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What should civil servants do during the general election campaign?

How should civil servants navigate the uncertainty of a general election campaign and prepare for a potential change of government?

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With attention focused on politicians, and politicians focused on winning votes, a general election campaign is an unusual time for civil servants. Their top priority remains serving the government of the day, but they must also prepare for a potential transition of power, and be ready to work with whoever forms the next government.  

Civil service activity is also restricted during the formal ‘pre-election period’, with civil service impartiality protected by government guidance and measures to stop public funds being used for campaigning purposes. So how should civil servants navigate this period of heightened political sensitivity? How does the work of the civil service change in the campaign? And what can civil servants do to prepare for a potential transition of power?

Ahead of the general election on 4 July, this IfG webinar explored all these questions and more, and asked what lessons can be learned from previous election campaigns and past transitions of power.

To discuss these questions and more, we were joined by: 

  • Sir David Bell KCB DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland and former Permanent Secretary
  • Catherine Haddon, Programme Director at the Institute for Government
  • Alex Thomas, Programme Director at the Institute for Government and former senior civil servant 

The event was chaired by Jill Rutter, Senior Fellow, Institute for Government.

Follow us on X @instituteforgov and join the conversation using #GeneralElection

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