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SpAds: political sherpas bridging minister and civil servant

Kakabadse, A. P. and Kakabadse, N. K. ORCID: (2020) SpAds: political sherpas bridging minister and civil servant. Open Journal of Political Science, 10 (02). pp. 234-252. ISSN 2164-0505

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To link to this item DOI: 10.4236/ojps.2020.102016


This paper examines how opinion-shaping political and civil service stakeholders view the role and contribution of Special Political Advisers (SpAds) within the Westminster system of government. The literature only recently paid considered attention to this role, partly due to the recent reforms that spawned the emergence of SpAds, but also because political advisers still only represent a small population within the government community. It is acknowledged that each country’s institutional and administrative traditions greatly influence SpAds’ tasks; arrangements with the UK being no exception. Recognising that SpAds take on the role of “temporary civil servants” whose duties vary according to ministerial direction, the study reported in this paper concludes that SpAds can make an invaluable contribution to policy delivery by acting as a bridge between Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary. The capability to bridge the tensions between ministerial urgency to realise policy goals and civil servant realism to accurately assess the “fracture points” to be overcome in the process of policy delivery is reported as particularly valued by the public official. This paper concludes that the SpAd’s relentless pursuit of the Minister’s agenda is distinctly counterproductive for both Minister and civil servant, but adopting the function of bridging across contrasting interests enhances policy delivery effectiveness.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Marketing and Reputation
ID Code:89646
Publisher:Scientific Research


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