Prime Ministers, Ministers and Civil Servants in Britain D ENNIS K AVANAGH AND D AVID R ICHARDS In the last 30 years, the British political system has encountered a variety of challenges to both its political power and authority. This has led commentators to now speak of a system of governance rather than government. In this paper, we will assess the impact that these challenges have had on what still remains the two key political elites — ministers and civil servants. We will examine their response to the challenges laid down by governance, which include: greater modernisation and professionalisation; broader social representation; and the need to co-opt a new group into the existing political elite. We argue that both ministers and civil servants have been adept at publicly pursuing a strategy of greater openness, inclusivity and exibility, while privately being able to remain a homogenous elite with a tight hold on political power. For us, the British political elites have been successful at ensuring that there is plurality without pluralism in the political system. The Elitist British Political Tradition Historically, political leadership in Britain has been exercised by men of high birth and breeding. The effects of
Comparative Sociology – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2003
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