Working to make government more effective

Hybrid event

Has civil service impartiality had its day?

George Eustice, Gus O'Donnell, Ayesha Hazarika and Rachel Wolf joined us to explore how to reform the civil service.

Gus O'Donnell and George Eustice on stage at the IfG.
Lord O'Donnell, former cabinet secretary, and George Eustice, former environment secretary, discuss civil service impartiality.

Watch the event

Listen to the event

Recent events in government, including the circumstances following Dominic Raab’s resignation as justice secretary, have at least on the surface deepened a divide between ministers and officials – and civil service morale has dropped as the strained relationship between ministers and officials deteriorates.

With Raab complaining of “increasingly activist civil servants” and warning that it had become “almost impossible for ministers to deliver for the British people”, there have been increasing calls to give more powers to ministers to bring their political allies into Whitehall.

So has civil service impartiality had its day? Is it time to allow more political appointments into civil service roles? What would this mean for the civil service’s ability to give good advice and effectively implement government policy? What other changes would help the civil service recruit people with the skills and specialisms that ministers want and the public need? And what else can be done to restore the fractured relationship between ministers and officials?

To explore these questions, the IfG bought together an expert panel including:

  • George Eustice, Conservative MP and former Environment Secretary
  • Ayesha Hazarika, Times Radio presenter and a former civil servant and special adviser
  • Lord O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary
  • Rachel Wolf, Founding Partner at Public First, a former adviser at 10 Downing Street and co-author of the Conservative Party's 2019 election manifesto

This event was chaired by Alex Thomas, Programme Director at the Institute for Government.

Follow us @ifgevents and join the conversation using #IfGcivilservice.

Our experts

Related content

10 MAY 2023 Interview

George Eustice

George Eustice reflects on his time in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.