Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has hit out at senior Whitehall mandarins for obstructing ministers and failing to implement policy. It all sounds very "Yes, Minister".
When I raised this "Sir Humphrey" factor with the Prime Minister, he told me to get a sense of humour. It doesn't sound like they are laughing about it round the Cabinet table now.
What I find extraordinary is not that senior Whitehall officials are obstructive, but that it should have taken two and a half years for this to become quite so obvious.
Even when we were in opposition, it was clear that the Whitehall machine would be against us.
What is the answer? I doubt it lies in commissioning a lefty think tank, like the IPPR to come up with plans to stream line departmental hierarchies blah blah. We need instead to recognise that the notion of civil service accountability to Parliament through ministers is broken. It does not work. We need something else.
Mandarins must be made accountable directly to Parliament; confirmation hearings for senior civil servants, annual appeals for departmental budgets. Do that, and the government machine might begin to do the things those you voted in promised to make happen.
A successful reformist administration would understand this.blog comments powered by Disqus
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