By Colin Talbot
In democratic government the general rule is supposed to be simple: advisers advise, ministers decide, civil servants do.
In the UK system, that emerged fully at the beginning of the 20th century, the civil service were both the advisers and the doers.
Top civil servants told ministers what options there were to achieve what ministers wanted. Ministers chose, and the civil service went off and “made it so”.
Lots of people challenged this cosy and rather naïve view, not least the ever popular ‘Yes Minister’ series. In reality there have always grey areas on the boundary between elected politicians and permanent civil servants. Continue reading