Archive for April, 2013

To bee or not to bee: giving science advice in government is not for the fainthearted

, 30 April 2013

With a month of taking office, the new Government Chief Science Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, has become a pantomime villain to at least one environmental commentator, branded as an industry stooge for an article he wrote in the Financial Times in advance of the European debate. Indeed the article went further – to claim...

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Alternatives to the pulpit

, 30 April 2013

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan-Smith has urged the wealthy to hand back their benefits. Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, meanwhile, has re-opened the low pay debate, urging firms to pay staff the ‘living wage’ and suggesting Labour might legislate to end ‘zero hours contracts’, which force employees...

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Progress on progress: how (not to) measure prosperity

, 26 April 2013

It is well known that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is ill-suited as a measure of material living standards. Efforts to find alternatives abound, ranging from surveys of well-being to a multiplicity of measures that lump together various indicators of prosperity into one overall score. We have contributed to this debate through the LSE...

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Can BabyJo rescue No.10 and still maintain the coalition?

, 25 April 2013

David Miliband headed the No.10 Policy Unit before he went off to be MP for South Shields and then start his rise to Foreign Secretary. Andrew Adonis headed the No.10 Policy Unit before moving as a Lords Minister to the Department of Education and becoming the most enthusiastic ever Transport Secretary. In an earlier...

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Finance function: time for a Whitehall shake-up?

, 24 April 2013

What’s the role of finance at the centre of any complex sets of organisations? Sir Nick Macpherson recently set out a clear view in regard to the Treasury. It ‘sets the public expenditure totals,’ said the permanent secretary. It does not involve itself in ‘the efficiency improvements necessary to maintain services at a time...

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Building Capabilities: Wither the Department?

, 24 April 2013

Sir Bob at the Public Accounts Committee last Monday reiterated that if the Civil Service is going to become more skilled, less bureaucratic and more unified ‘you have to change what you define as a department’. This may sound innocuous, even offhand, but it fits within a consistent direction of travel that the Head...

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Ministerial private offices need a boost

, 16 April 2013

Awaiting the minister in the department will be a private office, a ‘life support machine’ that sustains each minister from the minute they arrive. This small group of officials plays a key role in helping each minister to carry out his or her role effectively, yet its own basic structure and role is rarely...

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Experience-based policymaking

, 16 April 2013

‘We do worry, and think a lot about where we get knowledge from.’ So confessed a senior civil servant at the Department of Health, when I spoke to him as the department was in the throes of controversy over the Health and Social Care Bill in 2011. But this concern that civil servants are...

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Mrs Thatcher’s other peculiarity

, 12 April 2013

In the tributes to Mrs Thatcher, Lord Tebbit drew attention to the ‘two great influences in her life. One was her scientific training. The other, of course, was her religious belief’. Lord Waldegrave underlined the point with a story about how Mrs Thatcher used her scientific training not just to see off a proposal...

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Margaret Thatcher – an effective Prime Minister

, 9 April 2013

She was obviously an extraordinary political leader, with a unique, uncompromising style. She did not shrink from confrontation and openly scorned consensus. She was a conviction politician, who sharply divided people. While, in retrospect, you can point to tides of opinion – against the trade unions and the post-war state – which ran in...

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