chapter  37
14 Pages

A Traditional Bureaucracy in Turbulence: Whitehall in the Thatcher Era

WithJames B. Christoph

This chapter examines the nature, extent, and effects of the process by looking both at general developments and, through case studies, at two major change agents—the so-called Next Steps initiative and the impact on British bureaucracy of the country’s involvement in European Community* institutions. The course of the Margaret Thatcher governments’ efforts to reshape Whitehall can be viewed as falling into two broadly distinct periods, with different strategic emphases. The uncertainty of political support at the top has made some “high-flying” civil servants unwilling to be clearly identified with Whitehall Eurothusiasts or reluctant to do more than at most a tour of duty in Brussels. The big changes made in Britain in the Thatcher and early Major years involved policy rather than institutions. The changes brought to the civil service in the first two Thatcher governments were in many ways radical, certainly from the standpoint of defenders of Whitehall traditions.