Who do public servants owe their loyalty to?

By Graeme McDonald | 15 January 2020
  • Graeme McDonald

As Christmas turned to New Year, both think-tank Policy Exchange and Dominic Cummings asked for a re-imaging of the civil service in 2020. While Mr Cummings received an unprecedented amount of coverage for his Number 10 ‘job adverts’, he also received a predictably strong response from the civil service establishment for his attempt to circumvent ‘normal channels’. What caught my eye was the emphasis on the role of Whitehall civil servants in using data and scientific methods to deliver better results.

This contrasts with the preceding General Election campaign and a longer period of political discourse infused by issues of trust, truth and a polarisation of perspectives. While each political party has had their own policy prescriptions, the one thing there has been unanimity about is the diagnosis of a country divided by culture and attitude, lacking a shared view of the facts and having little trust in the political process to navigate successful delivery. Public leadership has always been difficult, but in this context, what is the role of the informed public servant in such a fiercely divided public square?

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