This second edition requires some explanation, since readers may wonder to what extent a book on the Cabinet system written by a civil servant who has just spent eighteen months working in the Cabinet Secretariat is an ‘authorised’ or ‘official’ version.
I wrote the first edition while working in local government in the late 1980s. Shortly after the book went to press in 1991, I joined the civil service and spent five years in the Department for Education and Employment. Not wanting to give the impression that the book was written with inside knowledge, I simply made no reference at all to my new profession on the dust jacket, and in subsequent journal articles concealed myself discreetly behind visiting fellowships kindly provided by the University of Newcastle and the Institute of Contemporary British History.
This reticence became less tenable, however, after the general election of 1997 when I transferred to the Cabinet Secretariat to work on the new government’s programme of constitutional reform, a move which necessarily pushed me into the sightlines of Britain’s political scientists. After discussion with those responsible in the Cabinet Office, I decided to avow my position openly rather than conceal it and risk attracting the attention of conspiracy theorists.
What are the limits within which I have written? Essentially, civil service rules prevent me from offering comments on current government policy— not a great problem since I am writing on process, not policy. I may not use confidential information acquired in the course of my work (which, as a matter of professional ethics, I would not do anyway) and must clear the text with the Director of Personnel. The practical impact of these restrictions has been very limited: I can fairly say that nothing of importance has been omitted as a result. (I should make it clear that the book has been prepared in my own time, and using my own computer.)
This is, therefore, not an ‘authorised’ book except in the negative sense