An invidious position? The public dance of the promiscuous partisan

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Grube, Dennis
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2014
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Public service mandarins were once largely anonymous, diligently wielding their great power behind the scenes while their political masters performed on the front stage. Things have changed. Today, civil service leaders are appearing publicly more often, in more places and to a wider range of audiences than ever before. This article examines the extent to which this decline in anonymity impacts on traditions of civil service impartiality within the Westminster system. It draws on the late Peter Aucoin's concept of 'promiscuous partisanship' to examine how contemporary mandarins in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia face accusations of having compromised their impartiality by advocating for the policy agenda of the government of the day. The article argues that what has changed is not that civil service leaders have suddenly become partisan, but rather that they have become more 'public', allowing for perceptions of partisanship to emerge.

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Political Quarterly
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85
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4
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Policy and administration
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Political science
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