Government of the mandarins, by the mandarins, for the mandarins

As unelected, permanent officials continue to run the show from Whitehall, Douglas Carswell MP explains why it doesn't have to be this way

To whom do the mandarins answer?
Douglas Carswell MP
On 24 April 2012 10:34

"We ought to all sit up and pay attention when Ken Clarke and Mr Carswell agree", suggests Tim Montgomerie on this morning’s Conservative Home.

Why so?

Well apparently it is not only lowly back benchers wondering if the Whitehall civil service is quashing reform. Within fifteen minutes of asking the PM about this last Wednesday, the subject was apparently dominating discussions in a meeting of the Cabinet – according to the impeccably well informed James Forsyth.

It does not have to be this way. The House of Commons is brimming with highly motivated, passionate MPs - particularly from the 2010 intake - full of ideas to help make Britain better. Alas, those we elect rarely get to have a say over how we are governed.   

Too often this administration seems stuck inside the Whitehall comfort zone. Bold and radical options never even considered. 

Again and again it seems that it is left to permanent officials to run the show, as they bounce from one senior role to the next.   

Who came up with the idea of an internet snoopers law? Who was it who put it to ministers that we had to opt into the EU data protection rules – a decision which the House of Commons will be rubber stamping later today?  

With reference to the Qatada case, who do you think might have put it to ministers that "inter-governmental custom in the Council of Europe, or the provisions of the Ministerial Code, are somehow higher authority than law as passed by the UK Parliament and interpreted by the UK’s highest court"? 

In opposition, David Cameron wrote of how “we will bring a radical redistribution of power, from the powerful to the powerless. ...It means accountability so we will make sure those who make decisions that affect people's lives have to answer for them.”  Absolutely. 

But until then, to whom do the mandarins answer?

Douglas Carswell is the Member of Parliament for Clacton. He tweets at @DouglasCarswell. This post was used with permission and originally appeared at

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