the top 200 group arises, the first decision is whether or not the job should go to open competition or not. This involves discussions between the Civil Service Commissioners, the relevant department and the Corporate Development Group.16 The decision is also influenced by the setting of a PSA target, as a Cabinet Office official observed: One of our PSA targets, in terms of the Civil Service, is to improve leadership and recruitment that we need to test the market at regular intervals. So there’s a PSA target that 50 per cent of recruitment or jobs filled will be done by open competition. So a certain proportion of the time we’ll go out to the market. I don’t know whether that’s going to continue in the future as a target, partly because it’s incredibly expensive and not necessarily that practical if you’ve just gone to the market for a similar job in one department, there’s not a lot of point running a competition for the same job somewhere else; we

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know who the people are and you’ve already decided that they’re no good or something. There are limits to how useful an exercise that is. It is also unusual to bring in an outsider at the level of Permanent Secretary. But, the official noted that in recent years there had been greater pressure to go to an ‘open competition’: Culturally, what used to happen was that you would have an outside competition only when you were fairly certain that you couldn’t find a civil servant. Now, because of the idea that you need to make sure, through that market mechanism, whether or not you have got the right person, you may end up going to open competition, when there are credible internal candidates who go on to win the competition. There is a, I think, a kind of contradiction, in that if you’re a private organisation, you’re aiming to have as few competitions as possible because they’re expensive ways of finding jobs. Whereas because we are the Civil Service, that cannot be our aim overall; we do have to make sure, if you like, that we’re getting it right by going to the market ... There’s a kind of constitutional mechanism bolted on which talks about merit and open competition, promotion on merit that we have to make sure that we’re getting right. Appointing a Permanent Secretary: A chronology of events In order to understand how the process of top appointments works in practice and to explain the role of the Prime Minister, a chronological sequence of events is presented below, charting what occurs when a vacancy arises at Permanent Secretary level. Stage One – The Permanent Secretary retiring will discuss the succession in detail with the Head of the Home Civil Service, after which the Permanent Secretary will then make a formal written submission to the SLC that specifies: the qualities required for the vacant job; the challenges in the future; the needs of the senior team; alongside a recommendation to the post. The Permanent Secretary will take account of the ‘succession plans’, and, in discussion with an official from the Corporate Development Group, additional names from outside the department may be added. These are individuals who have been identified as high-flyers in departmental succession and career plans. On this basis the Permanent Secretary will then compile a list of recommended names for the vacant post. The list varies in length, depending on the post to be filled. The norm is

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between three and eight names, but typically six or seven names are presented. Stage Two – SLC review and discuss the individuals on the list. At this stage, the retiring Permanent Secretary has already consulted with the incumbent minister on his/her own preferences. Particular attention is paid to whether or not the minister has a strong aversion to working with an individual. However, the minister’s views are only a consideration and, even if s/he is strongly opposed to working with a certain individual on the list, it does not mean that that person’s name is necessarily deleted. SLC also receive full curriculum vitae on the relevant individuals and their annual ‘assessment and personal qualities reports’. They will conduct a series of discussions about the individuals. If any problems come to light concerning a person on the list, the Head of the Home Civil Service will undertake a series of bilateral talks with the relevant actors in order to smooth out the whole process. Stage Three – Following the SLC consultation stage, the Cabinet Secretary will then determine the final recommendation to be presented to the Prime Minister. It is the recommendation of the Head of the Civil Service and his alone. All the other outlets – SLC, Permanent Secretaries, the Civil Service Commission, the Corporate Development Group and Ministers only act in an advisory capacity. The Cabinet Secretary will send a written submission to the Prime Minister, providing qualifications and details, normally of two or three suitable candidates for the vacant post and make a recommendation. It is only at this stage that the views of the Prime Minister are officially sought. Stage Four – If necessary, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary will have an informal discussion on the various choices. At this stage, the candidate for the post is chosen. The Prime Minister’s role is to approve or reject the recommendation of the Cabinet Office. As Richards (1997: 58) observes: This is a peculiarly British process: the Head of the Home Civil Service cannot make an appointment without the approval of the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister cannot approve an appointment which has not be presented to him/her by the Head of the Home Civil Service. They therefore need each other. The approach of former Prime Ministers A vital element in the senior appointments procedure is the attitude of the Prime Minister towards top appointments. For example, if a Prime Minister adopted a non-interventionist or passive attitude, regarding it

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as simply a Civil Service matter, then the Prime Ministerial function becomes a rubber-stamping exercise. Alternatively, a Prime Minister could decide to adopt a more pro-active role in the process, making clear his/her preference for a particular individual, or type of individual. In this case, the whole process takes on a different character. In terms of the two Labour Prime Ministers preceding Blair, Harold Wilson was known to have done little to influence the top appointments process during his two periods as Prime Minister (see Richards 1997: 62). In many ways, Wilson’s passiveness towards this role reflected his reluctance to ‘take-on’ the Civil Service and a willingness to accept the Westminster model. His successor, James Callaghan, paid closer attention to senior appointments: I took considerable interest in this, perhaps because I have known a lot of people in the Civil Service in my official capacity ... The degree of interest would depend on my knowledge of the persons involved. If I did not know them I would be willing to accept the advice of people who did know them ... If somebody was put up to me to become Under Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and I had no idea about the three people who had been put up I would choose the one recommended which had already gone through the permanent secretary in the department and a small group of permanent secretaries who knew these people together with the Civil Service Department ... I do not think I ever overruled them. If they were aware of my interest and knowledge I think they were a little reluctant to make a recommendation; they would put the facts in front of me and ask ‘What do you think?’ I cannot say I ever overruled them. I do not think that happened. (Treasury and Civil Service Committee: 1986, p. 725–728) Callaghan served in the three ‘great’ Departments of State; the Treasury, the Home Office and the Foreign Office. When consulted on a vacancy as Prime Minister, he would have often known the individual concerned. This gave him a deeper pool of knowledge on which to draw than Wilson and was reflected in his greater input into the senior appointments process. But as Richards (1997: 63) observes: ‘He was, however, instinctively conservative and one witnessed this in the degree to which he accepted the recommendations presented to him.’ More recently, Mrs. Thatcher took a pro-active role in senior appointments, with a number of high-profile interventions, most notably at Permanent Secretary level, and in so doing ‘personalised’ the system (Richards 1996b, 1997). In the case of John Major, he was willing to

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adopt a more: ‘... traditional, passive role ... accepting the recommendations presented to him by the Cabinet Secretary’ (Richards 1997: 235).

Methodology In terms then of assessing Blair’s approach to top appointments in Whitehall, an obvious starting point is to identify: cases of accelerated promotion; cases of outside appointments; and any change in the type of official appointed to the highest levels in Whitehall. To address these questions a similar methodological approach to a previous study examining a ‘Thatcher effect’ on top appointments has been adopted involving both a quantitative and qualitative analysis.17 An initial quantitative analysis of accelerated promotion requires identifying the appointment of any individual to one of the top posts which involves a rise of two or more grades. Such a rise is faster than the Whitehall norm (see Richards 1997: 69). This is also combined with a similar analysis identifying any outside appointments at this level. A comparative demographic analysis is also undertaken of all first-time appointments to the top grades during the Blair era with the same cohort of officials appointed during the previous Conservative Administration. The aim here is to identify whether or not, under Blair, a change has taken place in the ‘traditional’ type of senior official (see Richards 1997: 76; Kavanagh and Richards 2003).18 To undertake the various elements to this quantitative analysis, a number of stages are involved: • Compiling a list of all the departments in Whitehall and of any structural changes in the Government between 1997 and 2004 using the Civil Service Year Book.19 • Identifying all the Permanent Secretaries who held posts in those departments between 1997 and 2004. • Comparing the social backgrounds of first time appointees to Permanent Secretary, during the present Labour Government and the last Conservative Government, considering age, gender, schooling and higher education records. This data can be compiled by drawing on Who’s Who, The Whitehall Companion, Civil Service Statistics and with the data-sets compiled on the previous Conservative Administration (Richards 1997). • Examining each individual appointment/promotion to Permanent Secretary, noting cases of accelerated promotion – 2 or more grades – and all outside appointments.

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The data derived from this quantitative analysis can offer an indicator of whether or not there has been a change in the demographic make-up of the cohort of permanent secretaries appointed by Blair and highlight where there have been cases of rapid promotion or outside appointment. It will not allow for any substantive conclusions to be drawn on the extent to which a ‘New Labour effect’ on Whitehall has taken place. To offer a fuller account, a qualitative analysis is also presented which draws on the views provided by the key actors involved in this process – ministers, special advisers and civil servants. Here, a variety of primary sources are used: ministers’ memoirs, autobiographies, diaries and other written accounts, oral evidence presented to Select Committees, Parliament etc. and a range of interviews conducted by the author.20

Quantifying a Blair effect on Whitehall Table 6.1 shows the number of individuals promoted for the first time to the most senior level in Whitehall.21 The figures indicate that there is little variation in the number of first time promotions during the Blair Government and the last Conservative Administration. This is not surprising, as while the architecture of Whitehall has undergone a number of changes post-1997 (see Appendix B), the overall number of ministries has not substantially changed, nor has there been any change to the standard retirement age of sixty for senior civil servants.22 Here, it is worth noting that by 2004, Blair had been responsible for approving all appointments to the most senior grades. The six cases of accelerated promotions under Tony Blair are: • 1998 – Joseph Pilling was appointed to Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) from the post of Principal Establishment and Finance Officer at the Department of Health (DH). • 1999 – Liam Donaldson was appointed to Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health (DH) from the post of Regional Director, Northern and York NHS Executive. • 2000 – Mavis McDonald was promoted to Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office from the post of Under-Secretary at the Department of Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR). • 2001 – Nigel Crisp was appointed to Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health from the post of Regional Director) at NHS Executive in London.

Table 6.1a Number of first-time promotions to grade 1/1a (1980–96) 1980

1982

1981 9

4

1984 1983

8

13

1986

1985 11

8

1988

1987 6

8

1990 1989

4

7

1992

1991 6

4

1994 1993 6

7

1996

Total

1995 4

6

0

111

Table 6.1b Number of first-time appointees to grade 1/1a (1997–2004) 1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Total

1

9

7

7

4

8

5

6

47

Note: The source of the numbers between 1980 and 1995 is Richards’ (1997: 224) survey. These figures include all those defined in the Civil Service Yearbook as Grade 1/1a officials.

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• 2002 – Ian Andrews was promoted to Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from the post of Chief Executive of Defence Estates Agency. • 2002 – Andrew Foster was appointed to Director of Human Resources at the Department of Health (DH) from the post of Chairman of Wigan NHS Trust. Table 6.2 indicates that during the Blair era there was no substantial rise in the number of individual cases which could be construed as accelerated promotion. Of the six individuals who did receive rapid promotion, the majority were in specialist areas such as health. None, except Mavis MacDonald, were appointed to what might be termed as strategically important posts in departments such as the Cabinet Office, the Treasury or the Home Office.23 Provisionally, in terms of cases of rapid promotion to the most senior ranks in Whitehall, this data indicates that there is little evidence to be found of a Blair effect on top appointments. Instead, it would appear that throughout the Blair era, a ‘traditional pattern’ of promotions to the top occurred. Another element to consider is what can be termed a ‘centre effect’. Richards (1997: 69–71) analysis of top appointments under Margaret Thatcher and her personalisation of the system indicated that: Catching the Prime Minister’s eye ... became increasingly important. Further, because catching the Prime Minister’s eye became one of the most effective means of securing preference to the highest grades, this strengthened the ‘centre effect’ in senior appointments; serving in the Cabinet Office, Treasury or Prime Minister’s Office became an even more important step on the road to rapid promotion ... A significantly higher proportion were appointed in the Thatcher years, this would suggest that she may have used the normal process of sending ‘high-flyers’ to the centre to single-out ... those she regarded as candoers. Table 6.2 Number of first-time appointees with accelerated promotion by two or more grades (1980–2004) 1980–1990

1991–96

1997–2004

4 (4.8%)

0 (0%)

6 (12.7%)

Note: The figures between 1980 and 1995 are taken from Richards’ (1997: 82 and 224) survey.

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Table 6.3 First-time appointments to grade 1/1a with experience of the centre (1980–2004) 1997–2004

1980–1990

1991–95

Cabinet office 9 (24.3%)

8 (13.8%)

3 (11.1%)

Treasury 6 (16.2%)

15 (25.9%)

2 (7.4%)

Cabinet Office / Treasury 1 (2.7%)

7 (12.1%)

6 (22.2%)

PPS to the Prime Minister 0 (0%)

4 (6.9%)

1 (3.7%)

No centre experience 21 (56.8%)

24 (41.4%)

15 (55.6%)

With centre experience 16 (43.2%)

16 (58.6%)

12 (44.4%)

Total 37 (100%)*

40 (100%)

27 (100%)

* This number has excluded outside appointments

Table 6.3 presents a similar examination of a potential ‘centre effect’ during the Blair era. Between 1980 and 1990, 16 (58 per cent) first-time appointees to Grade 1/1a had experience of the centre prior to their promotion to Permanent Secretary. By contrast, only 12 (44.4 per cent) of the 27 appointees of the Major Administration passed through the centre on their way to the highest grade in Whitehall. As Richards (1997: 226) observes, this substantiates the argument that, unlike Mrs Thatcher who personalised the appointments procedure by using the centre intensively, under Major this was not the case. The evidence indicates that, as with Major, the Blair era reflected a traditional approach. As Table 6.3 indicates, only 16 (43.2 per cent) of the 37 appointments between 1997 and 2004 had experience of the centre before being promoted to the highest grade. Compared to the Thatcher period, this represents a decrease of 15.4 per cent and denotes a return to the pre-1979 levels (see Richards 1997: 91). Another element to consider is whether or not during the Blair era, a marked increase in outside appointments occurred. The eight cases of outside appointments under Tony Blair: 1999 David Calvert-Smith was appointed to Director of Crown Prosecutions from a post at the Treasury Council.

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Keith O’Nions was appointed to Chief Scientific Adviser at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from the post of Head of the Department of Earth Science at the University of Oxford. 2000 Len Cook was appointed to Chief Executive of the Central Statistical Office and Head of the Statistical Service from the post of Government Statistician in New Zealand. Richard Broadbent was appointed to Chairman of HM Customs and Excise (C&E) from a post at Schroders plc. David King was appointed to Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Office of Science and Technology at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from the post of Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. 2004 Howell James was appointed to Permanent Secretary in charge of Government Communications at the Cabinet Office from the post of Director, Brown Lloyd James. Ken Macdonald was appointed to Director of Crown Prosecutions from being a Recorder. Alex Allan was appointed to Chair and Permanent Secretary of Lord Chancellor’s Department (LCD) from being a freelance consultant. What Table 6.4 indicates is that there have been 8 (17 per cent) cases of outside promotion under the Labour Government, slightly higher than the percentage (10.7 per cent) under the Thatcher administration, but lower than that of the Major years (29.7 per cent). Almost all outside appointments under Blair, like those between 1980 and 1996 (see Richards 1997), have been to what can be referred to as specialist and technical posts. The only outside appointment which requires closer inspection is that of Howell James, appointed to direct government communications in the Cabinet Office. But here also, in Whitehall circles, this post would be classified as a specialist, as opposed to a generalist type role and the appointee’s background highlights his particular Table 6.4 Number of outside promotion to grade 1/1a (1980–2004) 1980–90

1991–96

1997–2004

9 (10.7%)

8 (29.7%)

8 (17%)

Note: The figures between 1980 and 1995 are from Richards (1997: 225).

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experience in this specific field.24 What Table 6.4 indicates is that there is little evidence to suggest that during the Blair era, there was any attempt to affect change in the senior Civil Service by appointing outsiders to the most senior posts in Whitehall. It appears that Blair was willing to retain the traditional approach towards top appointments. In terms of quantifying any change that occurred during the Blair Administration, a further theme is whether or not a demographic shift occurred in the type of official appointed to the most senior grades in Whitehall (see Table 6.4). The relevance of this analysis concerns a number of issues associated with the Labour Party: first, that of the principle of ‘equality of opportunity’ that forms part of the ‘New’ Labour narrative (see Hale 2006); also, there is the ‘Old’ Labour narrative, found in the elitist accounts offered by the likes of Laski and Miliband, (see Chapter 2) concerning whether or not a process of socialisation and the associated ‘mind-set’ of the mandarin class renders it instinctively inimical to radical revisionism; there is also a link to the broader themes discussed in Chapter 5 concerning reform of Whitehall after 1997 and Labour’s Modernising Government programme. In particular, whether or not the stated aims of greater diversity (especially in terms of gender and ethnicity) and more openness (or to use Whitehall’s own expression: ‘... to become less hidebound, and better at bringing on talent’) is reflected in a more diverse range of individuals appointed to the highest grades in the post-1997 era. Table 6.5 indicates that the demographic make-up of first-time appointees to Grade 1/1a in the Labour Government is similar to that of its predecessors between 1980 and 1990, particularly under the Major Administration. There was a small reduction in the age at which individuals were appointed to the most senior levels between 1997 and 2004 and a slight increase in the number of female senior appointments. Compared to the period between 1991 and 1995, there was an increase in the number of first-time appointees who received an Oxbridge education. The figures also reveal that, in relation to the Conservative era, the most substantial change between 1997 and 2004 occurs in the number of first-time appointees to Grade 1/1a who attended state school. In the Major administration, only 5 (18.5 per cent) of the appointees received an education in state schools, while the figure has risen to 16 (41 per cent) in the Labour Government. There was a notable increase of 22.5 per cent between 1997 and 2004. It is not surprising that there is little variation in the profile of individuals appointed to the most senior levels in Whitehall under Blair compared to that of the previous generation of senior mandarins. There

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New Labour and the Civil Service Table 6.5 Demographic profile of first-time appointees to grade 1/1a 1997–2004 Nos (%)

1980–90 Nos (%)

1991–95 Nos (%)

Average age of newly appointed official 50.1

53.8

51.8

The number state educated 16 (41%)*

6 (7%)

5 (18.5%)

The number from private school 23 (59%)*

78 (93%)

22 (81.5%)

The number from university (excluding Oxbridge) 17 (37.8%)

25 (29%)

13 (48.5%)

The number from Oxbridge 25 (55.6%)

51 (61%)

12 (44.5%)

The number without university education 3 (6.7%)

8 (10%)

2 (7%)

1 (1.1%)

2 (7%)

The number of women 4 (8.9%)

Note: The demographic data on two permanent secretaries was unavailable. There was also missing data on the secondary education of four permanent secretaries; two of whom were not educated in the UK.

are structural constraints involved in appointments and promotions in Whitehall. Unlike, for example, the case of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland that is able to operate a system of positive discrimination to increase the recruitment of Catholics, the United Kingdom employment framework allows only for affirmative action. In practice then, it would take a generation to affect a wholesale change in the demographic profile of the most senior cohort in Whitehall. The most direct means of advancing a swifter change would be through the widespread introduction of outsiders to the highest grades. But as Table 6.4 indicates, this did not happen under Blair. These findings also do little to address the concerns raised in those accounts of British politics which suggest that it is structured in such a way as to: ‘... represent the interests of men, and a small segment of the male population at that, men who are white, middle class and heterosexual’ (Charles 2002: 167). Or those who advocate the need for a ‘critical mass’ of female and/or ethnic minority representation in state

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institutions (see Lovenduski and Norris 1996, but see also Squires and Wickham-Jones 2004; Childs and Krook 2006).25 For Sue Street, former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Cultural, Media and Sports (2001–6), the issue is a cultural one: ‘I’m very disappointed that the proportion of women at the top is so small. I conclude that there is still something of a “big beast” culture in Whitehall and I think that has to be challenged’ (BBC Radio 4, 2007c).26 However, as part of the Treasury’s 2004 Spending Review, the Government set the longer-term goal of ensuring that the make-up of the Civil Service reflected that of the population. The review also set new targets for representation in the Senior Civil Service, as part of a broader commitment to improve leadership skills and diversity. The targets included: • 31.2 per cent of the Senior Civil Service are women – a 37 per cent target by 2008; • 26.8 per cent of top management posts are filled by women – a 30 per cent target by 2008; • 3.2 per cent of the Senior Civil Service are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds – a 4 per cent target by 2008; • 2.8 per cent of the Senior Civil Service are disabled – a 3.2 per cent target by 2008. (See HM Treasury 2004) What this quantitative analysis of senior appointments under the Labour Administration indicates is a willingness by Blair to adopt, or at least accept a traditional role and accept the status quo. There was no evidence to indicate any increase in rapid promotions to the most senior levels since 1997, nor was there an increase in the number of outside appointments. The demographic analysis of the Blair-appointed generation of mandarins reveals a high degree of homogeneity to the comparable cohort appointed during the Thatcher and Major eras. This suggests that the individuals appointed to the top jobs after 1997 were, consistently, career officials, insiders, who had generally followed a standard Whitehall promotional path to the top. Of the four different perspectives presented above, concerning the potential impact of New Labour on the senior Civil Service, the analysis here offers little evidence to suggest that any form of ‘overt politicisation’ or ‘covert politicisation Mark I’ occurred. Although the views of those involved in the process would substantiate this argument. The other two perspectives certainly do require a more in- depth analysis: that the constitutional status quo was sustained, involving a traditional

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approach towards top appointments after 1997 with no discernible ‘Blair effect’ on the senior Civil Service; that a ‘covert form of politicisation Mark II’ occurred, whereby New Labour pursued a version of the Millbank model of control by the extensive and strategic use of special advisers. The next section presents a qualitative analysis which addresses these different perspectives to offer a more informed understanding of a potential Blair effect on Whitehall.

A qualitative analysis of a Blair effect on Whitehall Refuting overt politicisation An analysis of the qualitative sources available to this study reveals that at no point was there any suggestion that, since 1997, the Labour Government set out to overtly politicised Whitehall. To return to the definition presented above, this refutes the notion that Tony Blair appointed Labour sympathisers (either through rapid promotion or outside appointment) to key posts in the senior Civil Service. Throughout Blair’s ten years as Prime Minister, he was willing to accept the recommendations for appointments to the ‘top 200 group’ presented to him by the Cabinet Secretary from the short-list constructed by the SLC. As one very senior Cabinet Office official, closely involved in this process, observed: ‘He [Tony Blair] would take this matter seriously, give due consideration to it [an appointment], there would be an informal discussion, but he was generally more than happy to go along with the suggestions made’. While another senior official involved in senior appointments observed: ‘The Prime Minister did not appear overly interested in this process. The names that were put forward did not cause problems’. The argument presented throughout the interviews by both officials and ministers was that Blair did not overly concern himself with the top appointments procedure. This view was reflected in the observation by David Blunkett that: ‘He would go with the flow. Tony really didn’t want to know.’ If we return to the different approaches by former prime ministers towards the role of senior appointments, a spectrum can be created in which Blair would be located at a more passive end, adopting a similar attitude to that of John Major and Harold Wilson, James Callaghan would be located somewhere in between, as opposed to Margaret Thatcher who would be located at the more proactive end. The theme that consistently emerged throughout the interviews was that the personnel in Whitehall held little interest to Blair. As one former, very senior civil servant observed, Blair’s interests did not lie

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with details concerning Whitehall because he was: ... more project orientated, I do not mean project with a big ‘p’ like the ‘Labour Party project’ but of there being specific problems which needed to be solved like welfare to work and quality of education and creating teams to solve that ... There were aspects where he got very involved in the policy where he had to act personally. Examples would be Northern Ireland or European Policy for the Amsterdam summit. The point here is that while, particularly after 1999, Blair concerned himself with issues such as whether policy was being properly delivered, the ‘whys and where fores’ of how this was to be done and the type of personnel it should involve were not matters he regarded as of concern.27 It can be argued that the appointment that most symbolised Blair’s attitude to top appointments was that of his first Cabinet Secretary. In 1998, following the retirement of Robin Butler having, in his own view, successfully ‘bedded-in’ the new government,28 Richard Wilson was appointed Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service from Permanent Secretary at the Home Office (see Appendix B). Wilson was the very definition of a mandarin’s mandarin.29 He established a good working relationship with Blair throughout his tenure as Cabinet Secretary and approached the task of Whitehall reform30 with energy and enthusiasm. But Wilson did clash with Blair and, more particularly, his inner circle of advisers at Number Ten and other Labour Cabinet Ministers, as he tried to defend what he regarded as the traditions and conventions that defined how Whitehall operated, against the more informal approach of the Government. They in turn criticised Wilson, much to his chagrin, for failing to do more to secure the Government’s delivery agenda (Seldon 2004: 642–3).31 Early retirements Nevertheless, while accusations of overt politicisation do not stand up to the rigours of closer scrutiny, as we saw in Chapter 4, from the outset, there were elements of distrust between Blair’s first Cabinet team and the senior personnel in Whitehall. This, despite the claims from a very senior civil servant that over the issue of trust between the Government and senior officials, Blair played a vital role because: ‘... he gave the lead in that respect [showing trust to the officials Labour had inherited] but also genuinely, I think, the incoming ministers were

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impressed by the sympathy with which they were received and the extent to which people were obviously applying themselves to seriously implement the policies.’ The comments elsewhere offer a different view of ministerial attitudes towards senior officials. A few ministers expressed concern about the mind-set of the Civil Service after such a long period of Conservative Government. For example, Margaret Beckett observed: A strong departmental line in the DTI was a commitment and faith in undiluted privatisation. This rather surprised me and it took a lot of work to overcome this and highlight the problems associated with privatisation and move the department away from seeing it as single, clear policy preference. Ian McCartney, a minister in Beckett’s DTI team offered a similar, if more reflective, view: The majority of officials ... gave more than was asked of them, but there were some of them that just did not quite understand that there was a major cultural and political change taking place. They resisted this in a range of ways and uncooperative working arrangements ... I do not believe in slash and burn. If people have been here a long time with a certain regime, I do not expect all people to change without any difficulty. Some adjust better than others. Hugh Bailey who served as a junior minister at the Department of Social Security [1999–2001] offered a different perspective on this particular argument: You know the Labour fears that after 18 years in opposition there had been a process not of politicisation of the Civil Service, but a concern that people had spent a lifetime working within one set of ideological parameters ... It was the mindset that we were concerned about. I think we found that was not the case at all. You could think of isolated individuals who were very committed to a project they had done for the previous government and did not like the fact that this was not required by the new government, but overall there was a lot of enthusiasm. Peter Kilfoyle, a minister in the Cabinet Office during Blair’s first term concurred with the views of Hugh Bailey, but felt that where senior officials in his department had got too close to the previous Conservative

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Administration, they themselves had chosen to exit Whitehall following the change in government: I found them extremely supportive. Interestingly those that were most senior had already decided they were going. I’m not quite sure why, but there was a significant number of senior people who went immediately or shortly after the election and of course that was disconcerting but also it was appropriate. During Labour’s first term, there are reasonable grounds on which to suggest members of the Cabinet were suspicious about certain individuals that they regarded as having become too closely aligned to the Conservative Administration and which subsequently led to a number of earlier retirements from Whitehall. For example, with Gordon Brown’s arrival at the Treasury, the early retirement of Terry Burns as permanent secretary (at the age of 54) in 1998 was regarded as ‘inevitable’32 and also ‘condemned’ Alan Budd, the Chief Economic Adviser and Jill Rutter, the Treasury’s Director of Communications (see Foster 2005: 160; Seldon 2004: 668–9). Elsewhere, Patrick Brown, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Transport was ‘eased’ into retirement, once the Department’s merger with Environment had been completed. The suggestion was that Brown had become parti pris, being too close to the Conservative’s transport privatisation programme (see The Independent 5 June 1997; Theakston 1998: 16). However, if we return to the formal convention framed by the Carltona doctrine, there is of course a paradox here. The doctrine establishes the principle that the actions of a civil servant are synonymous with those of a departmental minister and, as such, a civil servant should always be identified as the alter ego of their minister. In each of these cases, it can be argued that this is exactly what each of these officials was doing and yet, ultimately, it led to their having to be moved from there jobs. The view offered here suggests that, in the initial period after Labour entered office, there were a number of isolated cases of early departures from Whitehall by officials who had become closely identified with the previous regime. But, at a broader level, during the three terms in which Blair presided as Prime Minister, there is no evidence to suggest that any form of overt politicisation of Whitehall occurred. Nevertheless, the issue concerning whether or not a form of covert politicisation – either that of the appointment of ‘can-do’ officials to the top 200 group or by

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Labour ‘overwhelming’ Whitehall with politically appointed special advisers, remains to be addressed. New Labour and the issue of covert politicisation What both the quantitative and qualitative evidence of this study indicates is that nearly all the top 200 group appointments throughout Blair’s tenure appeared to follow traditional patterns of career progression. The view from interviews across Whitehall, but most notably from the Cabinet Office, was that Blair was willing to be guided: ‘... in the traditional way’ (Cabinet Office official) when it came to approving appointments to top jobs. Nevertheless, while this suggests that after 1997, there was no attempt to actively appoint ‘can-doers’ to senior posts in Whitehall, as had occurred at times during the Thatcher Administration, a different but related issue did arise from the qualitative data. This concerned the extent to which Labour’s approach to governing and in particular policy-making, affected a cultural change across the senior Civil Service. The view offered from some quarters was that once Labour’s ministerial teams had become more familiar with the way Whitehall operated and when the emphasis on ‘improving delivery’ became more acute (see Chapter 5), certain ministers began to show less tolerance for the ‘critical’ or ‘snag hunter’ role that is traditionally recognised as an essential characteristic of a senior civil servant.33 On this issue, there were those who were willing to defend New Labour’s approach to dealing with senior officials in the policy-making process. The Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell made clear that there was no notion that the Blair generation of officials who made it to the most senior ranks in Whitehall were simply ‘can-doers’ who had lost the capacity to offer ‘difficult, but crucial’ critical advice. What he argued for was a Whitehall that was changing and which emphasised what he referred to as the ‘four Ps’ – pride, pace, professionalism and passion’ (see O’Donnell 2006). When challenged on this issue, he argued: I certainly don’t think that’s true ... There’s no point in collecting ‘yes men’ [sic] around you ... It’s the biggest question I’ve had about ‘the four Ps’ and they worry about the passion. I am not going to jettison the passion. I think we have in the past made a trade off in the wrong place. We have always emphasised impartiality as the result of being grey, not strongly in favour of anything, the people who can say all the 101 reasons why you should never do anything. Actually, I’m

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passionately in favour of improving British society. Civil Servants are passionately in favour of this, this is why they work for the Civil Service ... So there’s a lot of passion in our bodies, but it’s not party political passion. (BBC Radio 4, 2007a) O’Donnell’s advocacy of the need for civil servants to display passion in their approach to policy-making, does highlight a potential problem in the blurring of lines between officials demonstrating a commitment towards a particular policy or acting in a partisan manner. There is little evidence to suggest that Labour actively engaged in a process of systematically appointing ‘can-doers’ to the tops jobs in Whitehall. A different, but related criticism did arise, particularly during Blair’s third and final term in office. This concerns the view that some senior officials, whom ministers felt were ‘less than committed’ to departmental policies, left the profession early. One such high-profile case is that of Nigel Crisp, a former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health. He took early retirement in March 2006, on the formal grounds of carrying some of the responsibility for the £620 million financial deficit the NHS had incurred (see Coombes 2006: 2). But, the inside view offered by Charles Clarke was that Crisp had not provided the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt with the support required on NHS reform: If you look at those relationships across this Government, there has been a very varied record between relationships which have been outstandingly effective, and relationships which have almost brought their department down. And if you are going to reform, for example, the Health Service, you need to have a Secretary of State and a Permanent Secretary both committed to that reform and keen to carry that through in an effective way. (BBC Radio 4, 2007b) The relationship between Hewitt and Crisp had become increasingly problematic, particular over the issue of whether primary care trusts should lose their role as providers of health services (see Daily Telegraph, 8 March 2006). The case of Crisp was not unique. There were other examples from the interviews where the relationship between Labour ministers and their permanent secretaries had clearly deteriorated.34 In 2007, a different dimension to this issue arose, when it was reported that a Labour Minister had: ... ordered his civil servants to draw up a secret list of ‘negative’ officials suspected of being opposed to legislation. The instruction was

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issued by Gerry Sutcliffe, the prisons minister, in an apparent breach of rules that bar ministers from politicising the Civil Service. Sutcliffe also wanted a list of officials who could be trusted to act as ‘positive champions’ for the plans to privatise the probation service and be used to persuade rebellious Labour MPs to change their minds and avert a Commons defeat ... David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: ‘... Even more improper is drawing up a list of people who oppose your policy. One can think of no other reason to do this than to punish them or gag them in some way.’ (Sunday Times, 25 March 2007) Obvious parallels can be drawn with the actions ten years earlier by the former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine. He sent a signed memorandum to Prime Minister Major proposing that the names of civil servants who had been identified as ‘supportive, serviceproviders’ of the government, should be made known to the media. Heseltine hoped that such an initiative would help to counter what he regarded as a growing imbalance in media coverage of the Conservative Party in the lead up to the 1997 General Election. What became known as the ‘Heseltine Cheerleaders’ affair resulted in him receiving a rebuke from the then Cabinet secretary Robin Butler (see Richards 1997: 242–4). Since 1997, the concern is to what extent problems have arisen because Labour ministers have been unreceptive to criticism directed at their policies which they have interpreted as a lack of commitment on the part of their officials. This is not an argument about the role of senior officials acting as ‘champions’ for government policy. In many ways, once a policy is agreed on, then part of a civil servant’s role is to be fully committed to its implementation.35 Instead, it is about whether at the policy-formation stage, officials under Labour have been able to offer full and frank advice. Mike Granatt, the former Head of the Government Information and Communications Service suggested Labour had created a ‘climate of fear’ in Whitehall: I think the Civil Service is in danger of politicisation, not because they will act politically, but because they are being badgered into acting in a way that appears to be political. When you move from a Civil Service, which was relatively fearless in offering unwelcome advice and telling people about options that might not be palatable but were necessary to describe, to one where people just deliver what they think ministers want to hear, you have, to my mind, moved de facto into the realm of politicisation. (BBC Radio 4, 2007b)

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In the BBC Radio 4 Series – Shape up, Sir Humphrey [March 2007] – the view offered by the permanent secretaries was that the notion of a ‘climate of fear’ was a myth. The extent to which top officials have curtailed their ‘critical faculities’ can be explained by a structural shift in the function of senior civil servants that pre-dates the election of the Blair Government. This concerns the way in which the role of senior officials has changed in an era of NPM. It suggests that the managerialist reforms that swept through Whitehall in the last three decades and the impact of such changes as agencification (after 1988), the Senior Management Review (1995) and devolution (after 1998), have placed much greater emphasis on the managerial function of senior officials. This has led to the contraction of the policy-making function (see Richards 1997; Marsh et al 2001, 2003). A tacit recognition of both the structural and cultural change that has taken place across the senior echelons of Whitehall in recent times and an identification of the different set of demands placed on the present generation of ministers and civil servants was offered by Richard Wilson (2002: 17) in his retirement speech – Portrait of a Profession Revisited: Let me return to the issue of politicisation. It is a longstanding convention that governments must not use the resources of the State improperly to gain Party political advantage. Here again, I do not believe the Civil Service is being politicised. But for many years the conditions in which we operate have been slowly changing, not least because of the pressure on all political parties to maintain a permanent level of campaigning between elections. Thomas Szasz, the American writer, once said: ‘In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined.’ This is certainly true in modern politics. No government can afford to ignore how it is being defined in Parliament and the media. The need to be in control, so as not to be controlled, is clearly a theme that Labour brought with it when it first entered government (see Mandelson and Liddle 1996; Gould 1998). It is a theme that returns us to the argument concerning the Millbank Model of control and the fourth and final perspective on politicisation: the extent to which Labour attempted to impose on Whitehall an approach it had developed when in opposition. To establish a new governing code which has challenged the established rules of engagement between ministers and civil servants as defined by the Westminster model. At the heart of this

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debate is the issue of New Labour’s use of political advisers and whether or not the Blair era surreptitiously ushered in its own version of a United States ‘spoils system’ or a French ‘cabinet’ system. New Labour, special advisers and the persistence of a dependency relationship Throughout the ten years of the Blair Administration, one issue more than any other has attracted the attention of Whitehall watchers – the Government’s extensive use of political advisers. A survey of the use of special advisers by governments reveals that it has fluctuated over time. But there is no doubt that it has increased in the last two decades, most significantly, since the election of the present Labour Government. For example, during the Major Government, there were on average 32 special advisers. This figure has risen to an average of 76 during the decadelong Blair Administration (see Table 6.6). In terms of the cost of special advisers, there has been an increase from £1.9 million per annum under Major to over £4 million per annum under Blair.36 Criticism has ranged from the numbers and cost to more specific concerns about their role and behaviour in Whitehall and has led to suggestions that the political neutrality of the Civil Service is Table 6.6 Numbers of government special advisers 1979–2006 Year 1979/80 1989/90 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/4 2004/5 2005/6

Total

No.10

7 35 34 38 38 70 74 78 79 81 70 72 84 78

n.a. n.a. 6 8 8 18 25 26 25 26 27 26 28 24

Departments n.a. n.a. 28 30 30 52 49 52 54 55 43 46 56 54

Source: Adapted from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (2003), Toynbee and Walker (2005); Richards (2005); and Gay and Fawcett (2005).

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being undermined (see Jones 1999, 2001; Select Committee on Public Administration 2001; Armstrong 2002; Cohen 2003; Committee on Standards in Public Life 2003; Beckett and Hencke 2004; Blick 2004; Oborne and Walters 2004; Scott 2004; Stephens 2004; Oborne 2005; Riddell 2005; Foster 2005). Former Cabinet Secretaries have not been shy in publicly airing their disapproval at what they see as Labour’s manipulation of the conventions underpinning the rules concerning the use of special advisers. For some, the Blair Government has been willing to ride rough shod over the principles laid-down by the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms of the mid-nineteenth century, part of which were specifically aimed at preventing ‘political jobbery’. For example, in the aftermath of the Stephen Byers/Jo Moore/Martin Sixsmith affair (more of which below), Robert Armstrong (Head of the Civil Service, 1983–87) expressed concern about the potential politicisation of the Civil Service, identifying the proliferation in the number of special advisers as the root cause: ... [R]ecent events have made it increasingly clear that the time has come to limit the number of special advisers ... Those who are in charge of our public administration should recognise the extent to which what they [New Labour] have done and are doing puts the principles of good administration and, in particular, the maintenance of a non-political, professional career civil service at risk, and act accordingly before it is too late. (The Spectator, 2 March 2002) On retiring as Cabinet Secretary in March 2002, Richard Wilson also called for his successor to deliver a Civil Service Act that would reestablish the core characteristics of the Civil Service – integrity, impartiality, merit, the ability to work for successive governments and public service (Wilson 2002). His main concern centred on the need for a formal framework specifying the appropriate type of relationship that temporary civil servants i.e. special advisers, should have with both their permanent Whitehall colleagues and with ministers. An explanation of the extensive criticism that the Blair Administration has received over its use of special advisers involves recognising two separate, but not mutually exclusive, features. Since 1997, there have undoubtedly been a number of examples of ministers misunderstanding, partly through inexperience, the lines of dependency involved in forging a workable relationship between themselves, their special advisers and the permanent officials in their department. As important, has been the reaction by some departments to the perception that the

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monopoly on policy advice Whitehall once enjoyed has been further eroded. This explanation involves revisiting the analytical framework set-out above which argues that core executive relations should be explored within the context of a model of resource dependency that operates within the broader boundaries imposed by the Westminster model. The model contends that the core executive should be understood both as a formal set of institutions and as a number of overlapping and interconnecting networks in which actors exchange resources. Each set of actors – a prime minister, ministers and civil servants – are connected by their mutual dependence on one other in order to achieve their goals. It is within this model that special advisers are located, and, in the same way that officials and ministers need to recognise the structured environment of dependency within which they operate, this also applies to special advisers. On one level, special advisers can be regarded as an additional resource that ministers can use to help secure their goals. But crucially, either the special adviser or the minister must recognise the contingent nature of political appointees in the core executive. When special advisers or ministers ignore these lines of dependency, they fail to play by the informal and formal rules of the Whitehall game and conflict occurs. In some cases since 1997, this has led to highprofile fall-outs. As we saw in Chapter 5, the Blair Government initially considered imposing a model of governing that it had constructed during its years in opposition. The Millbank Model was seen as a potential blueprint for dealing with Whitehall. It emphasised strong central control, demands placed on departments to respond to the signals from the centre and the use of a powerful coterie of political advisers to challenge bureaucratic resistance to key policies. As Seldon (2004: 424) observes: ‘The Millbank model of tight control, the use of special advisers as “shock troops”, and the primacy of communications, were all imposed wholesale on the ancient system of Whitehall’. The model was of course never sustainable; it was constructed on the experience of working in opposition and failed to account for the different environment and requirements governments face (see Chapter 5). Elements of the Millbank Model can be identified during the early stages of Labour’s first term in office and continued to linger throughout the duration of the Blair Administration: The core factor ... was that Labour came into office in 1997 with a belief in the efficacy of a model of tight-knit groups, working

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with special advisers focused on presentation ... Too many of these advisers were stuck in ‘opposition mode’ and when they found it difficult to make the progress they sought they blamed the Civil Service for being obstructionist (Seldon (2004: 431). After 1997, most ministers and their special advisers came to recognise the contingent nature of their position within the core executive and understood the formal and informal rules of the game presented by the Westminster model. But there were cases where this did not happen: Some, like Mandelson, chose to run their departments ... conventionally, and were admired by their officials ... [O]thers like Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers, chose to run their departments not using the traditional Civil Service hierarchy but through their special advisers and civil servants they trusted (Seldon 2004: 431). It can be argued that the demise of Stephen Byers’ ministerial career at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLGR) in May 2002 and the earlier political fall-out from the resignations by two of his special advisers – Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith in February 2002 – is an unusual, but not unique,37 example of a breakdown in the symbiotic, dependent relationship that should exist between a minister, his/her political advisers and a department. This is not the place to relay the extensive chain of events behind these three resignations, involving as it did the following: inappropriate media management – the infamous Jo Moore email released on 11 September 2001 stating: ‘It’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury’; the leaking to the press by the Department of this email; and the subsequent claim and counter-claim between Martin Sixsmith, the Communications Director at the Department and Jo Moore over whether she again had tried to encourage the publication of unfavourable news concerning rail network safety statistics on the day of Princess Margaret’s death.38 What this affair reveals is an example of the various actors involved abandoning the traditional, informal rules under which relations in Whitehall are conducted and ignoring the contingent nature of their relationship with one another. For example, the inside view from Whitehall, was that Byers’ fundamental problem was a deficiency in being able to run a department. His inability to effectively manage the personnel in the DTLGR had led to conflict and discord. Byers appears to have failed to resolve tensions between his own political advisers and the permanent officials within the Department. As

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one former Permanent Secretary observed: ‘The core of the argument is that he is, by all accounts, quite simply not very good at the job. He has some pretty abusive names around the department – one of these is “Fuckwit”’ (Peter Kemp, The Guardian, 26 February 2002). The alleged response by Byers’ Permanent Secretary, Richard Mottram to a colleague at the height of this mini-Whitehall crisis was: ‘We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole department is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.’39 It also reveals the extent to which both the special adviser Jo Moore and departmental officals had failed to operate within the tradtional, informal rules of the game defined by the Westminster Model. As the subsequent Eight Report by the Public Affairs Select Committee (which, in a return to the much more considered and understated language expected of Whitehall, was entitled This Unfortunate Affair) concluded: ... [T]hat the handling of the events demonstrates serious flaws in the management and accountability of special advisers. The crisis was caused partly by the fact that Ms Moore took on a series of executive and, in effect, managerial tasks without reference to proper procedures. In addition, a number of civil servants abandoned professional standards by leaking information and misinformation in a way intended to undermine Ms Moore. Management found itself unable to prevent a catastrophic taking of sides at senior level in the department. (Select Committee on Public Affairs 2002: 1) The lesson of the Byers/Moore/Sixsmith/DTLGR affair was that the relationships between all the actors involved had descended to a state of conflict, rather than co-operation. The core executive model of dependency had irretrievably broken-down. The Byers affair aside, the view that emerges from the majority of both interviews and other qualitative sources is that during the Blair Administration, Labour ministers and their special advisers more often than not established both an effective and harmonious relationship with their permanent officials. In this sense, the notion that Labour’s greater use of special advisers led to a form of covert politicisation is much overstated. The various actors involved recognised the rules of the Whitehall game and the symbiotic dependency they had on one another, as a necessary prerequisite for securing the policy goals of their department. Special advisers under Labour have conformed to two different types, policy advisers and public-relations experts. What the interviews reveal is that since 1997, both types of advisers can at times cause tension

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within departments, but it is important to emphasise that no uniform pattern on the subject of political appointees emerges. For example, one Treasury civil servant observed: There is quite a lot of resistance (to special advisers). Certainly for the first 6–9 months (of the Labour Government) officials were heard to say: ‘This will soon settle down and go back to normal’. But of course it never has. I think officials have increasingly understood that this is how it is going to be. In contrast, a Work and Pensions official claims: I’ve never seen the current special adviser, which is some indication. I think the current adviser is more of a detail man, more than a spindoctor. The first lot of ministers had two advisers who were both into spinning rather than anything else. We had a fair degree of contact with them, which was fine. However, I think one of the advisers stirred up a lot of mistrust with the minister. Despite, the centrality of special advisers to any discussion concerning the relationship between New Labour and Whitehall, some Labour ministers suggested that they were far from keen on using them. For example, Kim Howell, who was a minister in three different departments during the Blair Administration suggests: I’m not that keen on special advisers if I’m honest with you. I’m all for peer review but I do not think that we make enough use of our officials. They are very bright people and they certainly want to help and be part of transforming public administration ... but in a sense they have been side-lined. ... They are there really to underpin the radical policy suggestions or to shoot down radical policy suggestions of people coming from outside of the department. And yet in private moments with officials, I’ve many times heard them come out with solutions to seemingly intractable problems which, were they to do so as part of their working brief, we’d see some very radical changes. Another Labour Cabinet minister argued that rather than causing tension, the departmental special adviser had in fact smoothed the relationship between the ministerial team and civil servants: I think one of my advisers in particular was quite a reassuring interface between myself and the department, in that he was able to relate

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to the department as he was more like them and therefore he suited them. Special advisers who come in from opposition are completely different from those who join a government in office. We’d all worked with our special advisers for years. We were a little cosy family and that was the same for everybody.40 Where the Blair Government expressed frustration was over what they perceived to be a completely inadequate communications strategy across the whole of Whitehall. In opposition, Labour had identified the need for an effective media strategy. After 1997, their view was that Whitehall was ill-equipped to deal with the pressures placed on it by the twenty-four hour, news-media industry. This frustration is reflected by the Labour Minister Ian McCartney and his view of the DTI’s Press Office when he first arrived: When we came in, the press and media relations department was just a complete disaster. They had no pagers, no mobile phones or faxes. They did not believe in rebuttal. I think all that has been turned around dramatically and the minimum wage strategy is a good example of that and the campaign was all managed internally and it has worked well. A senior official in another department openly conceded: Where I think we lost their [the Blair Government’s] confidence quite quickly was on the question of presentation, where traditionally presentation comes last and they wanted the story there ... We all know we need to do it but it is not easy ... The downside was around presentation ... We were not doing what they wanted and we were always struggling to catch up with that. They wanted the spin. Similar views were expressed elsewhere throughout numerous interviews. The Blair Administration set about rectifying this matter by removing a number of existing permanent officials involved in media relations and increasing the number of special advisers with responsibility for the political communication of government policy (see Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 258). This built up resentment in Whitehall. Where there have been public fall-outs over the actions of special advisers, such as that of Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith or Charlie Whelan in the Treasury, this has tended to involve special advisers responsible for pol-

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itical communications, as opposed to those responsible for policy advice. It is worth quoting in full the view of Kavanagh and Seldon (2000: 289–90) that Whitehall has never been adept at performing the political role of publicly advocating government policy and so it should have been more receptive to the changes augmented after 1997: Almost inevitably, there have been charges of politicisation and of a blurring of the lines between political and Civil Service appointments and between serving party and government interests. Similar complaints were made of initiatives under Wilson, Heath and Mrs Thatcher. Much of the concern then and now has been overblown. There has long been a strong case for increasing the number of political aides to support the Prime Minister and for the Government Information Service to adapt to the changes in the mass media and their demands on the head of government. Defence of the status quo ante easily slides into a defence of Civil Service dominance. Indeed, the criticisms were a reminder of just how limited are the staffing powers of a British Prime Minister. It is only since 1928 that the Principal Private Secretary has been a Civil Service appointment. Before then the Private Office often consisted of a mix of political and official staff. Even later did the Number Ten Press Officer come to be regarded as a career civil servant – although Attlee, Eden and Wilson recruited sympathetic professional journalists to the post. The post-May 1997 developments therefore represent something of a return to old patterns of staffing, although with a stronger political imprint. The increase in political appointments has the advantage that the Civil Service is able to offload activities which it regards as partisan to the political appointments. Finally, further controversy surrounding the use of special advisers also arose over the substantial increase in their numbers in the Prime Minister’s Office (see Table 6.6). This occurred mostly during Blair’s first term, and the heat in this debate has, subsequently, somewhat dissipated. It centred on concerns about the perceived over-zealous control of the centre, the seeds of which can be traced to the initial attempt to transfer the Millbank Model from opposition to government. Hennessy (2000: 447) offers a flavour of this argument: Tony Blair and his inner group of advisers seemed determined to operate inside No. 10, once they got there, as they had within the Labour Party – driving policy and presentation from the centre

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around a core of delivery musts, and brooking no serious resistance either from ministerial colleagues or from cumbersome, traditional government mechanics. There were also the concerns about an Order in Council which conferred a political role on some of these appointments, most notably Jonathan Powell as Chief of Staff, and which allowed them to give instructions to civil servants (see Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 252; Foster 2005: 161). Criticism of Number Ten’s approach did not just come from Whitehall, but also from a number of former members of Blair’s own Cabinet. For example, Mo Mowlam (2002: 355) argued that: ‘The young men who surround the PM are a pretty extreme bunch in one way or another, who want to create an atmosphere of the laager, the South African laager in which everyone who was of a right mind was inside, and everyone who is of an unlike mind is outside.’ Claire Short (2004: 71) expressed similar sentiments, suggesting that: Blair moved early to establish a growing band of advisers in No.10. Many of these had no previous engagement with the Labour Party or Labour values. Whilst there is great value in a broad church, the style of the No.10 machine was very arrogant. Unaccountable young officials would propose ideas to the prime minister and departments would be instructed to implement them. Consultation was seen almost as a weakness. Secretaries of State were in charge of their departments except when No.10 gave instructions. Those who held high office had to be willing to bow to these commands. While Robin Cook (2003: 3) averred: New Labour has been phenomenally successful in silencing the dissent among its own supporters. It has replaced old Labour’s culture of dissent with New Labour’s culture of discipline. The irony is that this central control has solved the old problem of splits and divisions at the expense of contributing to a new problem of trust. Of course, it is important to recognise that each of these ministers fell out of favour with the Blair Administration and these views reflect their own disillusionment with the New Labour project (see Alderman 2001). In the first term, accusations that special advisers from Number Ten, were acting like ‘shock troops’ (Seldon 2004: 424) or ‘thought police’ (Beckett and Hencke 2004: 324), checking on the activities of ministers

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and officials in other departments, did surface. It also prompted criticism from the opposition. For example, the Shadow Conservative frontbencher, Andrew Lansley argued: One of the areas which has given us considerable concern ... is [that] the structure of central policy-making activity has been considerably strengthened. So it is not now true to say that all policy-making is still concentrated in departments ... The concern is the mix, the largely politically appointed element in the central policy-making activity. It used to be the case that a new Prime Minister could walk in and Number Ten would convert from the old Prime Minister to the new. Now we have reached the point where a large part of Number Ten would have to walk out ... Of the couple of hundred people involved in policy-making at the centre, eighty of them are political appointments. In defending the changes introduced at Number Ten, Philip Gould (1999: xxii) observed: It is frequently argued that Downing Street seeks to impose too much discipline; that there is an over-emphasis on unity and message; that New Labour is turning into a bunch of ‘control freaks’. The centre actually has far less power than is typically ascribed to it. Anyone who spends any time at Number 10 quickly realises that it is a tiny corner of a huge government machine, staffed with talented people but lacking the resources necessary to be a commanding and dominating nerve centre. The idea that officials sit at Number 10 headquarters smoothly pulling strings and levers, effortlessly controlling events, is ridiculous. For the most part they are over-worked, overstretched and desperately trying to cope with a constant stream of difficult and challenging circumstances ... It is wrong to believe that 10 Downing Street has too much power. Gould’s observations reflect the similar arguments presented in Chapter 5, that the nature of the British political system affords substantial resources and power to departments, while the centre has remained relatively weak (see also Marsh et al 2001, Barber 2007). Indeed, the reforms Blair put in place, particularly in terms of institution building at the centre, in many ways testify to the structural weaknesses he discovered at the centre of the British political system. What to departments sometimes appeared a heavy-handed and rather intrusive

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approach by Number Ten, reflects the frustration the centre was sensing, particularly in the first term, on discovering that the institutional resources it had at its disposal were significantly less than those possessed by departments. As Kavanagh and Seldon’s (2000: 290) study of Number Ten observes: It is interesting to note that some of John Major’s former staff have expressed approval of the steps [by Blair to enhance the institutional capacity of Number Ten]. ‘I always thought that John Major’s Downing Street was light on the political side. He needed more people with clout who could make departments take note,’ said a former Private Secretary who had worked with and admired Major. ‘I agree with the extra political appointments, cutting back PMQs, and the stronger Number Ten control of communications ...’ said George Bridges, assistant Political Secretary to John Major. It was undoubtedly the case that, particularly during Blair’s first term, the issue of Number Ten and the growth in political appointees did draw criticism from Whitehall and beyond. But as the Labour Administration evolved, it became increasingly apparent to the Blair inner circle that the centre’s relationship with Whitehall was one in which it was heavily reliant on departments to secure government policy. As one political appointee who served under Blair at Number Ten concluded: ‘For all the talk of Tony being Presidential, the truth, as I saw it at Number 10, was that the Prime Minister’s hold over a government is always weaker than people think’ (Hyman 2005: 380). It can be argued that the greater use of special advisers during the Blair Administration affected the nature of the relationship between ministers and civil servants and altered traditional Whitehall patterns of policy-making. For example, according to a report in The Guardian (15 April 2002), the then Treasury Special Advisers, Ed Balls and David Miliband: ‘... act as gatekeepers, letting civil servants know what the Chancellor is interested in and acting as a filter for policy ideas coming from below. An official knows that he or she is getting somewhere when they get a half-hour slot with Ed Balls.’ The issue of special advisers controlling access to their ministers was one that regularly surfaced in the interviews, but more often than not, it reflected a broader disquiet on the part of officials that their own position as the ‘harbingers of expertise and knowledge’ and the traditional gate-keepers to policy-networks was being further challenged. As one

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special adviser who has also experienced time as a civil servant, observes: I remember when I was a civil servant, I hated special advisers. (....) I think that the officials don’t like advisers attending meetings with ministers and contributing, but what they hate most is advisers getting involved in the Department lower down. That is exactly what we have done to try to shape the way that policies are coming up by talking to more junior officials in order to see who is working on areas in which the minister is interested. Since 1997, the further erosion of Whitehall’s status in terms of the monopoly on policy advice given to ministers is an issue some have found both hard to cope with and respond to. As the Labour Minister, Ian McCartney, observed: ‘The area where we have had the most problems is with regard to long term strategy and strategic thinking and particularly the role of special advisers in that process. Officials have sometimes had difficulty dealing with special advisers in here. I would say there was a culture of resentment.’ Clearly, the account here has offered a number of competing interpretations from different actors of the impact of special advisers on Whitehall since 1997. The following two views encapsulate this contrast. On retiring as Cabinet Secretary in 2005, Andrew Turnbull in his Valedictory Lecture paid lip-service to what he regarded as the increasing plurality of voices being heard in the policy-making process: We no longer have a monopoly over policy advice. Indeed, we welcome the fact that we are much more open to ideas from think-tanks, special advisers and frontline practitioners. In developing policy, we not only consult more widely than we used to, but involve outsiders to a far greater degree in the policy making process. This view was contested by another senior official who suggested that: The relationship with our special advisers has proved particularly problematic. They have been uncooperative and at times left us out of the loop in discussions, while at other times bouncing policies onto us which we are not even sure have been run past the minister first. To return to the dependency model, it is important to recognise that the key responsibility for ensuring that the relationship between political

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advisers and the departments remains co-operative, rather than competitive, resides with both the minister and the permanent secretary. This matter was brought to the fore in July 2005, when the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Alistair Graham, criticised the government for changing the rules governing special advisers without informing Parliament. The Committee’s concern focused on moves by the Government to change the wording to an Order of Council to allow special advisers powers to order civil servants to do their ‘ministers’ bidding’; a shift from advising ministers to assisting them which would potentially allow a special adviser to override a civil servant. Graham commented: ‘I am very disappointed that the government has chosen to make changes to the legislation governing the role of special advisers using prerogative powers without any proper parliamentary and public debate’ (cf. Gay and Fawcett 2005: 9–10). The effect of this change means that Labour has altered some of the informal rules of the Whitehall game. In so doing, the need for a minister and the permanent secretary to ensure that a special adviser is engaged in a cooperative, not conflictual, relationship with the department has become even more acute. The effect of the increase in the number of special advisers and their enhanced role since 1997 has been to alter the resources available to Labour ministers, but within the context of their maintaining a codependent and cooperative relationship with permanent, departmental officials. That said, there have been occasions in the course of the Blair Administration when both ministers and their special advisers have not operated within the informal rules of the Whitehall game, which have led to some very public break-downs in core executive relations. Special advisers have also challenged the monopoly on policy advice, once enjoyed by Whitehall. This has not been wholly welcomed by all senior officials. Labour’s use of special advisers has not resulted in a form of covert politicisation, or a shift towards a French style Cabinet system of political appointees. As the former Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson rightly concludes, it is hard to believe that 70 or 80 special advisers are likely to ‘swamp’ the 3,000 or so senior career civil servants responsible for advising ministers (see Richards 2007: 21).

Conclusion: New Labour, reform of Whitehall and the Westminster model What this examination of core executive relations during the three terms of the Blair Administration reveals is that the relationship between ministers, civil servants and special advisers has at times been

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problematic. There have been a number of well-reported cases of conflict within Whitehall and some former ministers and civil servants have publicly offered critical views of their experience under Blair. Yet, over a ten-year period, such incidents are of no surprise. It is also worth recalling, from the analysis presented in Chapter 4, that there was a clear lack of experience and some elements of naivety among the majority of actors involved in the 1997 transition. But again this was to be expected. Furthermore, the ideological transformation the Party underwent in opposition, culminating in its re-branding as ‘New Labour’ under Blair, meant that the challenge presented to Whitehall in switching its allegiance from the Major to the Blair Administration was markedly different to the type of challenge it would have faced, if for example, Labour had retained the policy commitments its had in place at the time of the 1983 General Election. This view of the ideological complexion of New Labour evokes interesting parallels with the Laski observation that the 1924 MacDonald Government never properly tested the political impartiality of Whitehall. The analysis indicates that there is limited evidence to suggest that during the Blair Administration any form – either overt or covert – of politicisation occurred. The explanation that is offered is that, as with previous Labour Governments, the Blair Administration never contemplated challenging the formal and informal rules of the Westminster model. One explanation is that the cost, in terms of political capital, in abandoning this model by a government that had been out of power for eighteen years was too great. To draw from Bulpitt (1986), Labour’s political statecraft reflected the need to be seen to govern competently, rather than challenge the status quo. But a more compelling explanation from a historical institutionalist perspective, is that the Blair Government was willing to accept the tradition, established by previous Labour Administrations, of defining itself by and working within the contours of the Westminster model. The argument here is that the model has remained the aggregate concept shaping the strategic options available to the Blair Administration to reform Whitehall. This does not ignore other influences – the Millbank Model of control (initially), joined-up government, improved delivery, greater plurality of policy advice – which informed Labour’s approach to Whitehall. But each of these influences was contingent on the broader parameters set-down by the Westminster model. The Blair Government reform of Whitehall was always conditioned by the existing architecture of the Westminster model. For example, its use of special advisers, particularly at Number Ten, altered, but did not reflect an abandonment of the existing rules of the game. As we saw in

194 New Labour and the Civil Service

Chapter 3, the Conservative reforms of the 1980s were broadly successful in realigning the balance of power in favour of ministers within a symbiotic relationship with civil servants. In a similar vein, Labour’s approach to Whitehall, and in particular its attempt to further erode the Civil Service’s monopoly on policy-advice by seeking out alternatives, has strengthened the structured position and resources of ministers, but its relationship with its permanent officials is still defined by a model of dependency. The Haldane principle remains the cornerstone on which the Westminster model is constructed. A feature that Blair’s former Cabinet Secretary, Andrew Turnbull (2005: 170) was clearly aware of: My approach has been that ministers, special advisers and officials are three points of a triangle; each with separate roles, each respecting that of the other. There is nothing worse than a special adviser who sticks like a limpet to the minister, feeding his prejudices and paranoia, largely ignorant of the work of officials. The key element is trust. This is not, in my view, achieved if traffic does not flow freely along all three sides of the triangle. If we reflect on the senior civil servants that served throughout the ten years of the Blair Administration, in demographic terms what is revealed is that they are remarkably similar to their predecessors who made it to the top in Whitehall. To apply the Trevor Phillips analogy, one can still characterise most departments as suffering from a ‘snowy peaks syndrome’. Nevertheless, while there has been no discernible alteration in the identity of individuals reaching the top, the nature of the job itself has undoubtedly changed. The emphasis on managerialism has exponentially grown. From this perspective, there was no need for Blair to set-about looking for ‘can-do’ officials in the way that, at times, Thatcher did twenty years earlier. The emphasis on the role of the present generation of senior officials stresses the need for managerialism and effective policy implementation. Although, as we have already seen, the Blair Government has not always been convinced that these are the features that most reflect today’s senior civil servants. But the language now used to characterise senior officials has changed markedly in the last two decades. The present Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell (2006) argues that one of the requisite skills for officials in the twenty-first century is that of pace (as one of his 4 Ps). His predecessor Andrew Turnbull (Cabinet Office 2004: 28) suggests that the Permanent Secretary should be the minister’s ‘chief delivery agent’ in the policy

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process. This is far removed from the image of a senior official drawn from a bygone era in Whitehall and most powerfully caricatured in the figure of Sir Humphrey Appleby.41 The role and expectations of the present generation of top officials has markedly changed from that of the generation which served the last Labour Government under James Callaghan. But, the structural changes to the various roles which a top official must now perform does present a pressing issue; the extent to which a senior official is able to devote adequate attention to the policymaking function. The concern is that senior officials no longer have either the requisite experience or time to offer important, but critical advice at the policy formulation stage. This also leads to the suggestion that one explanation for policy failure and crisis management in Whitehall in recent years relates to the extent to which this particular faculty of senior civil servants has been curtailed. Although, it should be pointed out that this trend certainly pre-dates the Blair era (see Butler et al 1994; Richards 1997; Parliamentary Affairs 2003). To conclude, it is worth returning to a view offered by a key architect of the New Labour project before the Party entered office, where an eloquent defence of the Westminster model was given: It has been suggested that cabinet ministers should go further and introduce around half a dozen or more personal aides who would effectively take over the minister’s private office and act as the channel for policy advice from the department. This is the European model – called cabinets. However, while a minister should gather around him people whom he trusts and feels comfortable with, it would be a mistake to introduce this model to Britain. Ministers who are new to their jobs and their departments need to be guided by people who know their ropes, not those who are as inexperienced as they are, and in the case of ministers’ private offices, there is great advantage in having individuals who provide continuity, who are trained in the ways and standards of the Civil Service and, through their contacts in the system, can plug their minister fully into the Whitehall network. (Mandelson and Liddle 1996: 249) As this study reveals, since 1997, the Blair Administration has continued to sustain the Westminster model as the key narrative defining its approach to Whitehall. There have, however, been times when the elasticity of this model has been severely tested.

7 Conclusion: Labour and the Civil Service – Reconstituting the Westminster Model

... [T]he job of Prime Minister has been stretched and become extremely demanding. Contrary to much of the commentary on prime ministerial power, it should be strengthened not weakened ... Challenged by the remorseless stretching of the job ... Blair carries a far heavier burden than any of his Cabinet colleagues. Yet, ironically, he is the only one who does not have a department or a ministerial team to share his burden. (Michael Barber 2007 – Instruction to Deliver) Civil Servants loyalty should be to the big picture – to the government. One of the many things that we have stressed is that ministers can see and understand the big picture. You are not just there to run part of the department that you are a minister in. You are there to ensure that the government as a whole delivers. But because these days, problems are usually complex and multi-faceted, the idea that they can be solved by one department acting on its own any more is not the real world. (Jack Cunningham interview with the author). At the outset of this book, a paradox was presented: despite the almost continual process of reform that the Civil Service has undergone since the late 1970s, both ministers and senior civil servants have argued that change should be understood in terms of the maintenance, not the undermining, of the Westminster model. What is apparent from this account of the Blair Administration’s relationship with Whitehall is the extent to which this view has continued. This is surprising, if we 196

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consider that from when Blair became leader of the Labour Party in 1994 to his stepping down as Prime Minister in 2007, the political discourse associated with ‘New Labour’ has been about: ... representations of the world as it has been in the past and is now, as well as of the world as it might be and should be ... It includes representations of politics and government as ways of changing the world – specifically of what is claimed to be a ‘new politics’ ... New Labour’s vision of the world is different from that of its political predecessors. (Fairclough 2000: 21) Since 1994, the new politics of the Labour Party has been concerned with presenting a vision that offers a clear disjuncture from the past – ‘New Labour, New Britain’. The Blair era has been marked by a constant rhetorical reminder of the need for modernisation, renewal, a struggle between wreckers and reformers and a leadership team ‘going forward which does not have a reverse gear’. Behind this rhetoric, the Blair Administration has shared with past governments an approach to Whitehall reform which has been contingent on the need to appeal to the traditional discourse of British politics associated with the Westminster model. For example, its Modernising Government programme has led to a number of substantial changes, but throughout, we have seen evidence of Labour ministers and senior officials continually resorting to a referential framework which draws directly from the language of Northcote-Trevelyan. It is ironic to note that, repeated in various ways throughout the interviews, are the views of Labour ministers who in one moment offer the standard cliché of the Civil Service being like a ‘Rolls-Royce’, only to proclaim later the need for radical Whitehall reform. Throughout the Blair era, reform has been mediated by the need to reiterate traditional principles, such as impartiality, integrity and permanence. How then, do we explain the persistence of this paradox? In Chapters 2 and 3, an analytical framework was offered to address this issue. It was argued that once the choice had been made by the Labour Party to be a constitutionalist party of government and work within the contours of the Parliamentary state, this became the embedded approach pursued by subsequent generations of Labour leaders. One explanation for this position was a recognition that the power offered by the Westminster model’s essentially elitist view of government would facilitate, not constrain, the Party in achieving its political goals. It was observed that past Conservative Governments and the

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Civil Service have also seen it as being in their strategic interest to defend the model. For example, despite the radical nature of much of the rhetoric associated with Thatcherism and the substantial Whitehall reform programme introduced after 1979, the Conservative Administration disappointed the more radical elements from the New Right by continuing to offer a robust defence of the Westminster model. But in the era of New Labour, the revisionist path the Party pursued during its years in opposition, the influence of the Third Way in offering a response to the existing state settlement and the drawing-up of a potentially radical programme of constitutional reform, suggested that a new governing code might emerge to replace the Westminster model (Evans 2003). As the Party approached office, it became clear from the rhetoric by the main characters in the New Labour project that change was to occur only with a clear commitment to the existing model. The view of the Blair leadership team was that reforms could be grafted on to the constitutional framework of the Parliamentary state. The effect of this approach has meant that, since 1997, key elements of the Westminster model have persisted. For example, Theakston (2000: 58) observes that senior civil servants continue: ... to play a vital role at the fulcrum between politics and administration by virtue of their expertise in making the system work. Ministers ... do seem to look for and to value the traditional mandarin skills – of managing the political interface, political nous and a thorough knowledge of the governmental and parliamentary process. The discourse employed by the Blair Administration is one that continues to draw from the language of the Westminster model. In interviews, both ministers and officials still reflect many of its assumptions and there continues to be an important self-awareness that traditional relationships are being sustained. This perception influences how officials and ministers interact. The traditional view has been reinforced near the end of the Blair Administration by the publication in June 2006 of a new Civil Service Code. In a series of speeches given by Tony Blair, David Cameron and the Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, each offered what in effect could be seen as a ‘eulogy to Whitehall and the public service ethos’. They all went to great lengths to extol the virtues of public servants. The revised version of the Code can be seen as an exercise in restating public service values established over 150 years

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ago and, in so doing, reiterating the core tenets of the Westminster model: As a civil servant, you are appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and are expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. In this Code: • ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests; • ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open; • ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and • ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case • and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions. [Source: www.civilservice.gov.uk/ civilservicecode, 6 June 2006] It is important to appreciate the extent to which actors from the core executive have continued to drawn from the Westminster model in defining, shaping and legitimising their behaviour. The argument of this book has been the need to recognise it as the aggregate concept through which Whitehall reform has been mediated. To explain why New Labour did not consider offering an alternative, we must return to the normative view of power presented by the model. Ministers and civil servants have continued to appeal to the Westminster model, as it offers a ‘legitimising mythology’ to defend their structured, asymmetric position of power in the British system of government (see Marsh et al 2001, 2003; Richards and Smith 2002). In this sense, it acts as a comfort blanket, protecting their strategic interests. When confronting the need for reform, in the light of the perceived impact of such forces as globalisation, Europeanisation, devolution and the loss of central controlling capacity, the Labour Administration found the Westminster model a source of comfort. As we have seen throughout, its reform programme has been underpinned by a constant need to re-emphasise and reiterate the key characteristics associated with the model. This account suggests that today’s British political elite remains a prisoner of its past. The influence of the Westminster model on the post1997 reform process is: ‘... testimony to the continued strength of the elite tradition in shaping our central institutions and processes of

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government and insulating them from participatory reform’ (Evans 2003: 327–8). The Blair Government’s reform strategy follows a clearly defined path. The arguments presented in this book are sympathetic to and draw from an historical institutionalist approach which stresses: A broad understanding of the relationship between institutions and individual behaviour; an emphasis on the asymmetries of power that arise from the way in which institutions work; a view of institutional development that emphasises path dependency and unintended consequences; an emphasis on the integration of institutional analysis with that of ideas. (Hall and Taylor 1996: 938; cf. Burnham et al 2004: 200) The usefulness of this approach is that it allows us to both address and explain the paradox posed above. The 1997 process of transition presented in Chapter 4 reveals that even those actors not familiar with the formal and informal rules of the Westminster model are swiftly socialised into particular behavioural patterns and the use of a certain discourse. Given the inexperience of the ministers in Blair’s first Cabinet and the number of Whitehall officials who had only ever worked for a Conservative Administration, it is important to recognise the extent to which this transition demonstrated the resilience of the Westminster model. In 1997, almost every Labour minister was confronting what was an unfamiliar culture. Yet they rapidly internalised this culture and a discernible change occurred in their language and self-presentation, confirming a rite of passage from shadow minister to departmental spokesperson. Even Tony Blair, with his well-documented dislike of formal processes and procedures, nevertheless continued to recount the discourse of the Westminster model when presenting arguments for change. If we return to the view that the Westminster model tends to operate as a kind of comfort blanket for the core executive, it is interesting to note that it is only when ministers have left office that a few offer a critique of the existing arrangements and working practices of Whitehall. It is very rare for a minister to potentially risk the loss of this comfort blanket by challenging the model while in office. Chapters 5 and 6 explored the way in which reforms introduced during the course of the Blair Administration have affected the way that Whitehall operates both internally, in terms of inter-departmental relations, and externally, in its relations with other actors in the broader

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policy-making arena. In terms of understanding the impact of reform on the Civil Service, one approach has been to claim that Britain has moved towards a federal Civil Service (see Pilkington 1999; Gray 2000; Pyper and Robins 2000; Rhodes et al 2003; Foster 2005; Bevir and Rhodes 2006). It is suggested that the extent to which the vast bulk of officials are now deployed outside Whitehall, in either agencies or the devolved assemblies, demonstrates that the old monolithic, hierarchical, centralised model of an integrated Civil Service has disintegrated and been replaced by a structure that is much more federal in nature. As Gray (2000: 298) observes, reforms have: ... led towards the creation of ... a managerial state where new sets of relationships between state and citizen, public and private, providers and recipients and management and politics are being created ... . In this respect, control ... has been relocated to new arenas of power. These new arenas are commonly at one remove from the direct patterns of accountability and control that were to be found in previous state reforms, and maybe overseen by non-elected organisations and actors or by combinations of state, quasi-state and private organisations in new forms of governance. Clearly, change in both the policy-making arena and the Civil Service has led to a process of increased fragmentation and segmentation. But federalist claims need to be treated with caution. It is certainly hard to continue to justify the argument that the British Civil Service remains a ‘unified, but not uniform’ organisation. Structurally, much has changed. But the Blair Administration has expended substantial political capital in strengthening the centre to enhance its controlling capabilities. Reform can be understood as an attempt by Labour to impose its own form of Weberian, hierarchical control on an increasingly heterarchical structure. If we are concerned with analysing the Blair Administration’s impact on Whitehall, we need to recognise that some elements of the Westminster model have been eroded. This has further diluted the model’s ability to offer an accurate organising perspective of the British political system of government. Nevertheless, the normative view of power it presents and the governing code it prescribes is still fundamental in shaping the strategic choices and actions of the core executive. The New Labour project has been an attempt to retain (central) political control, while at the same time enhancing devolved administrative autonomy; but reform has been conditioned by the need by both the

202 New Labour and the Civil Service

Blair Administration and the Civil Service to reconstitute the Westminster model. In terms of resolving the tension between political control and administrative autonomy, it is not surprising to discover that since 1997, greater emphasis has been placed on the former rather than the latter. If we disaggregate and look beyond the dominance of the Westminster model in narrating New Labour’s approach to reform, we can identify other influences: Thatcherite reforms (in the form of managerialism), social democracy (a continued commitment to the welfare state) and a Third Way (pluralising policy-making, policy advice and delivery) (see Richards and Smith 2004b). The impact of these various influences has meant that there have been significant innovations within the Civil Service and the broader policy-making arena. But there have also been contradictions: • the acceptance of many elements of a liberal, Thatcherite notion of the state (managerialism, privatisation, limited state responsibility), but coupled to strong, social democratic, notions of public service responsibility. • a shift from hierarchical forms of state organisation through the development of e-government, pluralistic forms of service delivery, delegation of management and the use of a range of public/ private, local/national providers. But a strengthening of the centre and a policy agenda which is derived from the top, highlighting the continuing importance of the Westminster model . • a shift to market and network mechanisms to deliver welfare goods in areas like education, health, local government and transport, but the retention by Whitehall of hierarchical principles of control, based predominantly on target setting. • a re-negotiation of the relationships between ministers and officials with ministers being less dependent on traditional sources of advice, but within the context of the traditional definition of officials as neutral and permanent and a continuation of the notion of ministerial responsibility. • a recognition that wider structural changes may have changed the balance of resources between ministers and officials, so that ministers have more and officials have less. But, the core executive relationship throughout the Blair years has remained one of dependence, as defined by the Haldane model. The patterns of dependency have changed, but resource dependency continues to

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provide the most appropriate framework for analysing core executive relationships. These contradictions are important because they return us to the arguments concerning the broader nature of the context and operating codes within which Westminster and Whitehall functions. Rhodes et al (2003) suggest that the approach by past and present governments to reform has been flawed because of a failure to recognise the extent to which power needs to be devolved in a differentiated polity. They argue that a by-product of this failure is the likely emergence of a series of unforeseen and unintended consequences. Such arguments are somewhat disingenuous, in that all governments have to cope with unforeseen and unintended consequences. The view here is that Rhodes’ differentiated polity model places too much stress on segmentation, pluralism and the loss of controlling capacity by the core executive. As a new stage in the Labour Administration commences under Gordon Brown, the key policy-making agents still remain within, rather than outside, the core executive. The exchange relationships involved are asymmetric, with the centre retaining substantial power. Theory matters – and the argument presented above is that the characteristics of the Asymmetric Power Model, in contrast to that of the Differentiated Polity Model, provide a more accurate account of the nature of British governance during the course of the Blair Administration.

Appendix A – Breakdown of Interviews

The interviews were drawn from four ESRC projects: • • • •

The Changing Role of Central Government Departments in Britain ESRC Award No.L124251023 [Research conducted 1995–1998] Labour and the Reform of Whitehall: Inheritance, Transition and Accommodation ESRC Award No.R000222657 [Research conducted 1998–2000] Public Service Delivery Programme: Analysing Delivery Chains in the Home Office. ESRC Award. No.RES.153-25-0037. [Research conducted 2005–7] Building Bridges between Political Biography and Political Science – A Methodologically Innovative Study of the Core Executive Under New Labour ESRC Award No. RES-000-22-2040. [Research conducted 2006–7]

Interviews

Numbers

149

Senior civil servants Other civil servants Labour ministers Conservative ministers Special advisers

48 15 21 6

NGO representatives

63

204

Appendix B – Permanent Secretaries and Their Relevant Departments 1996–2004 1. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

R J Packer R J Packer R J Packer R J Packer R J Packer Brian Bender

In 2001, combined with the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) to form the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 2. Cabinet Office 1996

1997 (before the general election)

1997 (after the general election)

1998

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary (Office of Public Service)

Robin Butler

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary (Office of Public Service)

Robin Butler

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary (Office of Public Service)

Robin Butler

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary (Office of Public Service)

Richard Wilson

R Mountfield

R Mountfield

R Mountfield

R Mountfield Continued

205

206 Appendix B Continued 1999

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary (Office of Public Service)

Richard Wilson

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

Richard Wilson

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

Richard Wilson

2002

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

Andrew Turnbull David Omand

2003

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

Andrew Turnbull David Omand

2004

Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Government Communications

Andrew Turnbull David Omand

2000

2001

Brian Bender

Mavis McDonald

Mavis McDonald

Howell James

3. Central Statistical Office 1996

Director and Head of the Government Statistical Service

Tim Holt

In April 1996, merged with the Office of the Population Census and Surveys (OPCS) to form the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election)

Director, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Director, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service

Tim Holt

Tim Holt

Continued

Appendix B 207 Continued 1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Director, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service Chief Executive, Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service

Tim Holt

Tim Holt

Len Cook Len Cook Len Cook Len Cook Len Cook

4. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 1996

Director of Public Prosecutions

Barbara Mills

1997 (before the general election)

Director of Public Prosecutions

Barbara Mills

1997 (after the general election)

Director of Public Prosecutions

Barbara Mills

1998

Director of Public Prosecutions

Barbara Mills

1999

Director of Public Prosecutions

David CalvertSmith

2000

Director of Public Prosecutions

David CalvertSmith

2001

Director of Public Prosecutions

David CalvertSmith

2002

Director of Public Prosecutions

David CalvertSmith

2003

Director of Public Prosecutions

David CalvertSmith

2004

Director of Public Prosecutions

Ken Macdonald

208 Appendix B 5. Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 1998, newly created department with a permanent secretary 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Acting Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Vacant Robin Young Robin Young Nicholas Kroll Sue Street Sue Street Sue Street

6. HM Customs and Excise (C&E) 1996

Chairman

1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998

Chairman

Chairman

1999

Chairman

2000

Chairman

2001

Chairman

2002

Chairman

2003 2004

Acting Chairman Acting Chairman

Chairman

Valerie Strachan Valerie Strachan Valerie Strachan Valerie Strachan Valerie Strachan Richard Broadbent Richard Broadbent Richard Broadbent Mike Elland Mike Elland

7. Ministry of Defence (MOD) 1996

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser Chief of Defence Procurement

Richard Mottram J M Stewart David Davies M K McIntosh Continued

Appendix B 209 Continued 1997 (before the general election)

1997 (after the general election)

1998

1999

2000

2001

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Richard Mottram R T Jackling David Davies

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Richard Mottram R T Jackling David Davies

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

David Davies

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State

Kevin Tebbit

R T Jackling

R T Jackling Keith O’Nions

R T Jackling Keith O’Nions

R T Jackling Continued

210

Appendix B

Continued

2002

2003

2004

Chief Scientific Adviser

Keith O’Nions

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

Chief of Defence Procurement

Robert Walmsley

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

Chief of Defence Procurement

Peter Spencer

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent Secretary of State Chief Scientific Adviser

Kevin Tebbit

Chief of Defence Procurement

Peter Spencer

Ian Andrews Keith O’Nions

Ian Andrews Keith O’Nions

Ian Andrews Keith O’Nions

8. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) In 2002, newly created department that separated from the Cabinet Office and took over the local government and neighbourhood issues from the DTLR.

2002

Permanent Secretary

2003

Permanent Secretary

2004

Permanent Secretary

Mavis McDonald Mavis McDonald Mavis McDonald

Appendix B 211 9. Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) 1996

Joint Permanent Secretary Joint Permanent Secretary

Tim Lankester Michael Bichard

1997 (before the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Michael Bichard

1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Michael Bichard

1998

Permanent Secretary

Michael Bichard

1999

Permanent Secretary

Michael Bichard

2000

Permanent Secretary

Michael Bichard

In 2001 department restructured to become the Department for Education and Skills (DFES).

2001

Permanent Secretary

2002 2003

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

2004

Permanent Secretary

David Normington Claudette Sutton David Normington David Normington

10. Department of the Environment (DOE) 1996

Permanent Secretary

Andrew Turnbull

1997 (before the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Andrew Turnbull

1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Andrew Turnbull

212

Appendix B

In 1998, merged with the Department of Transport to form the new Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) 1998

Permanent Secretary

1999

Permanent Secretary

2000

Permanent Secretary

Andrew Turnbull Richard Mottram Richard Mottram

In 2001, combined with the MAFF to form the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with the policy responsibility for transport and regional development being transferred to another department. 2001 2002 2003 2004

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Brian Bender Brian Bender Brian Bender Brian Bender

11. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 1996

1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998

1999

2000

2001

Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service

John Coles

John Coles

John Coles

John Kerr

John Kerr

John Kerr

John Kerr

Continued

Appendix B 213 Continued 2002

2003

2004

Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service Permanent Under-Secretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service

Michael Jay Michael Jay Michael Jay

12. Department of Health (DH) 1996

Permanent Secretary Chief Medical Officer Chief Executive of NHS Executive

1997 (before the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Graham Hart

Chief Medical Officer

Kenneth C Calman Alan Langlands

Chief Executive of NHS Executive 1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Graham Hart

Chief Medical Officer

Kenneth C Calman Alan Langlands

Chief Executive of NHS Executive 1998

Permanent Secretary Chief Medical Officer Chief Executive of NHS Executive

1999

2000

Graham Hart Kenneth C Calman Alan Langlands

Permanent Secretary Chief Medical Officer Chief Executive of NHS Executive Permanent Secretary

Chris Kelly Kenneth C Calman Alan Langlands Chris Kelly Liam Donaldson Alan Langlands Chris Kelly Continued

214

Appendix B Continued Chief Medical Officer Acting Chief Executive of NHS Executive 2001

Permanent Secretary Chief Medical Officer Permanent Secretary of NHS Executive

2002

Permanent Secretary/ NHS Executive Chief Medical Officer Director of Human Resources (NHS)

2003

Permanent Secretary/ NHS Executive Chief Medical Officer Director (Workforce)

2004

Permanent Secretary/ NHS Executive Group Director, Standards and Quality and Chief Medical Officer Director (Workforce)

Kenneth C Calman Neil McKay Nigel Crisp Liam Donaldson Neil McKay Nigel Crisp Liam Donaldson Andrew Foster Nigel Crisp Liam Donaldson Andrew Foster Nigel Crisp Liam Donaldson

Andrew Foster

13. Health and Safety Commission (HSC) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999

Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary)

J H Bacon J H Bacon J H Bacon J H Bacon J H Bacon Continued

Appendix B 215 Continued 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary) Director-General (Second Permanent Secretary)

Timothy Walker Timothy Walker Timothy Walker Timothy Walker Timothy Walker

14. Home Office 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

2004

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Secretary: Crime, Policing, Counter Terrorism and Delivery Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Secretary: Crime, Policing, Counter Terrorism and Delivery Permanent Secretary: Chief Executive of the National Offenders Management System

R T J Wilson R T J Wilson R T J Wilson David Omand David Omand David Omand John Gieve John Gieve John Gieve Leigh Lewis

John Gieve Leigh Lewis

Martin Narey

216

Appendix B 15. Board of Inland Revenue (IR) 1996

Chairman

1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Chairman Chairman Chairman Chairman Chairman Chairman Chairman Chairman Acting Chairman

Anthony Battishill Anthony Battishill Anthony Battishill N L J Montagu N L J Montagu N L J Montagu N L J Montagu N L J Montagu N L J Montagu Ann Chant

16. Lord Chancellor’s Department (LCD) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 restructured to become the Department for Constitutional Affairs 2004

Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor

Thomas Legg

Chair and Permanent Secretary (Corporate Board) Chief Executive Operations and Second Permanent Secretary (Corporate Board)

Alex Allan

Thomas Legg Thomas Legg Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips

Ian Magee

Appendix B 217 17. Department of National Heritage (DNH) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Hayden Phillips Hayden Phillips

Permanent Secretary

Hayden Phillips

In 1998, department restructured to become the DCMS. 18. Overseas Development Administration (ODA) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) Restructured to form the Department for International Development (DFID) 1998

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

J M M Vereker J M M Vereker

Permanent Secretary

J M M Vereker

Permanent Secretary

J M M Vereker

1999 2000 2001 2002

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

2003

Permanent Secretary

2004

Permanent Secretary

J M M Vereker J M M Vereker J M M Vereker Suma Chakrabarti Suma Chakrabarti Suma Chakrabarti

19. Department of Social Security (DSS) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Anne Bowtell Anne Bowtell

Permanent Secretary

Anne Bowtell

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Anne Bowtell Rachel Lomax Rachel Lomax

218 Appendix B 2001, reconstructed to form the Department for Work and Pensions. 2001 2002

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

2003

Permanent Secretary

2004

Permanent Secretary

Rachel Lomax Richard Mottram Richard Mottram Richard Mottram

20. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 1996

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Peter Gregson Robert May

1997 (before the general election)

Permanent Secretary

Michael Scholar

Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Robert May

Permanent Secretary

Michael Scholar

Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Robert May

1998

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Michael Scholar Robert May

1999

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Michael Scholar Robert May

2000

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Michael Scholar David King

2001

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Michael Scholar David King

1997 (after the general election)

Continued

Appendix B 219 Continued 2002

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Robin Young David King

2003

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Robin Young David King

2004

Permanent Secretary Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of Office of Science and Technology

Robin Young David King

21. Department of Transport (DT) 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Patrick Brown Patrick Brown

Permanent Secretary

Patrick Brown

In 1998, combined with the Department of the Environment, but recreated in 2001 to become the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). It took over local, parliamentary and European parliamentary elections and local legislation from the Home Office. 22. Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) 2001

Permanent Secretary

2002 reorganised again to become the Department for Transport (DFT), with policy responsibility for local government, neighbourhood and housing issues being transferred to the ODPM.

Permanent Secretary

Richard Mottram Rachel Lomax

Continued

220

Appendix B Continued 2003

Permanent Secretary

David Rowlands

2004

Permanent Secretary

David Rowlands

23. HM’s Treasury (HMT) 1996

1997 (before the general election)

1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Secretary Director (Spending)

Terence Burns R P Culpin

Director (International Fianance) Director Macroeconomic Policy and Head of the Government Economic Service Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service

Nigel Wicks

Permanent Secretary

Terence Burns

Alan Budd

Andrew Likierman

Director (Spending)

R P Culpin

Director (International Fianance) Director Macroeconomic Policy and Head of the Government Economic Service Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service

Nigel Wicks

Permanent Secretary

Terence Burns

Director (Spending)

R P Culpin

Director (International Fianance) Director Macroeconomic Policy and Head of the Government Economic Service Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service

Nigel Wicks

Alan Budd

Andrew Likierman

Alan Budd

Andrew Likierman

Continued

Appendix B 221 Continued 1998

1999

Permanent Secretary Director (Spending)

Terence Burns R P Culpin

Director (International Fianance) Director Macroeconomic Policy and Head of the Government Economic Service Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service

Nigel Wicks

Permanent Secretary

Andrew Turnbull Gus O’Donnell

Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, and Head of the Government Economic Service Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service Managing Director Budget and Public Finances 2000

Permanent Secretary Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, and Head of the Government Economic Service Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service Managing Director Budget and Public Finances

2001

Permanent Secretary

Gus O’Donnell

Andrew Likierman

Andrew Likierman

Robert Culpin Andrew Turnbull Gus O’Donnell

Andrew Likierman

Robert Culpin Andrew Turnbull Continued

222 Appendix B Continued

2002

2003

2004

Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, and Head of the Government Economic Service Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service Managing Director Budget and Public Finances

Gus O’Donnell

Permanent Secretary Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service Managing Director Budget and Public Finances

Gus O’Donnell Jon Cunliffe

Permanent Secretary Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service Managing Director Budget and Public Finances

Gus O’Donnell Jon Cunliffe

Permanent Secretary Managing Director Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance Managing Director Financial Management, Reporting and Audit and Head of the Government Accountancy Service

Gus O’Donnell Jon Cunliffe

Andrew Likierman

Robert Culpin

Andrew Likierman

Robert Culpin

Andrew Likierman

Robert Culpin

Andrew Likierman

Appendix B 223 24. Treasury Solicitor’s Department 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor

M L Saunders M L Saunders A H Hammond A H Hammond A H Hammond Juliet Wheldon Juliet Wheldon Juliet Wheldon Juliet Wheldon Juliet Wheldon

25. Northern Ireland Office (NIO) 1996

1997 (before the general election)

1997 (after the general election)

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

John Chilcot

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

John Chilcot

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

John Chilcot

David Fell

David Fell

David Fell

Continued

224 Appendix B Continued 1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Second Permanent UnderSecretary of State (Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service)

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Head of the Civil Service

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Head of the Civil Service

Joseph Pilling

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Head of the Civil Service

Joseph Pilling

John Semple

Gerry Loughran

Gerry Loughran

Gerry Loughran

Stormont Castle

Post suspended

Post suspended

Appendix B 225 26. Scottish Office 1996 1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Under-Secretary of State Permanent Secretary Permanent Secretary

Russell Hillhouse Russell Hillhouse Russell Hillhouse Muir Russell Muir Russell Muir Russell Muir Russell Muir Russell John Elvidge John Elvidge

27. Welsh Office 1996

Head of Department

1997 (before the general election) 1997 (after the general election) 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Head of Department

Michael C Scholar Rachel Lomax

Head of Department

Rachel Lomax

Head of Department Head of Department Head of Department Head of Department Head of Department Head of Department Head of Department

Rachel Lomax Jon Shortridge Jon Shortridge Jon Shortridge Jon Shortridge Jon Shortridge Jon Shortridge

The 47 first-time appointments made under the New Labour between 1997 and 2004 are underlined and highlighted in bold.

Notes

1

Introduction

1. The Westminster model is defined in detail in Chapter 2 and Table 3.1. It can briefly be understood as being built: ‘on the assumption that there is Parliamentary Sovereignty; all decisions are made within Parliament and there is no higher authority. Legitimacy and democracy are maintained because ministers are answerable to Parliament and the House of Commons is elected by the people. Decisions are taken by cabinet and implemented by a neutral Civil Service. This view is derived from the Whig notion of the constitution being in self-correcting balance.’ (Smith 1999: 10). 2. In terms of this specific example of devolution, Blair (1998) declared that: ‘I attach great importance to preserving a unified Civil Service working for all three administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Westminster. We do not want anybody who works in the Welsh Office or the Scottish Office to feel that they are being cut adrift from the Civil Service. I also attach great importance to establishing efficient machinery for close working between the UK Government and the devolved administrations.’ 3. For a survey of the Anglo-Governance School of literature, see Richards and Smith (2002), Marinetto (2003) and Bevir and Rhodes (2006). 4. Examples include Harris and Garcia (1966), Theakston and Fry (1989), Barberis (1996), Richards (1997), Theakston (1999, 2000). 5. One could question this characterisation of the literature (and the associated methodological approach it employs). In many cases, the studies conducted by these authors do in fact undertake the type of qualitative analysis of the beliefs of bureaucrats which Rhodes advocates. But that is a debate to be had elsewhere! 6. The claim is that: ‘Modernist empiricists rewrote Whig historiography to construct an ahistorical Westminster model’ (Bevir and Rhodes 2006: 74). Although as Smith (2007: 2) observes: ‘... we are not informed who these modernist empiricists are (Lijphart is the one example but he is one out of many who have taken a different approach). Indeed, this modernist empiricist approach is a straw man that exists very infrequently within British political science.’ 7. Interpretative approaches have a long tradition within sociology, most notably in the works of Berger and Luckman (1967), Goffman (1969) and Garfinkle (1967), but it can be argued that traditionally, public administration and political science have tended to be more behavioural and positivist in their approaches (see Kavanagh 2003, Kenny 2004). The recent works of Bevir and Rhodes (2003a, 2006) can be seen as an attempt to invigorate the interpretivist approach in political science, in particular within the British context. 8. For a critique of this approach and these four traditions, see Smith (2007). 9. See Smith (1999) for a summary of this literature. 226

Notes 227 10. Such an argument can be closely aligned to an historical institutionalist account. 11. The phrase ‘bringing the state back in’ is associated with the renewed interest shown in the state during the mid-1980s, by such exponents as Skocpol (1979), Mann (1988) and March and Olson (1989). 12. One could argue that in methodological terms there is little difference between trying to understand the ‘formal and informal rules of the game’ as understood by agents, as opposed to interpreting their ‘webs of belief’. This prompts a further debate, in that what Bevir and Rhodes have done is take a particular methodological approach associated with interpretivism and presented it as an epistemology. Finally, there is of course an irony here. The impact of Bevir and Rhodes’ interpretivist approach on the subdiscipline of public administration means that the various strands of new institutionalism, which were seen as ‘state of the art’ in the early to mid1990s, are now increasingly regarded as ‘traditional approaches’ to studies in this area. 13. For a discussion of some of the methodological issues involved in this approach, see Devine (1995), Richards (1996a) and Marsh et al (2001). 14. There are four ESRC projects on which this research draws: The Changing Role of Central Government Departments in Britain ESRC Award No.L124251023 [Research conducted 1995–1998], Labour and the Reform of Whitehall: Inheritance, Transition and Accommodation ESRC Award No.R000222657 [Research conducted 1998–2000], Public Service Delivery Programme: Analysing Delivery Chains in the Home Office ESRC Award. No.RES.153-25-0037. [Research conducted 2005–7] and Building Bridges between Political Biography and Political Science – A Methodologically Innovative Study of the Core Executive under New Labour ESRC Award No. RES-000-22-2040. [Research conducted 2006–7]. The numbers of interviews are identified in Appendix A. Where quotes have been used and there is no citation, this implies it was taken from an interview with the author. 15. Unusually, there were a small number of interviews with Labour ministers offered solely on the grounds of ‘background information’ and were non-attributable, or under Chatham House rules.

2 Labour and the Civil Service: Governing in the Shadow of the Westminster Model 1. Rhodes et al (2003: 8) observe: ‘The Westminster model refers to the language map, questions and historical story used to capture the essential features of the British system that, through sheer longevity, form the conventional or mainstream story.’ For more detail on the Westminster model see Smith (1999) or Richards and Smith (2002). 2. There is a substantial literature on the British Political Tradition. The view emphasised here is that it involves a limited liberal conception of representation and a conservative notion of responsibility. For a detailed overview of this debate see: on representation and responsibility, A.H. Birch, op.cit., and D. Judge, Representation (London: Routledge, 1999); on the British political tradition, see D. Marsh, The British Political Tradition, University of

228 Notes

3.

4.

5.

6.

7. 8. 9.

Essex, Mimeo, 1980; A. Tant, British Government: the Triumph of Elitism: A Study of the British Political Tradition and its Major Challenges (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1993); D. Marsh and M. Read, Private Members Bills (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); D. Marsh and A. Tant, ‘Democracy Under Mrs. Thatcher: Towards a Centralisation of Power’, in M. Haralambos (ed.), Developments in Politics (Ormskirk: Causeway Press, 1991); M. Evans, Charter 88: A Successful Challenge to the British Political Tradition (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1995); D. Marsh and P. Kerr, Ideas and Institutions: The British Political Tradition and Constitutional Reform under New Labour, University of Birmingham, Mimeo, 2001; D. Marsh, ‘It’s Always Happy Hour’ in C. Hay (ed.), British Politics Today (London: Polity, 2002) and M. Evans, Constitution-making and the Labour Party (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). Jennings was also explicitly attacking Dicey as a Liberal, suggesting his views on the constitution were: ‘... concerned almost entirely with the rights of the individual. He was imagining a constitution dominated by the doctrine of laissez faire.’ (Jennings 1959: 55) A common theme of ‘Liberal’ thinking on representative government is that only ‘educated’ people can realistically be involved in government and representatives have to use their own judgement rather than, to coin Joseph Chamberlain’s phrase, ‘truckle with the multitude’ (quoted in Jennings 1966: 1). It is worth recalling the infamous misquotation associated with Douglas Jay, an economist and Labour politician, that the ‘the man in Whitehall knows best’. What Jay had actually written in The Socialist Case in 1937 was that: ‘... in the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.’ Unfortunately for Jay, it was the parody of this quote that became popularised in Westminster folklore and would go on to haunt him, in the same way that another familiar misquotation ‘Crisis, what crisis’ would haunt Jim Callaghan some forty years later. Nevertheless, the irony here is that the mantra ‘the man in Whitehall knows best’ was one that the Labour leadership seemed more than willing to accept. The key elements of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report (1854) proposed a professional, meritocratic and permanent Civil Service (for more details see Hennessy 1989; Richards 1997). Although, as we see below, most notably after 1945, a variety of critiques were to develop from both the Left and Right challenging this view. Derived from Lord Haldane’s Report of the Machinery of Government Committee: Ministry of Reconstruction (1918). Parallels can be drawn between the evolutions of the guild socialist view of a society of associations with no overriding dominant organisation and the ideas associated with modern conceptions of governance. The lexicon of modern governance is littered with references to ‘governing without government’, ‘the hollow crown’, ‘heterarchy’ and ‘fragmentation’ conveying an image of governing as a complex network of organisations, where there is no single dominant organisation and governing is based on an eclectic mix of hierarchies, networks and markets.

Notes 229 10. The 1924 Zinoviev Affair did little to enhance the Party’s view of the Foreign Office, with many in the PLP believing that the ‘Red Letter’ scare could be traced directly to the doors of the Foreign Office. 11. This was an issue that was to surface again, most notably in 1976, when for some, the Treasury mistakenly advised the Labour Chancellor Denis Healey of the need to secure a loan from the IMF which he agreed to. 12. As we see in Chapter 5, it is ironic to note that this is a theme that the Blair Administration returned to after 1997. 13. Theakston (1992: 111) suggests that it was experience in the wartime coalition that turned leading Labour ministers in the 1945 government into ‘pragmatic insiders’. A more instrumental argument could be offered that suggests the Civil Service had ‘delivered’ during the war years, so why should the Attlee Government expend substantial political capital on reforming Whitehall when it already had such a large policy programme to implement. 14. Instead, the Attlee Government tidied up a few electoral anomalies and confirmed the limitations on the powers of the House of Lords. 15. In a much quoted and particularly withering passage, Laski points the finger of failure at Whitehall’s elite band of top administrators. He called for: ‘Innovation on a grand scale, utter frankness, relentless attack upon obstructive interests, rapid adaptation to the unexpected, the ruthless rejection of men who do not rise to the occasion, these are the qualities for which war calls in officials; and they are pretty exactly the qualities against which the main genius of our Civil Service has been directed’. (Laski 1942: 6–10) 16. Some analysts of relative economic decline have focused on culture (Wiener 1981; Barnett, 1986; Sampson, 1983), others on the role of finance and the City of London (Pollard, 1992; Hutton, 1995), some have pinpointed institutional weaknesses (King, 1975; Marquand, 1988), while others have identified the effects of empire (Hobsbawn, 1968; Kennedy, 1988; Callaghan, 1997). For a general discussion see Gamble (1995, 2000). 17. What Wilson actually told the Party conference was: ‘The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated methods on either side of industry.’ 18. Following the publication of the Plowden Report in 1961, the Public Expenditure Survey Committee [PESC] was created. It was made up of the principal finance officers of all the major spending departments in Whitehall. The role of the PESC was to consider reports from the Treasury on the forecasts of every department’s expenditure. The rationale underpinning the Committee was to introduce both a planned approach towards public expenditure and, in so doing, regularise the system. In particular, to assess the overall projected spending of all departments against forecasts of the growth of national income. Previously, as the Plowden Committee had observed, the approach to expenditure had been piecemeal and ad hoc and the Treasury had failed to adopt a strategic overview on projected government expenditure. PESC was coupled to the introduction of Programme Analysis and Review [PAR] in which different departmental programmes were both costed and their benefits assessed. PAR was intended to ensure that departments had clear objectives and stated their priorities

230

19. 20.

21.

22. 23.

Notes The perceived benefit of both PESC and PAR was that, after 1965 [when the process was conducted at Cabinet level] decisions on government programmes and expenditure could be prioritised based on an overall strategically assessed view (see Chapman 1997). It could be regarded as an attempt to professionalise the Treasury’s approach to public expenditure. Lipsey (2000: 153) argues that: ‘PESC was for years the most important single determinant of what went on: the stuff of official wheeling and dealing, the focus of ministerial hopes and fears, and ultimately, the most significant influence on what individual citizens did or did not get by way of public services.’ Lipsey (2000: 157–8) observes that PESC went through a number of phases: the first from 1969–1976 involved planning in real terms only – which: ‘led to spending spiralling out of control’; this was followed by the introduction of cash limits, a requirement of the 1976 IMF loan negotiated by the Callaghan Government; the next phase was an attempt to plan spending in cash terms alone, which also: ‘ended in disaster, with minor fluctuations in inflation mattering more to the true level of public spending than the decisions of Cabinet.’ The final phase was the introduction of the Star Chamber by the 1979 Thatcher Government to resolve difficulties that arose between the Treasury and other departments. In 1992, the Star Chamber was replaced by the Cabinet’s Economic and Domestic Policy (Expenditure) Committee [EDX], which had responsibility to consider pressures for greater spending, by some departments within the constraints of available financial resources. The life cycle of PESC and its successor EDX ended under the 1997 Labour Government which introduced the Comprehensive Spending Review. Here, capital and current spending were separated out from each other, and departments were asked to complete comprehensive spending reviews [CSR] of everything they did. The Treasury would then issue each department with figures based on their CSR which would set out their spending for the next three years. The effect was to increase the power of the Treasury over departments and induce them to think in the longer term, rather than over spend in their first year. Clearly, a path can be traced from the publication of the Plowden Report in 1961 and the subsequent establishment of PESC, up to the introduction of the CSR in 1997, in which the Treasury has made numerous attempts at professionalising its management of public expenditure and, in so doing, controlling it. See Chapter 6 for a demographic profile of ministers and civil servants. Balogh, a life-long friend of Harold Wilson and his personal economic adviser, revisited some of the themes aired in the Apotheosis when he, along with two other former civil servants Roger Opie and Dudley Seers, wrote a highly critical appraisal of Whitehall and its role in the policy-making process, pointedly entitled Crisis in the Civil Service. The group who compiled the report included some notable politicians, Anthony Crosland and Shirley Williams, as well as Thomas Balogh, but the key actor was the secretary of the group, Ogilvy-Webb, Head of the Treasury’s Historical Branch (see Stone 1997: 49). For a summary of this literature see Richards (1997). For a review of Fulton see the special edition of Public Administration, Autumn, 1968.

Notes 231 24. Somewhat ironic, in the light of the well recorded views of Wilson concerning his worries about elements plotting against his government (see Wilson 1974; Wright 1987; Haines 1977, 2003; Pimlott 1993; Donoughue 2003 and two television documentaries that coincided with the thirty years since Wilson’s resignation as Prime Minister – BBC 2’s documentary The Plot Against Harold Wilson, broadcast on 16 March 2006 and ITV1’s Harold: The Wilson Years, broadcast on 19 March 2006). 25. The irony here is that the reform mantle was taken up by the Heath Government. In October 1970, a White Paper The Reorganisation of Central Government led to the establishment of the Central Policy Review Staff [CPRS] and the introduction of new arrangements for the scrutiny of policy formulation and implementation – the Programme Analysis and Review [PAR]. 26. There is of course a critique of Whitehall offered by Tony Benn formulated during the course of his time as a minister in the Wilson/Callaghan Administration. His views on Whitehall are discussed in Chapter 6. 27. Bearing in mind Labour’s willingness to work within the constitutional parameter of the Westminster model, then from Whitehall’s perspective, it comes as little surprise to find that it viewed its relationship with successive Labour governments as unproblematic (after some initial doubts about the Party prior to it first forming a government in 1924 – see Theakston 1992; Stone 1997). 28. This labelling of an ‘Old Labour model’ is used in the context of the direction the Party went in under the leadership of Blair in the 1990s and its rebranding as ‘New Labour’. 29. Indeed, up until 1979, it can be argued that the only period in which Whitehall’s evolutionary trajectory notably changed occurred in the 1850s, in the light of the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms. The possibility emerged of further change in the 1940s following the impact of war on Whitehall. But the Attlee Government believed it to be in its own interests to revert to previous working practices.

3 Theorising Whitehall: Labour’s Response to the Conservative Inheritance 1. The virtues of the public choice approach when explaining bureaucratic behaviour are predicated on a number of claims: parsimony, theoretical clarity, deductive reasoning and the interchangebility of individuals using predictive modelling. For a general critique of this approach see Green and Shapiro (1994) or Hay (2002). But in the more specific British context, what is interesting about public choice accounts of bureaucracy is their contrasting view of the nature of British government and the direct challenge they present to the Westminster model (see Chapter 6). Despite the criticism public choice accounts received, there is clear evidence that they had an impact, in terms of offering an understanding of bureaucratic behaviour embraced by centre-right think-tanks such as the Institute for Economic Affairs and, subsequently, the 1979 Conservative Administration, which they used to explain the growth of government in the post-war era (see below and Cockett 1995; Campbell and Wilson 1995; Hindmoor 2006).

232 Notes 2. The Parliamentary Conservative Party has always been a broad church (see Gamble 1994; Ludlam and Smith 1996; Hay 1996; Kavanagh 1997; Gilmour 1997; Heath 1998). Certainly, under Thatcher, it contained an array of factions offering differing ideological perspectives, and the neo-liberal wing of the Party was never fully dominant (see Crewe 1989; Gamble 1994; Richardson et al 1995). It is unsurprising that the Party had an ambivalent attitude towards the Civil Service. ‘Progressive’, or ‘One-Nation’ Conservatism, regarded Whitehall as one of the great institutions of the state that needed protecting. This position was at odds with those on the ‘neo-liberal’ wing, who demanded some form of radical, political reform. Their view was that the elite in Whitehall were too closely associated with consensus politics and were partly responsible for Britain’s relative economic decline. 3. New Public Management [NPM] defined and discussed below. 4. It should be noted that the most sophisticated account of the Next Steps process from a public choice perspective is offered by James (2003). His starting point is to recognise the divergent theoretical approaches to explaining reform and he sets up a simply dichotomy: should Next Steps be seen as a project underpinned by a notion of ‘public interest’, in order to achieve the ‘3Es’– greater efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the delivery of public services; or, should the reform programme be understood as an exercise in the promotion of self-interest by senior Whitehall officials keen to protect their own role in the policy-making process? To address this dichotomy, James poses three questions: why did the reform programme come about; how has the executive model developed in practice; and has it improved the performance of central government? His answers lie in the compilation of extensive quantitative and qualitative empirical evidence, in the form of budget analysis, performance data, primary and secondary documents, as well as a number of interviews with senior officials to substantiate the public choice account of reform: officials did act in a self-interested fashion. Not surprisingly, he concludes that improvements in the ‘3Es’ left much to be desired. 5. The literature on New Public Management is extensive and here is not the place to reappraise it. There is no single definition of NPM. It is an amorphous term that contains elements of business/management theory, fused with neo-liberal, public-choice accounts of bureaucracy. Hood (1991) argues that NPM is an ‘ill-defined concept’ which can be portrayed as a theme ‘for all seasons’. A useful check-list of themes associated with NPM is offered by Greer (1994, p.8): ‘a shift to disaggregation in public services organisation; a preference for limited term contract employment of senior staff over traditional career tenure; wholly monetised incentives rather than the traditional structure of control in the public sector through a mix of non-monetary factors (ethos, status, culture) and uniform fixed salaries; top managerial ‘freedom to manage’ over a network of constraints (notably by central personnel agencies) on action by line management; a divorce of provision from production (or delivery) in public service; an emphasis on cost cutting; a shift from policy management with the focus primarily on efficiency and cost of service delivery – leading to an emphasis on quantifiable methods of performance and investment appraisal and efficiency criteria: a shift from process to outputs in controls and accountability mechanisms.’

Notes 233 6. For a similar conclusion, see Campbell and Wilson (1995: 294–301). 7. For a more comprehensive account of the nature of power-dependency between ministers and civil servants see Rhodes and Dunleavy (1995); Smith (1999); Richards and Smith (2002); and Chapters 2 and 6. 8. It should be pointed out that, within the social sciences, ‘governance’ is a much used and much contested term (see Richards and Smith 2002). Even within the narrower contours of political science, different sub-fields, for example, public administration and public policy, international relations and comparative politics, attach different meanings to the term. It is therefore important to point out that the literature on governance from which the arguments here are developed draws predominantly from the ‘Anglogovernance school’ (see Chapter 1). 9. As we see in Chapter 5, while the language of communitarianism faded from the New Labour lexicon after 1997, the principles concerning an ‘enabling state’ and attempts at empowering actors beyond Whitehall manifested itself in various Government reforms – see for example Office of Public Service Reform (2002) Reforming Public Services: Principles into Practice or Department for Local Communities and Local Government (2006) Strong and Prosperous Communities – The Local Government White Paper. 10. Etzioni’s influence on New Labour thinking is most obviously seen in the 1995 Spectator lecture ‘The Rights We Enjoy Reflect the Duties We Owe’. This coincided with the publication of Etzioni’s (1995b) Too Many Rights, Too Few Responsibilities. 11. Notable influences on the stakeholder narrative include Fukuyama (1995), Putnam (1995, 2000) and Hutton (1995) – see Gould (1998). 12. As with communitarianism, after 1997, the language of stakeholding faded from the discourse of New Labour. But the themes concerning social capital, devolution of power away from the centre and ensuring that responsibilities came with rights in state-civic partnerships remained (see Chapter 5). 13. If Marquand’s (1999) Progressive Dilemma identified the need for the Party to retain the loyalty of its core constituency, while at the same time offering a political package with mass appeal, then one variation on this dilemma for New Labour was how to embrace some elements of the Thatcherite project, while not being seen to abandon its social democratic goals. 14. The focus of the analysis is on Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

4

Transition in Government

1. When Blair entered Downing Street on the 2 May 1997, it was only the second time he had been in the building, the previous occasion being an official dinner for President Clinton in November 1996 (Kavanagh and Seldon 2000: 240; Rentoul 2001: 324). 2. Margaret Beckett, Jack Cunningham and Ann Taylor had all served as junior ministers in the 1974–9 Labour Government. In that government, John Morris had served as Secretary of State for Wales and Blair appointed him as his first Attorney General [1997–99], but outside the Cabinet.

234 Notes 3. This chapter does not directly address the view of the Labour Party as to whether or not eighteen years of Conservative government led to the politicisation of the Civil Service. This theme is explored in Chapter 6. 4. For a discussion of the methodology underpinning this research, see Chapter 1. It should be pointed out that of the four ESRC Research Projects on which much of the qualitative data in this book is drawn, one in particular, Labour and the Reform of Whitehall: Inheritance, Transition and Accommodation [ESRC-R000222657] specifically addressed issues concerning the 1997 transition. For the details of the number of interviews conducted by the author, see Appendix A. 5. Catterill (1997: 81) notes that as far as Alec Douglas-Home was concerned, if talks with the Opposition were to go ahead, then he wished to know nothing whatsoever about them. 6. Of course, given that the Prime Minister decides on the election date, provided that there is a maximum term of five years, this would mean 18 months before the last feasible election date. 7. In his diary, Tony Benn narrates an amusing incident concerning the October 1974 transition, when the Department of Industry incorrectly handed him the wrong brief. They had prepared two briefs, one for Benn and another for: ‘...an incoming Labour minister if not Mr. Benn.’ (Benn 1982: 54; cf. Hennessy 1989: 510) In this case, Benn was handed both briefs. 8. Unlike most permanent secretary’s, Michael Bichard’s earlier career was in local government where he had been Chief Executive of Brent and then Gloucestershire Local Authorities. In 1990, he became Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency and he went on to become Permanent Secretary at the Department for Employment in 1995. When Richard Wilson retired as Cabinet Secretary in 2002, there was some media speculation that Bichard was on the short-list to replace him, although the job went to Andrew Turnbull from the Treasury. 9. It should be pointed out that pre-1997, McCartney was a shadow minister in the DfEE team and so his comments reflect his impression on entering the DTI after the election. 10. For details on New Labour’s approach to policy formulation see Marsh, Richards and Smith (2001). 11. It is interesting to note the diary entry by Paddy Ashdown (2000:146) on the 28 February 1992 which records a meeting he had with the then Cabinet Secretary Robin Butler and the Private Secretary to the Queen, Robert Fellowes over the issue of a hung parliament: ‘I made it clear to them that we would not want to see a minority Conservative Government removed until there was an agreed Government to put in its place ... In other words, we would operate on the basis of a “constructive vote of no confidence”. Both Fellowes and Butler seemed relieved, as this would take the pressure off the Queen, although Fellowes did say that it was perfectly possible the Queen would grant a second dissolution to Major if the Tories were the largest party and he really pressed it. This came as a shock, as we have always worked on the basis that she wouldn’t do that. But Butler told me that in those circumstances, everybody would be advising the Prime Minister not to put the Queen in a difficult position. I warned him that we would be

Notes 235

12. 13.

14. 15.

asking for the Civil Service to help in any hung parliament and that, if he wanted to know our thinking, he might send someone over to see the FDP in Germany, as we would be modelling our approach on what happened there.’ Although, see Ian McCartney’s own views above on the transition. Robert Hazell is the Founder and Director of the independent think-tank, the Constitution Unit at University College London, which specialises in constitutional reform and comparative constitutional studies. Private information. To an extent, interest groups take on a similar policy advisory role for opposition parties as the Civil Service does for governments (see Marsh, Richards and Smith 2001).

5 Labour and the Civil Service: From Managerialism to a Reconstituted Westminster Model 1. Hailsham was criticising the Westminster model and the extent to which it conferred too much unchecked power on the executive. 2. See, for example, Crossman (1975), Castle (1984), Heseltine (1987), Healey (1989), Benn (1990), Jenkins (1991), Ridley (1991), Lawson (1992), Parkinson (1992), Howe (1994), Mowlam (2002), Cook (2003, Donoughue (2003), Short (2004), Blunkett (2006). 3. It can be argued that such conflicts were as prevalent in the corporatist era as they are today. 4. Blair made this comment in a speech at the Venture Capitalists Association conference in London on 6 July 1999. He observed that: ‘... try getting change in the public sector and the public services. I bear the scars on my back after two years in government and heaven knows what it will be like after a bit longer. People in the public sector were more rooted to the concept that “if it has always been done this way it must always be done this way” than any group of people I have come across.’ 5. Blair’s sentiments are not far removed from the ‘reinventing government’ discourse associated ten years earlier with the American centre-right commentators Osborne and Gaebler (1992). 6. This was a 1998 internal report by the Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson, on what reforms were required for modernising Whitehall. As Seldon observes (2004: 424): ‘At his first meeting with Blair, Wilson picked up on the Prime Minister’s desire for a stronger Cabinet Office, allowing Blair more effective control over the government, and produced proposals accordingly; the final draft reached Blair in April ... [H]e agreed to its implementation, creating a new “Performance and Innovation Unit” at its heart to complement the Treasury’s role in monitoring departmental progress and other changes to improve policy initiation, co-ordination from the centre and the delivery of policy. Only with the passage of time did Wilson understand that Blair not only sought more effective control – he wanted more personal control over Whitehall too.’ Labour also created a range of other co-ordinating units including – the Regional Coordination Unit, the Social Exclusion Unit and

236

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14. 15.

Notes the Women’s Unit, all of which increase the capacity of the centre. For details see Richards and Smith (2004b). In December 2005, the CSMB was replaced by the Permanent Secretaries’ Management Group (PSMG) made up of all first Permanent Secretaries. The group meets four times a year to ‘consider issues of concern to the Civil Service as a whole’. It is supported by a Permanent Secretaries’ Steering Group composed of a smaller group of Permanent Secretaries. In March 2007, the make-up of that group was: Chair: Gus O’Donnell (Cabinet Secretary); Members: Richard Mottram, David Varney, David Normington, Suma Chakrabarti, Alex Allan, Nicholas Macpherson, Gill Rider, David Rowlands and Ian Watmore. A number of task forces have exceeded a 24-month lifespan. For example, the Better Regulation Task Force, Skills Task Force and the New Deal Task Force. There is of course a debate concerning defining what constitutes an NDPB – with sub-categories of Executive, Advisory or Tribunal NDPBs etc. – which I have no intention of rehearsing here, but see Cabinet Office (2006). Michael Barber is an academic who became an advisor in the Department of Education before being appointed as the Head of PMDU. As one Cabinet Office official observed: ‘Barber was appointed for his analytical approach and he was very keen to appoint people outside of Whitehall to work with him.’ When Michael Barber, the first Head of the PMDU left in 2005, he took up a post with McKinsey as an expert partner in its Global Public Sector Practice. Barber (2007) published an account of his time in government which expressed a sense of frustration at the lack of power at the centre. He argued Britain should follow the Australian model and create a new department incorporating Number Ten and the Cabinet Office. Street Crime is an obvious example of one such policy. During the first six months of this initiative, the Prime Minister was holding a weekly meeting with the dedicated unit in the Home Office dealing with this policy, in order to be updated on its progress (see Geddes et al 2006). Gains (2003) points out that there remains the continuing problem of defining agencies, exacerbated by the process of devolution. This means that the official figures for agencies in the New Labour era are open to interpretation. In this context: ‘devolution is defined as the handing over of power from central government to a constituent part (e.g. to local government); delegation means entrusting another with the authority to act as agent’. (Office of Public Service Reform 2002: 16) One of the four key principles of public service reform referred to above. The Report has identified £20 billion in what it refers to as ‘efficiency gains’ to be made by 2007–8, partly based on cutting 84,000 posts in the Civil Service. From that figure, 60 per cent is targeted to be directly released to fund front-line delivery services (Gershon 2004: 3).

6 The Core Executive under Labour: Politicising Whitehall? 1. The Report defined the formal nature of the relationship between ministers and civil servants: ‘The Government of the country [cannot] be carried out

Notes 237

2.

3.

4.

5.

without the aid of an efficient body of permanent officers, occupying a position duly subordinate to that of the Ministers who are directly responsible to the Crown and to Parliament, yet possessing sufficient independence, character, ability and experience to be able to advise, assist, and to some extent, influence those who are from time to time set over them.’ (The NorthcoteTrevelyan report was reprinted in Cmnd 3638: 1968, pp. 108–119) The principles it established was a Civil Service that was: permanent and impartial, in which officials were accountable to their ministers, who in turn were accountable to Parliament; recruitment was to be based on merit; and a greater emphasis on professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness. The Carltona Doctrine establishes the principle that the actions of civil servants are synonymous with the actions of departmental ministers. Civil servants should be perceived as the alter ego of their minister. The principle was created by a 1943 ruling made by the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Greene in the case of Carltona Ltd v Commissioners of Works [1943] in which he stated that: ‘In the administration of government in this country, the functions which are given to ministers (and constitutionally properly given to ministers because they are constitutionally responsible) are functions so multifarious that no minister could ever personally attend to them ... [therefore] The duties imposed upon ministers and the powers given to ministers are normally exercised under the authority of ministers by responsible officials of the department. Public business could not be carried on if that were not the case’ (see Freedland 1995; Foster 2001). Almost two decades later, John Nott returned to this theme, although he offered a slightly different view on why he believed Whitehall to be so obstructionist. In March 2007, following some injudicious and very unmandarin like comments made by the former Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull, expressing concern about Gordon Brown’s ‘Stalinist ruthlessness’ in the way he ran the Treasury, Nott wrote a letter to The Times: ‘Politicians want to get things done in government – and too often the Treasury, combined with the collective conservatism and “process-obsessed” civil servants, frustrate them, not out of any opposition to the politics, or to the politicians themselves, but from the love of process’ (Letter to The Times, 21 March 2007). Niskanen argues that bureaucrats, as rational actors, wish to maximise their own welfare and they achieve this goal through maximising budgets because it increases promotion prospects, status, the ease of running the bureau and gives individuals a greater opportunity to deliver their goals. As we saw in Chapter 3, an adaptation of this approach was offered by Dunleavy (1991) and his ‘bureau-shaping model’. As we saw above, public choice theory is as an approach which draws from the tradition of classical economics, offers a sceptical view of the state, challenges a number of the tenets of social democracy, has been promoted by right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute in America and the Institute for Economic Affairs in the UK (see Hindmoor 2006) and formed part of the post-1979 Thatcherite narrative. Not surprisingly, it has made few in-roads into the discourse and ideas of the Labour Party. Even in 1976, with the introduction of Cash Limits by the Labour Chancellor Denis Healey and the subsequent drift from Keynesianism to monetarism during that Government,

238 Notes

6.

7. 8.

9. 10.

11.

12.

13.

this was not prompted by any intellectual volte face by the Party leadership, but by the necessity to respond to the demands made by the IMF. This was partly Crossman’s own fault, having requested, when in the Department of Housing, that he wished to see every official decision approved in his name. Crossman’s Permanent Secretary at Housing. The Marxist-Leninist principle of democratic centralism concerns a particular approach to state organisation. Within a one-party state, such as the former Soviet Union, the notion of democracy relates to the ability of party members to discuss and debate policy. The element of centralism is based on the view that once the Party has adopted a particular policy following a majority vote, Party members then have to abide by that decision. This principle is clearly outlined in the fourth and final Soviet Constitution: ‘The Soviet State is organised and functions on the principle of democratic centralism, namely the electiveness of all bodies of state authority from the lowest to the highest, their accountability to the people, and the obligation of lower bodies to observe the decisions of higher ones. Democratic centralism combines central leadership with local initiative and creative activity and with the responsibility of each state body and official for the work entrusted to them.’ See below for details of the role a Prime Minister plays in top appointments in Whitehall. Richards (1997: 240) has argued that one consequence of a Civil Service with a less robust approach to offering critical advice is the high-profile policy failures during this period. For example, Butler, Adonis and Travers (1994) contend that the whole saga of the botched attempt to reform Local Government finance in the mid-1980s might have been avoided if Terence Heiser [permanent secretary] and other senior officials at the Department of Environment had been prepared to stand up to Baker, Patten, Ridley and Thatcher and highlighted the shortcomings in the Community Charge. It could be argued that, in the 1990s, such incidents as Jonathan Aitken’s Paris hotel bill, Neil Hamilton’s resignation and, most notably, the Arms to Iraq affair, which all reflected poorly on both the Government and the Civil Service, might have been avoided, or at least better handled, by advice from a more critical Civil Service. Callaghan was being interviewed on the BBC 2 programme Behind the Headlines about the actions of the then Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, Peter Middleton, in relation to the Treasury’s involvement in the Norman Lamont/Miss Whiplash affair (see Richards 1997). It is worth noting that pre-dating the Party’s New Labour make-over, a prominent future Blair minister made openly critical comments about the senior Civil Service. In the lead up to the 1992 General Election, David Blunkett, as Shadow environment spokesperson argued that the department was ‘riddled with Tories’ suggesting: ‘... they are place men. People have been given preferment because they were Thatcherites’ (The Times 10 February 1992). In terms of understanding Whitehall’s grading system and how it has changed over the last 15 years, it is worth pointing out that during the 1990s, a whole series of personnel reforms were introduced: the Efficiency

Notes 239 Unit’s Career Management and Succession Planning (1993); a White Paper, Continuity and Change (1994); a second White Paper, The Civil Service: Taking Forward Continuity and Change (1995); and the Senior Management Review (SMR). Gradually, the system was changing from one in which individuals gained entry into a career to one in which the individual was appointed to a specific job. This was reflected in two central aims: to break down the hierarchy in the upper echelons of the senior Civil Service to increase delegation and diversity of advice within the policy-process; and to eliminate layers of management among the 3,000 top civil servants in Whitehall. It was the 1995 Senior Management Review that had a pronounced effect on the policy-making process. It led to the creation of the Senior Civil Service, the removal of a whole bureaucratic tier [Grade 3] and the devolution of responsibility down the Whitehall hierarchy (see Marsh et al 2001: 55). The aim was to break down the hierarchical and gradist culture of Whitehall, but the extent to which this has proved a success is somewhat equivocal. However, for the sake of clarity, twenty years ago, the Prime Minister would have approved the appointments of the top two grades in Whitehall – Permanent Secretaries (Grade 1/1a) and Deputy Secretaries (Grade 2). While today, the Prime Minister still approves all appointments to the equivalent of these two grades, Permanent Secretaries have retained their formal titles, but the title of Grade 2 Deputy Secretary has been abandoned and reclassified in a similar way to the EU model, referred to now as Director-Generals (also sometimes referred to as Under Director-Generals and Directors). In March 2006, the Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell launched a new leadership framework for the Senior Civil Service (SCS) comprising the top 200 posts. This broadly equates to the old Grade 1 and 2 ranking in Whitehall. 14. Previously, it was the Office of Public Service that was involved in this process. The 1998 Wilson Review (see Chapter 5) recommended the merging of the Cabinet Office with the Office of Public Service to bolster the link between policy formulation and delivery (see Fawcett and Gay 2005: 43). 15. The Commissioners derive their duties and powers from the Civil Service Order in Council (1995) and the Diplomatic Service Order in Council (1991). They are responsible for: ‘... interpreting the principle of selection on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition, for Civil Service recruitment. They also hear appeals from Home civil servants under the Civil Service Code ... The Orders in Council require the Commissioners to: maintain the principle of selection on merit on the basis of fair and open competition in relation to selection for appointment in recruitment; prescribe and publish a recruitment code on the interpretation and application of this principle, and approve the use of exceptions to it; audit recruitment policies and practices within the Civil Service to establish whether the recruitment code is being observed; approve appointments through recruitment to the most senior levels in the Civil Service and certain other specified senior posts; hear and determine appeals in cases of concern about propriety and conscience raised by civil servants under the Civil Service Code which cannot be resolved through internal procedures, and report on such appeals.’ (Civil Service Commissioners 2003)

240 Notes 16. The role of the Corporate Development Group, led by Gill Rider is to: ‘Identify and manage proactively the development of top talent across the Civil Service; intensify the current drive to build world-class HR capability in each government department and agency; develop a people strategy for the Civil Service which supports high achieving, high quality public services.’ (Cabinet Office 2007: http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/reform/ leadership/index.asp) 17. For details of the methodology employed and the limitations of this particular approach, see Richards (1997: 76–77). Due to the size of the data sets, the results presented below are only at the level of Permanent Secretary. For the data on all the appointments within the top 200 group during the Blair era, go to: http://www.shef.ac.uk/politics/staff/daverichards.html 18. This refers individuals drawn from a narrow, socially-homogenous background, characterised as being predominantly: ‘an all-male, white, middle and upper class, private and Oxbridge educated elite which is self-perpetuating’. For details on past surveys of the social and educational background of the mandarinate see Richards (1997: 73–76). The Blair Administration’s modernisation programme for the Civil Service has, as one of its aims, the creation of a more socially representative bureaucracy. From the outset, targets were set to increase staff from under-represented groups in the senior Civil Service: two keys targets were to increase the percentage of women in senior posts from 17 per cent to 35 per cent and ethnic minorities from 1.6 per cent to 3.2 per cent between 1998 and 2004. 19. The data collected for the quantitative analysis covers the period 1997–2004: first, this coincides with the targets specified above; and second, by 2004, Blair would have been responsible for approving all first-time appointments to permanent secretary level, due to the natural turnover of senior officials. This allows for an appropriate passage of time to assess any potential influence he may have rendered on the appointments procedure. 20. For details of the epistemological, methodological and interpretational problems involved in this particular approach see Chapter 1 and for a further discussion see Richards (1996a), Marsh et al (2001) and Richards and Smith (2004a). For details of the number of interviews conducted by the author see Appendix A. 21. The data in this cohort does not include horizontal transfers at this level. 22. In July 2007, despite Whitehall resistance, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme was overhauled. The previous scheme had set the retirement age at 60, was inflation proofed and based on final salaries. The new scheme has raised the retirement age to 65 and pensions are no longer calculated on final salaries, but on career averages. 23. Mavis McDonald was Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister since its creation in May 2002 until 2006. She joined the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in September 1966; served in the private office of the Minister for Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for the Environment and was Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Subsequent posts included financial management, human resources, local government finance and reorganisation and social housing policy and programmes. From 1995 to 2000, she was Director General at the DOE and then the Department for the Environment,

Notes 241

24.

25.

26.

27.

28. 29.

30.

Transport and the Regions (DETR). From 2000 to 2002, she was Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office’s biographical note on Howell James notes that: ‘Howell James started his working life in the media as head of promotions at Capital Radio. He was head of publicity at the launch of TV-AM, Britain’s first commercial breakfast television channel. In 1984 he became Special Advisor to Lord Young in the Cabinet Office, and moved with him to the Department of Employment and Trade and Industry. In 1987, he joined the Board of Management of the BBC as Director of Corporate Affairs. He joined Cable & Wireless as Director of Corporate and Government Affairs in 1992 where he was responsible for Cable & Wireless’s press, public and government relations in the United Kingdom, North America and Hong Kong. Howell became Prime Minister John Major’s Political Secretary in 1994. He was a Founding Partner of Brown Lloyd James, a corporate PR Company ... He joined the Cabinet Office as Permanent Secretary for Government Communications in July 2004.’ Http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/about_ the_cabinet_office/howell_james.asp A 2003 Cabinet Office survey revealed that five government departments had no senior ethnic minority staff. The Commissioner for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, noted that while progress in increasing representation of those from a minority background had improved at lower levels in Whitehall: ‘... across both the public and private sectors, we have what I call the “snowy peak syndrome”. A mountain represents an organisation’s workforce. At the base you find large numbers of women and ethnic minority workers whereas at the summit you find a small amount of white, middle class men. The snowy peaks won’t melt overnight, but if there is a real commitment to equal opportunities and fair employment practices from the top we can reverse this trend.’ This cultural issue in Whitehall alluded to by Sue Street is important. Over the last two decades, I have interviewed a number of female permanent secretaries [it is not a large group] and asked each about their own path to the top in Whitehall. Their replies were all strikingly similar, if somewhat ironic – they felt their peers regarded them as ‘good chapesses’. Early on in his first year in office, Blair had admitted to one of his very senior officials that he felt that the Civil Service was just like a Rolls-Royce, but he was unsure how to work it. Private information. Private information. Wilson’s Whitehall career followed a very traditional path. He was educated at Radley College and Clare College, Cambridge where he graduated with a Master of Laws (LLM). In 1966, he was called to the Bar but instead decided to become a civil servant, entering as an assistant principal at the Board of Trade. He subsequently served in a number of departments including the Department of Energy before becoming the Head of the Economic Secretariat in the Cabinet Office under Mrs Thatcher from 1987–90. He served a further two years in the Treasury before being appointed Permanent Secretary of the Department of the Environment in 1992 and then Permanent Under Secretary of the Home Office in 1994. See Theakston (1998); The Times, 2 August 1997. Which subsequently became known as the Wilson Review – see Chapter 5 for details.

242 Notes 31. As we saw in Chapter 5, on leaving Whitehall, Wilson’s criticism of the Blair style of government became more vocal. 32. See for example, the Daily Telegraph, 4 June 1998 – Burns Leaves Treasury after ‘Inevitable’ Split. 33. The irony here is that, when in opposition, some Labour spokespeople claimed that this role had been undermined by 18 years of Conservative Administration. 34. But understandably, these views were offered off-record. It is worth reiterating that the fact of ministers and permanent secretaries failing to get on with one another is not uncommon. One could recall the various run-ins Richard Crossman had with Dame Evelyn Sharp in the Department of Housing in the 1960s or the litany of clashes that occurred between ministers and permanent secretaries in the 1980s (Richards 1997). 35. As the former Cabinet Secretary, Richard Wilson (2002) observed: ‘There was a complaint awhile ago that the Civil Service was being politicised because it was being used to implement the political manifesto of the government. That is what we are there for.’ 36. A further analysis reveals that during Labour’s first two terms, the government appointed 208 special advisers. Subsequently, ten individuals from this cohort went on to become Labour MPs and one became an MSP. The most high-profile case of a special adviser turned parliamentarian is that of David Miliband. There were also three former Labour special advisers who stood as Labour candidates and contested but lost at the 2005 General Election. Since 1997, being a special adviser is rapidly becoming an obvious route for those with aspirations for a Parliamentary career. 37. There have been other occasions when a Labour Minister and Whitehall have fallen out with one another over the issue of special advisers. One obvious case, as we saw above, is that of Tony Benn during the Labour Administration of 1974–79 and involved his two political advisers Francis Morrell and Francis Cripps and a particularly conflict relationship with the Department of Energy (see Richards and Smith 2004). 38. For a more detailed account of this affair see Blick (2005: 13–15), Richards and Smith (2004) and the Select Committee on Public Administration (2002). 39. These examples of profanity in this affair are a shock to the normal assumptions about the urbane and unflustered world of senior mandarins, as personified by the character of Sir Humphrey Appleby. Mottram was subsequently moved to the Department of Work and Pensions in the same month that Byers resigned. 40. Interview conducted under Chatham House rules. 41. For a detailed study of former generations of permanent secretaries, see Barberis (1996).

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260 Bibliography Wilson, H. (1974) The Labour Government 1964–70 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books). Wilson, R. (1998) ‘Modernising Central Government: the Role of the Civil Service’, Speech at Senior Civil Service Conference London, 13 October 1998. Wilson, R. (2002) Portrait of a Profession Revisited http://www.civilservant.org.uk/ srwspeech0302.pdf Wilson, R. (2007) ‘Rebuilding Trust in Civil Servants’, The Daily Telegraph, 16 January. Wright, P. (1987) Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer (London: Viking). Young, H. and A. Sloman (1982) No, Minister: An Inquiry into the Civil Service (BBC: London).

Index Note: Page numbers in bold italics refer to tables. administrative autonomy, 98–100, 138 1940s–mid-1970s, 100–2 late 1970s–mid-1990s, 102 1990s–present, 96–7, 102–3, 201–2 Administrators, The (1964), 25–6 Adonis, A., 33, 37, 195 Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs), 113, 236 n.8 agencies, multiple service, 39–40, 43, 130–1 enhanced autonomy, 133–7, 138 failures, 131–2 number, 132 performance measurement, 123–4 Alderman, K., 188 Anderson, P., 5 Anglo-governance school, 3–5 Apotheosis of the Dilettante, The (Balogh), 25 Armstrong, R., 17, 181 Ashdown, P., 79 Asymmetric Power Model, 54–5, 56, 98, 139, 203 Attlee, Clement on Whitehall, 147 Attlee government (1945–51) Whitehall and, 18–21, 147 audit mechanisms public sector bodies, 121–4 Bailey, Hugh (Junior Minister at Department of Social Security) on 1997 transition, 174 Bakvis, H., 42 Bale, T., 45 Balls, Ed (Labour’s Shadow Treasury Special Adviser), 70 Balogh, T., 25, 148 Bank of England operational independence, 75–6

Barber, Michael (Head of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit), 104, 109, 118–19, 122, 123, 124, 139, 189, 196, 236 n.9–10 Barberis, P., 128 Bayley, Hugh (Labour’s Shadow Health team) on 1997 transition, 174 on Whitehall relations, 71–2 BBC Radio, 129, 171, 177, 178–9 Beckett, Margaret (Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry), 70–1, 81–2 on Department of Trade and Industry mindset, 174 on Department of Trade and Industry transition, 82–3, 86 ministerial experience, 80 Belsky, J., 114 Benn, Tony, 20, 106 experiences with Whitehall, 149–51, 242 n.37 on Whitehall during transition, 63 Berlanger, G., 33 Bevir, M., 4, 5, 6–7, 13, 29, 30, 32, 46–7, 48, 97, 99, 201 Bevir and Rhodes interpretive approach to governance, 6–7, 226 n.7, 227 n.12 Bichard, Michael, 68, 234 n.8 Blackburn, R., 58 Blair, Tony, 57, 79, 200, 233 n.1 lack of Cabinet experience, 66–7 on politicisation of Civil Service, 172–3 on public service delivery, 103–4 role in senior appointments, 163 on strong centre, 107–8 style of policy-making, 108–9 on Whitehall, 2, 235 n.4 261

262

Index

Blair government (1997–2007) distrust of Whitehall’s ability for policy advice, 112–13 first cabinet, 73 first term, 115 governance and, 47, 104–5 media strategy, 186–7 Millbank model of control, 106, 142, 156, 157, 182–3 senior appointments demographic make-up, 169–71, 240 n.18, 241 n.25 senior appointments, outside, 167–9 senior appointments, quantification, 164, 172–3 senior retirements, early, 175 state-centric, core executive control, 105–6, 129–30, 138–40 use of special advisers, 180–92, 242 n.36 Whitehall politicisation, 10, 156–7, 172–3, 175–80, 193 Whitehall relations, 141–2, 173–4 Whitehall’s preparedness for, 82–91 see also New Labour’s reform programmes Blick, A., 23, 26, 27, 181 Bligh, Tim (Douglas-Home’s Principal Private Secretary), 59 Blue books, 62, 82–3 costing mechanism, 83–4 Blunkett, David (Labour’s Shadow Education and Employment Secretary), 67–9, 83, 172 Bogdanor, V., 29, 129 Bower, T., 75, 76, 81 Brazier, R., 58, 59 Breton, A., 33 Brittain, S., 33 Brivati, B., 20, 49 Brown, Gordon, 67, 75, 79, 149 relationship with Burns, 76, 175 Bulpitt, J., 45, 101–2, 193

bureaucracy see Civil Service; senior Civil Service Burnham, P., 200 Burns, Terry (Labour’s Shadow Permanent Secretary of Treasury), 70, 76, 175 Butcher, T., 32 Butler, D., 195 Butler, Robin (Major’s Cabinet Secretary), 60, 66, 70, 173, 178, 234 n.11 Byers/Moore/Sixsmith/DTLGR affair, 181, 183–4 Byers, Stephen, 183–4 Cabinet Office, 47, 105, 113, 195 contacts between Blair’s office and, 66–7 organogram, November 2005, 118 role in senior appointments, 161 sovereignty, 15 Caborn, Richard, 77 Callaghan, James, 46, 49, 106, 147 role in senior appointments, 162 Whitehall and, 148, 154 Cameron, David, 198 Cameron, S., 91 Campbell, C., 4, 32, 34, 44, 146 Carltona doctrine, 143, 237 n.2 Carpenter, N., 19 Carrington, P., 41 cascading culture of targets, 133 Castle, B., 106, 149 Catterill, P., 58, 59 Chadwick, A., 46 Chapman, R.A., 24, 29 Charles, N., 170 Chau, P-K., 58 Child Support Agency, 131–2 Childs, S.L., 171 Citizen’s Charter, 40–1, 121 Civil Service, 1 concerns about effect of Conservative administration longevity, 154–6 criticism, 5–7, 149–51, 238 n.10 Dossiers, 62, 82–4 ethical framework, 16–18

Index Civil Service – continued impact of Labour’s reform programme, 10 implications of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, 126–7 moral integrity, 17–18 New Labour’s distrust of, for policy delivery, 112–13 non-governmental organisations and, 63–4 number of employees, 34, 135 political neutrality, 16–18 politicisation under Blair government, 10, 142, 156–7, 172–3, 175–80, 193 politicisation under Thatcher government, 153 preparedness for New Labour government, 82–91, 154 senior level see senior Civil Service see also minister-civil servant relations Civil Service Code (2006), 198–9 Civil Service Commissioners, 158, 239 n.15 Civil Service Management Board (CSMB), 111, 236 n.7 Civil Service reform Attlee government, 21–3 Blair government, 52–4, 105–8, 129–30, 193–4, 196–7, 200–1, 235 n.6 Conservative government, 32–5, 41–5 Labour leadership and, 20, 29–30 MacDonald government, 18–21 Major government, 36–7, 40–1 Thatcher government, 35–6, 37–40 Westminster model and, 2–4, 199–200 Wilson/Callaghan government, 28–9 Wilson government, 23–8 Civil Service transition (1997), 9–10, 57–8, 91–4 1996 pre-election period, 64–72, 74–8 background, 58–64 process, 64–5 Westminster model and, 9–11, 200

263

Clark, David (Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary), 72, 74 on discussions of government machinery, 66 on Whitehall’s preparations for New Labour government, 87 Clegg, S., 42 Cline, C.A., 21 Coates, S., 153, 154 Cockett, R., 33 Cohen, N., 81, 181 Cole, G.D.H., 15, 19 Committee on Standards in Public Life, 113, 181, 192 Committee on the Civil Service see Fulton Committee communitarianism Etzioni, 49–50 Gidden’s, 49–50 New Labour’s, 50 comprehensive spending review (CSR), 230 n.18 Conservative governments Westminster model and, 43–5, 197–8 Whitehall and, 36–7, 41, 152, 153–4 Conservative’s reform programmes institutional reform, 37–42 personnel reform, 35–7, 238 n.13 Whitehall reform, 32–5, 42–5 Cook, Robin, 79 Coombes, R., 177 Cornes, R., 45 Corry, Dan (Labour Special Adviser in Trade and Industry), 86 Crisp, Nigel (Permanent Secretary at Department of Health) appointment, 164 early retirement, 177 Crossman, Richard, 20, 106, 144, 238 n.6 criticism of Whitehall, 25, 149 on importance of Party manifesto, 151–2 Crowther-Hunt, Lord, 27 Cunningham, Jack (Labour Shadow National Heritage), 74 ministerial experience, 80 on Whitehall contact, 65 Cutler, T., 122

264 Index Dahl, R., 58 Daniel, C., 113 Davies, J., 97, 138 decentralisation, 38, 39 Decentralising the Civil Service (Rhodes et al), 53 ‘declinism’, 23–5 Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) 1996 pre-election transition period, 67–9 Department of Health 1996 pre-election transition period, 71–2 Public Service Agreement, 123 Department of Social Security (DSS) 1996 pre-election transition period, 65, 69, 87 Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), 62, 75 1996 pre-election transition period, 72 merger, 76–7 transition, 91 Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 1996 pre-election transition period, 64, 67, 70–1, 81–2 press and media relations, 186 transition, 82–3, 86–7, 88 Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLGR), 183–4 see also Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions devolution, 10, 134, 138 impact of, 2 Differentiated Polity Model, 53–4, 56, 139, 203 features, 54 Dobson, Frank (Labour’s Shadow Minister for Environment), 72 Dolowitz, D., 35, 146 Donoughue, B., 110, 111 Dorey, P., 111 Douglas-Home rules, 58–60 civil servants’ lack of awareness, 64

Kinnock-Major-Butler revision, 60–4, 91, 92–3 Dowding, K., 32, 33, 44 Drewry, G., 32 Driver, S., 45, 46 Dunleavy, P., 4, 32, 146 Dutton, D., 100 economic decline, 23, 229 n.16 Whitehall’s role in, 24 Eden, R., 121, 122 English, Michael (Labour MP), 28 English, R., 23 Etzioni, A., 50 Evans, M., 7, 12, 14, 15, 20, 30, 46, 48, 198, 199–200 Fairclough, N., 46, 197 Fawcett, A., 192 Fielding, S., 46, 49 Financial Management Initiative (FMI), 38–9 Finlayson, A., 46 Fiorina, M.P., 33 Flinders, M., 88, 132 Foot, Michael, 63, 151 Foreign Office MacDonald government views on, 20–1 Forward Strategy Unit (FSU), 111–12 Foster, C., 4, 32, 44, 76, 79, 108, 131, 146, 157, 175, 181, 188, 201 Foster, Derek (Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 72 Fowler, N., 17, 41 Freedom of Information, 87, 92 Fry, G.K., 32, 33 Fulton Committee, 26 criticism, 27–8 Fulton Report (1968), 23 importance to Thatcher government, 35–6 recommendations, 26–7 Gaebler, T., 137 Gains, F., 133

Index Gamble, A., 5, 23, 33, 58, 139, 143, 144, 145, 148, 151 Garrett, J., 23, 27, 28 Gay, O., 192 Geddes, A., 123, 137 Gershon, P., 135, 137 Gershon Report (2004), 135–6, 137 Giddens, Anthony, 49, 51, 52, 130, 138 Gilland, K., 200 Gould, P., 47, 50, 104, 108, 179, 189 governance, 233 n.8 interpretive approach, 6–7, 226 n.7, 227 n.12 narratives, 3–5, 46–7, 96, 97–8 New Labour attitude, 47–8 Grant, W., 81, 200 Gray, J., 201 Green, D., 126 Green, D.G., 35, 43 Green, T.H., 16 Greenleaf, W.H., 139, 143 guild socialism, 19 Hague, D., 17, 22 Hague, William (Major’s Secretary of State for Wales), 74–5 Hailsham, Lord, 98, 144 Haldane Model of Relationship, 16–17, 44, 143, 194 Hale, S., 49, 169 Hall, P., 30, 200 Halligan, J., 43 Hames, T., 33, 37 Harman, Harriet (Labour’s Secretary of State at Social Security), 87 Harris, J., 100 Harris, K., 14 Hattersley, R., 91 Hay, C., 33, 45, 49 Hayward, J., 9 Hazel, Robert, 89, 235 n.13 Healey, Denis (Callaghan’s Exchequer), 29, 106 Heath, E., 33 Heffernan, R., 20, 45, 46 Helsby, Laurence (Douglas-Home’s Cabinet Secretary), 59

265

Hennessy, Peter, 17, 21, 22, 26, 32, 37, 58, 78, 144, 147, 148, 153, 154 criticism of Number Ten, 187–8 on Douglas-Home rules, 62–3 on New Labour’s preparations to take office, 79 on Whitehall’s approach to party manifestos, 82, 83 on Whitehall’s covert nature, 59–60, 71 Heseltine, Michael, 38, 178 Hewitt, Patricia (Health Secretary), 177 Hill, M., 134 Hindmoor, A., 145 Hitler, Adolf, 22 Hojnacki, W.P., 152 Holliday, I., 97–8, 138 Home Office 1996 pre-election transition period, 64, 70, 88–9 Public Service Agreements, 124 transition process, 86 Hood, C., 42, 103, 121, 122 Hoskyns, J., 35, 43, 144 House of Commons, 26 Howell, Kim on special advisers, 185 How to Be a Minister (Kaufman), 79 Hughes, R., 79 Hunt, N., 26 Hupe, P., 134 Hyman, P., 104, 109, 110, 115, 116, 190 Hyndman, N., 121, 122 Ingraham, P., 36 institutional reforms Major government, 40–1 Thatcher government and, 37–40 James, O., 32, 44, 121, 122, 123, 132 Jay, P., 33 Jenkins, Roy, 29, 79 Jennings, Ivor, 15 Jessop, B., 46, 97, 100 Johnson, N., 144 joined-up-government (JUG), 47, 105, 106–8, 114 problems, 114–15, 129

266

Index

Jones, B., 14, 18, 30 Jones, G., 122 Jones, M., 91 Jones, N., 180–1 Judge, D., 15, 27, 144 Karran, T., 30 Kaufman, G., 47, 79, 81 Kavanagh, D., 33, 47, 58, 60, 99, 104, 106, 107, 142, 163, 186, 188, 190 criticism of Whitehall, 187 on New Labour’s preparations to take office, 64, 66, 79 on Policy Unit, 109, 110 Keating, M., 14, 18, 30 Kellner, P., 27 Kelman, S., 139 Kenny, M., 23, 30, 45 Keynesian-Welfare state political control vs. administrative autonomy, 100–2 Kilfoyle, Peter (Labour’s Shadow Education team) on 1997 transition, 72 on early senior retirements, 174–5 King, A., 24, 33, 142 Kinnock, Neil, 46, 63 acceptance of Whitehall inherited from Conservatives, 152–3 Whitehall and Opposition consultation, 60, 77 Kooiman, J., 106 Krook, M.L., 171 Labour governments impact of Westminster model on, 10–11, 15–16 Whitehall relations, 146–52 see also under individual governments, e.g., Attlee government Labour leadership role in Shadow Teams consultation with Whitehall, 65 Whitehall reform and, 20, 29–30 Whitehall relations, 147 Labour movement impact on Labour Party, 13–14

intellectual wing’s critique of Whitehall, 19–20, 22–3, 148 Labour Party centralist and statist approach, 13–14, 30, 45 debate within, on Whitehall’s failings, 23–6 intellectual wing’s critique of Whitehall, 19–20, 22–3, 148 policy review process, 46–7 re-branding, 46, 197 revisionist path, 46 see also New Labour Labour’s reform programmes, 14 Attlee government, 21–3 conservative approach, 29–30 influence of Westminster model, 9–11, 29–30, 197, 199–200 MacDonald government, 18–21 Whitehall reform, 10, 19, 26–8 Wilson/Callaghan government, 28–9 see also New Labour’s reform programmes Lansbury, George (MacDonald’s Cabinet minister), 21 criticism of Treasury, 21 Laski, Harold, 19, 25, 30, 148 criticism of Whitehall, 5, 23, 169, 193, 229 n.15 stand on individual liberty, 21 Layton-Henry, Z., 200 Leggett, W., 49 legislature in Parliamentary Democracy, 15 Le Grand, J., 100, 102 Letwin, S.R., 35 Leyland, A., 114 Liaison Committee, 107–8, 110, 112, 115 Liddle, R., 47, 48, 51, 104, 115, 155, 179, 195 Lilley, Peter costing of Labour’s policies, 84, 92 Ling, T., 122 Lipsey, D., 21, 29, 76, 148 Lodge, G., 108 Longstreth, F., 30 Lovenduski, J., 171 Lowe, R., 102

Index Lowndes, V., 32 Ludlam, S., 46, 49 Macsee also McMacAskill, E., 91 MacDonald government (1924, 1929–31) Whitehall and, 18–21, 147 MacDonald, Ramsay brand of socialism, 18–19 Mackintosh, J., 144 Major, John role in senior appointments, 162–3 on Whitehall, 42 Major government institutional reform, 40–1 personnel reform, 36–7, 238 n.13 Whitehall and Opposition consultation, 60, 61, 77 Mallalieu, J.P.W., 22–3 Management Information System for Ministers (MINIS), 38 managerialism, 42, 43 Mandelson, P., 46, 47, 48, 51, 104, 108, 115, 155, 179, 195 Marinetto, M., 97–8 Marquand, D., 7, 14, 19, 24, 27, 30 Marsh, D., 5, 7, 9, 16, 32, 33, 35, 40, 42, 43, 44, 47, 49, 54, 96, 97, 102, 109, 129, 140, 143, 146, 150, 179, 189, 199 policy-making study, 99 Martell, L., 45, 46, 49 Massey, A., 16 Mathers, H., 123, 137 Mcsee also MacMcAnulla, S., 138, 139 McCartney, Ian, 71, 174, 186 McKibbin, R., 13 Melhuish, E., 114 Metcalfe, L., 41 Migue, J., 33 Miliband, R., 5, 21, 30, 144, 148, 169, 190 Millbank model of control, 106, 142, 156, 157, 182–3 minister(s)

267

New Labour shadow team, 72–4, 78–9 minister-civil servant relations, 16–17, 41, 44, 236 n.1 conspiratorial view, 144–5, 149–51 constitutional view, 143–4, 147 during Blair government, 173–4 during Wilson government, 26 public choice view, 145, 231 n.1, 237 n.5 special advisers and, 182, 183–6, 190–1, 192–3 ministerial experience New Labour, 79–81 ministerial responsibility, 15 Westminster model, 100 Minogue, K., 35 Modernising Government programme, 2, 97, 129, 133, 197 monistic state, 19 Moore, Jo, 183–4 moral integrity civil servants and, 17–18 Moran, M., 24, 103 Morgan, K.O., 148, 149 Mottram, Richard (Permanent Secretary), 66 Mount, F., 15 Mowlam, Mo, 188 Mulgan, G., 106–7, 108, 109, 117, 124, 130 Nairn, T., 5 National Health Service (NHS) targets, 123 New Deal for Lone Parents, 87 New Labour, 45–6, 52–3, 197 concerns about effect of Conservative administration longevity on Whitehall, 154–6 ideational development, 48–52 lack of Cabinet experience, 79–80 preparations for taking office, 78–82, 154 response to governance narrative, 48 shadow front bench, 72–4, 78–9 see also Blair government; Labour Party

268 Index New Labour’s reform programmes, 95–7, 129–30, 200–3, 235 n.6 influencing factors, 201–2 policy delivery, 104–6 see also Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit political control vs. administrative autonomy, 96–7, 103, 105, 138, 201–2 public service delivery, 123–4, 130–7, 138 state reforms, 45 strengthening Number Ten, 108–16 Westminster model and, 48, 193–4 Whitehall reform, 52–4, 105–8, 129–30, 193–4, 196–7, 200–1, 235 n.6 Newman, J., 46, 47, 49, 50, 138 New Public Management (NPM), 2, 39, 232 n.5 late 1970s–1990s, 102 1990s to present, 102–3, 138 New Right, 33 critique of Westminster model, 145 pursuit of neo-liberal programme, 49 Next Steps, 2, 39–40, 232 n.4 Niskanen, W., 33, 34, 145 Noll, R.G., 33 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pre-election discussions with Whitehall and, 63–4 Norris, P., 171 Norton-Taylor, R., 91 O’Donnell, Gus (Blair’s Cabinet Secretary) on Whitehall, 3, 176–7 O’Neil, F., 35, 146 opposition parties pre-election discussions with Whitehall see Douglas-Home rules Osborne, D., 137 O’Toole, B., 16 Painter, C., 122 Parliamentary Affairs, 195

Parsons, W., 42 Peck, E., 104, 116, 119, 122, 137 Penty, A., 19 Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU), 111, 112 Permanent Secretaries 1996–2004 listing, 205–25 appointment, 160–1 role, 194–5 Perri 6, 47, 104, 116, 119, 122, 137 personnel reforms, 238 n.7 Major government, 36–7 Thatcher government, 35–6 Peters, B.G., 96, 97, 98–9, 105, 130 Pierre, J., 97 Pilkington, C., 201 Pimlott, B., 27, 147, 149 Plant, R., 58 Plowden, F., 4, 32, 44, 146 Plowden Report (1961), 24, 229 n.18 policy advice New Labour’s alternative sources, 113–15 see also special advisers policy advisers, 184–5 policy delivery Blair government, 104–6, 130, 137 strengthening Prime Minister’s role, 108–12, 115–16 Thatcher government, 127 Policy Directorate, 109–10 political control, 98–100, 138 1940s–mid-1970s, 100 1970s–1990s, 102 1997–present, 96–7, 103–4, 201–2 political neutrality civil servants and, 16–18 Pollard, S., 58, 91, 102 Ponting, C., 27, 37–8 Portillo, Michael (Major’s Defence Secretary), 74 power relations, 44, 99–100, 142–3 Asymmetric power Model, 54–5, 56, 98, 139 conspiratorial view, 144–5, 149–51 constitutional view, 143–4, 147 Differentiated Polity Model, 53–4, 56, 139, 203 Haldane model, 17, 143, 194

Index power relations – continued Power-dependency model, 146 Prime Minister, 108–16 public choice view, 145, 231 n.1, 237 n.5 strengthening centre, 98–9, 107, 189–90 Whitehall and Conservatives, 152–4 Whitehall and Labour, 146–52 Prescott, John (Blair’s Deputy Prime Minister), 67, 77, 79, 91 Prime Ministers policy activism, 108–16 role in senior appointments, 158, 160, 161–3 Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU), 120 composition, 119 creation, 116–19 implications for Whitehall, 126–7 objectives, 116, 124 planning process, 125 policy priorities, 124 tools of control, 120–4, 126 principal-agent model, 39, 101, 102 limitations, 102–3 New Labour’s continued use of, 130–1 Programme Analysis and Review (PAR), 229 n.18 Pryce, S., 142 public choice theory, 145, 231 n.1, 237 n.5 Public Expenditure Survey Committee (PESC), 229 n.18 public-relations experts, 184–5 Public Service Agreements (PSAs), 121 targets, 120–1, 122–4, 126, 133 targets and Civil Service appointments, 159–60 public service delivery, 139 flexibility and choice, 134 incentive principle, 134–6 standards, 133 Punnett, M., 58 Pyper, R., 201 Rawnsley, A., 58, 75, 76 Rayner, Derek, 37

269

Raynerism, 37–8 Red books, 62, 82–3 costing mechanism, 83–4 regulatory agencies, 121–2 Rentoul, J., 58, 66, 72, 75 Rhodes, R.A.W., 29, 30, 32, 35, 41, 42, 44, 46–7, 49, 54, 96, 97, 99, 100, 103, 106, 115, 145, 146, 201 approach to governance, 5–7, 48 on governments’ approach to reforms, 203 ‘hollowed-out state’ thesis, 4, 5 on state-centric control, 139–40 study of sub-central government, 102 study on Whitehall during New Labour, 53 on Westminster model, 13 Richards, D., 5, 7, 8–9, 12, 15–16, 17, 18, 20, 27, 30, 33, 35, 36, 38, 40, 41, 43, 44, 46–7, 54, 58, 68, 88, 92, 96, 97, 99, 100, 104, 105, 106, 107, 110, 114, 115, 123, 125, 127, 129, 137, 138, 139, 143, 146, 150, 153, 158, 166, 168, 178, 179, 192, 195, 199 on Callaghan, 162 on senior appointments, 152, 156, 157, 161, 162–3, 167 Richards, P., 50, 105 Riddell, P., 88, 181 Ridley, Nicholas (Thatcherite minister) on Whitehall, 42 Robins, L., 201 Rogers, B., 108 Rollings, N., 102 Rose, R., 30, 58 Routledge, P., 75, 76 Rubinstein, D., 45 Sampson, A., 84 Saward, M., 97 Scott, C., 122 Scott, D., 110, 181 Seaton, J., 79 Seers, D., 12, 24 Seldon, A., 49, 58, 60, 64, 109, 110, 127, 190

270

Index

Seldon, T., 49, 66, 72, 75, 76–7, 79, 106, 115, 124, 173, 175, 182–3, 188 Select Committee on Public Administration, 118, 120, 181, 184 Senior Appointments Selection Committee (SASC), 158–9 senior Civil Service (SCS), 239 n.13 accelerated promotions, 163, 164–6 appointments system, 157–60 Blair and politicisation of, 10, 156–7, 172–3, 175–80, 193 centre effect, 166–7 Conservative government and, 36–7, 41, 152, 153, 166 criticism, 5–6, 149 demographic make-up of appointments, 169–71, 194, 240 n.18, 241 n.25 early retirements during Blair government, 175 first-time appointees, 165, 166, 170 first-time promotions, 165 New Labour’s approach, 142, 156–7 outside appointments, 167–9 role and expectations, 195, 198 Senior Leadership Committee (SLC), 158–9 role in senior appointments, 161 Senior Management Review (SMR) (1995), 36–7, 239 n.13 Service First, 121 see also Citizen’s Charter Sharpe, L.J., 14 Sheldon, R., 28 Short, Claire, 73, 108, 188 Sixsmith, Martin, 183–4 Sloman, A., 63 Smith, Chris (Labour’s Shadow Spokesperson for Health), 72 Smith, John, 46 Smith, M.J., 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 30, 33, 35, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46–7, 54, 88, 92, 96, 97, 100, 104, 105, 106, 110, 114, 123, 125, 127, 129, 137, 138, 139, 143–4, 145, 146, 150, 199, 202

Snowden, Philip (MacDonald’s Chancellor), 19, 21, 148 socialism guild, 19 Ramsay MacDonald’s, 18–19 special advisers, 114, 157, 181–2, 192–3, 242 n.36 Byers/Moore/Sixsmith/DTLGR affair, 181, 183–4 control of access to ministers, 190 cost, 180 criticism, 188–9 impact on Whitehall, 190–2 for media relations, 186–7 New Labour ministers’ views, 185–6 proliferation in numbers, 180–1, 187–8 types, 184–5 Squires, S., 171 stakeholding, 50–1 state models, 53–6 comparison, 55 see also under individual models state reform Blair government, 45 impact on Westminster model, 3–4 impact on Whitehall, 3–4 trade union movement and, 19–20 see also Conservative’s reform programmes; Labour’s reform programmes; New Labour’s reform programmes state transformation ‘decentred perspective’, 4–5 ‘end of Whitehall’ approach, 4, 32, 44, 146 ‘hollowed-out state’ thesis, 4, 97 ‘reconstituted-state’ thesis, 5, 97–8 Steinmo, S., 30 Stephens, P., 29, 181 Stone, N.T., 23, 25 Strategy Unit, 112 Sure Start programme (SSLP), 114 Sutcliffe, Gerry, 178 Tant, A., 15 task forces for policy advice see Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies

Index Taylor, A., 98, 107, 138 Taylor, A.J.P., 21 Taylor, R., 30, 200 Templeton College seminars, 79, 80–1 Thain, K., 29 Thatcher government Financial Management Initiative (FMI), 38–9 Next Steps, 39–40, 232 n.4 personnel reform, 35–6 power balance, 152–3 Raynerism, 37–8 Whitehall reform, 33–5 Thatcher, Margaret role in senior appointments, 162, 166 on Whitehall, 42 Theakston, K., 13–14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 28, 30, 74, 79, 91, 143, 144, 147, 148, 149, 151, 154, 155, 175, 198 Thelen, K., 30 Third Way, 48–52 Toynbee, P., 115 Travers, T., 122, 195 Treasury 1976 IMF crisis and, 28–9, 229 n.11 1996 pre-election transition period, 69–70, 75–6 Conservative governments and, 43 MacDonald government’s views on, 21 Plowden Report, 24, 229 n.18 Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit and, 118–19 Public Service Agreements, 122–3 transition process, 85 Treasury and Civil Service Committee, 31, 38, 162 Tsars, 113–14 Turnbull, Andrew (Blair’s Cabinet Secretary), 57, 95, 112 criticism of Whitehall, 117–18 on policy-making process, 191 on senior-level officials, 194–5 on service delivery, 120 on special advisers, 194 on strong centre, 111

271

Waine, B., 122 Wainwright, H., 20, 148 Walden, G., 81 Walker, D., 115 Walkland, A., 144 Watkins, A., 147 Watmore, Ian (Head of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit), 119 Weiner, M., 16 Weller, P., 42 Welsh Office 1996 pre-election transition period, 74–5 Westminster model, 12–13, 55, 226 n.1, 227 n.1 Conservative governments and, 43–5, 197–8 critique, 144, 145 government transition and, 90–1 impact of state transformation, 3–5 influence on Conservative’s reform programmes, 35 influence on Labour’s attitude to Whitehall, 9–11, 13, 29–30, 146–8 influence on Labour’s reform programmes and, 7–8, 197, 199 liberal and elitist view of government, 15–16 political control vs. administrative autonomy, 99–100, 103–4 public service ethos and, 16–18 reconstituted, 5, 103–4, 138–40, 197–200 relevance, 2–3 vs. other models, 55 White, M., 91 White, S., 48 Whitehall see Civil Service Wickham-Jones, M., 171 Williams, M., 129, 147 Williams, P.M., 149 Wilson/Callaghan government (1974–79) Whitehall and, 28–9, 147–8 Wilson, Harold, 27 call for Whitehall reform, 26 role in senior appointments, 162 Whitehall relations, 147–8

272 Index Wilson, G., 4, 32, 34, 44, 52, 108, 146, 147 Wilson government (1964–70) Whitehall and, 23–8 Wilson Report (1998), 111 Wilson, Richard (Blair’s Cabinet Secretary), 52, 108, 173, 235 n.6 on special advisers, 181, 192

on Whitehall, 3 Whitehall career, 241 n.29 on Whitehall politicisation, 179, 242 n.35 Wintrobe, R., 33 Wright, M., 29 Young, H., 63