” How democratic and effective are the UK’s core executive and government?”


The UK’s core executive once worked smoothly. It has clearly degenerated fast in the 21st century. Westminster and Whitehall retain some core strengths, especially a weight of tradition that regularly produces better performance under pressure, reasonably integrated action on homeland security for citizens, and some ability to securely ride out crises. Yet elite conventional wisdoms, which dwelt on a supposed ‘Rolls Royce’ machine, are never heard now – after six years of unprecedented cutbacks in running costs across Whitehall; political mistakes and poor planning over Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq; and the unexpected loss of the Brexit referendum. Now the looming threat of leaving the EU on poor economic terms under a ‘hard Brexit’ strategy seems to cap a very tarnished recent record.

The clouds in the form of recurring ‘policy disasters’ and ‘fiascos’ are also gathering. Both the Conservative and Labour party elites and leaderships seem disinclined to learn the right lessons from past mistakes, or to take steps to foster more transparent, deliberative and well-considered decision-making at the heart of government. Like the Bourbon monarchs, the fear might be that they have ‘learnt nothing and forgotten nothing’.”