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Was the coalition a triumph for the Civil Service?

May 21st, 2010

Are Sir Humphrey & co once again running the country?

One thing that struck me on reading through the coalition document published yesterday is just how well written it is. This is not something that has been produced by a committee and does not read like the usual product of a negotiation.

Some well-thought out and serious drafting has taken place with a superb economy of words. You have to admire, for instance, the way that conflicting policies between the two parties are dealt with.

This is a document that’s been designed to facilitate a quick agreement and I cannot believe that it was composed and agreed by the two negotiating teams in the five days between Friday after the election and the Tuesday when Cameron entered Number 10. If they had started from scratch it could have gone on for weeks.

Could it be, I wonder, that the civil service had a draft “Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement” all ready to be taken off the shelf should the election work out as it did which is why it all seemed to work out so smoothly?

I guess, as well, that the Sir Humphreys of this world are secretly quite pleased with what’s happened – if only because they might expect a bigger role in running the country than was the case during the Blair and Brown years. We see in local councils where there is no overall control that policy and decisions tend to be more officer-led.

Maybe that’s happening on a much bigger scale now in Whitehall?

Mike Smithson