Hugh Pemberton

Hugh Pemberton is Emeritus Professor of Contemporary British History at the University of Bristol, UK. He is an expert on the political history of Britain since 1945 with a particular interest in economic policy, the history of UK government, the Labour and Conservative parties, and British pensions policy.

The UK’s public admin failure: round up the unusual suspects?

Some thoughts for the Mile End Institute webinar, “‘A Hard Rain’? Reforming the Civil Service” At last week’s Conservative party conference, Lord Agnew – a British government minister involved in civil service reform – echoed Dominic Cummings’ many attacks on the service for its over-centralisation, mediocrity, risk-averseness, inefficiency, failure to …

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What the PHE imbroglio tells us about UK governance

In a speech today (“The future of public health”) Matt Hancock confirmed reports in the Sunday Telegraph that he plans to scrap Public Heath England (PHE) and replace it by early-September with a new National Institute for Health Protection modelled on the German Robert Koch Institute (but operating in a …

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Michael Gove on Civil Service reform and ministerial (un)accountability

Last month, Dominic Cummings warned the Civil Service that “a hard rain is coming”. Ten days ago Michael Gove put some flesh on the bones of that message in his landmark speech at Ditchley Park on the future of government (“The privilege of public service”). He began with an arresting …

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Thatcherism and Britain’s Covid-19 state failure

The impact on Britain of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the illness that it causes (Covid-19) has been profound. Meeting its challenge has made extraordinary demands on the British state. Its performance has been patchy, to say the least. It is possible to discern some significant achievements. Yet, when we …

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In an unprecedented crisis, how useful is precedent?

Brexit has pushed British politics into uncharted waters in which the furore over Speaker of the House of Commons’ failure to follow precedent in Parliamentary procedure seems slightly surreal. In an unprecedented situation, perhaps the ability of the Speaker to create a new precedent should be seen as a strength …

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