Theme: Public Policy | Content Type: Journal article

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Lessons from the Covid-19 Inquiry for the Civil Service

Deborah Mabbett


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IF WE DIDN'T KNOW it before, the Covid-19 inquiry has made it abundantly clear that the UK entered the pandemic with a Prime Minister and a special adviser who were so unsuited to their roles that they made literally a lethal combination. However, it would be a shame if all that is learned is that you don't want to be relying on Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings in an emergency. Beneath the ##**!# of the WhatsApp messages lie other potentially more significant and enduring lessons, particularly about the state of the Civil Service. The Covid-19 inquiry offers compelling evidence that the working relationship between ministers and civil servants has become dysfunctional. Ministers are often disappointed with the quality of Civil Service advice and distrustful of officials’ intentions. Civil servants, for their part, are unable to stand up to behaviour by ministers that breaches established standards of propriety and codes of conduct.

  • Deborah Mabbett

    Deborah Mabbett

    Deborah Mabbett is Co-Editor of the Political Quarterly journal. She is also Professor of Public Policy at Birkbeck, University of London.

    Articles by Deborah Mabbett
Volume 95, Issue 2

Latest Journal Issue

Volume 95, Issue 2

Includes a collection edited by James Hampshire on Immigration and Asylum Policy After Brexit, exploring how recent immigration and asylum policies reflect the ambivalent, unstable and unresolved meanings of Brexit itself. There are a wide range of other articles including 'A Hundred Years of Labour Governments' by Ben Jackson; and 'The Good, the Not so Good, and Liz Truss: MPs’ Evaluations of Postwar Prime Ministers' by Royal Holloway Group PR3710. Reports and Surveys include 'Addressing Barriers to Women's Representation in Party Candidate Selections' by Sofia Collignon. Finally, there is a selection of book reviews such as Nick Pearce's review of When Nothing Works: From Cost of Living to Foundational Liveability, by Luca Calafati, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams; and Penelope J. Corfield's review of The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time, by Yascha Mounk.

Find out more about the latest issue of the journal