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 94, Issue 4

Latest Journal Issue

Volume 94, Issue 4

Includes a collection on Scottish Politics After Sturgeon, edited by Ben Jackson and Anna Killick. This features articles such as 'Independence is not Going Away: The Importance of Education and Birth Cohorts' by Lindsay Paterson; 'Diary of an SNP First Minister: A Chronopolitics of Proximity and Priorities' by Hannah Graham; and 'Politics, the Constitution and the Independence Movement in Scotland since Devolution' by Malcolm Petrie. There are a wide range of other articles including 'Unlocking the Pensions Debate: The Origins and Future of the ‘Triple Lock’ by Jonathan Portes and 'The Politics of England: National Identities and Political Englishness' by John Denham and Lawrence Mckay. Finally, there is a selection of book reviews such as Branko Milanovic's review of Equality: The History of an Elusive Idea by Darrin M. McMahon, and Alexandre Leskanich's review of Cannibal Capitalism by Nancy Fraser.

Find out more about the latest issue of the journal