Of course, Labour and Whitehall will cope – as the Senior Civil Service always do. But the risk is that the preparations for a possible change of government will be less good than they should, or easily could, be. Pre-election contacts are crucial. They are far from foolproof: politicians rarely concentrate on what they will do as ministers until they are in office, and many shadows do not get the same post in government. But the lesson of Institute for Government research into past transitions in Britain is that the better a political party prepares for government – and the clearer the Civil Service is about an Opposition’s thinking and priorities before polling day – the more likely that a new administration can avoid the mistakes and problems that have repeatedly occurred. For the Civil Service, this is part of their stewardship role in ensuring good government in the long-term, whoever is in office. The objection in principle is that the decision on the timing of pre-election contacts should no longer be at the discretion of the Prime Minister, but should be made largely formal, and predictable. This should have been made much easier by the certainty of the Fixed-Term […]

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