World history: Celebrating 15 years of CSW

Written by Beckie Smith on 26 February 2019 in Feature
Feature

As Civil Service World celebrates its 15th anniversary, Beckie Smith has trawled the archives for some of our most memorable moments.

Fifteen years is a long time in government. When Whitehall & Westminster World launched in 2004, Tony Blair’s New Labour drove the policy of the day. Our archives capture vignettes of the high-profile policies civil servants were working on in those early years – from ASBOs and the Euro to the long, tortuous development and scrapping of plans for ID cards. Back then, after a period of expansion, officials were grappling with how to do “more with more”. Such a dilemma seems inconceivable now. In our first ever issue, Oliver Letwin – then shadow chancellor – set out his vision of a smaller, less “interfering” government, saying civil servants had “far too much work to do”. But although Letwin and his coalition colleagues would oversee years of downsizing, the work didn’t shrink at the same rate. In 2015, CSW would report on the words of chief executive John Manzoni, who said government was doing “30% too much to do it well”. Today headcounts are climbing again thanks to Brexit, but Manzoni is still making that argument as politicians struggle to prioritise government’s work.

As times have changed, so too have we. We set out as a fortnightly newspaper that helped government leaders communicate across departmental divides. As former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell wrote for us in 2012, “I can’t remember permanent secretaries ever giving interviews in the newspapers until CSW appeared, but you’ve managed to tempt them in.”

We have since adopted a more independent stance as a “critical friend” to the civil service. In 2009 we changed our name to Civil Service World to better reflect our readership outside London and beyond central government. In 2014, the pink pages gave way to the monthly magazine you know today, as a relaunched news site made room for a focus on in-depth features and analysis in print.

Here we reflect on some highlights of the last decade and a half: the interviews with today’s top officials and politicians in their salad days, the reports on the crunch issues of the time and the features offering light relief to our overworked readers.

The famous faces we’ve met before

Are you sure about that, minister?

The more things change in Whitehall, the more they stay the same

Revisiting our quest to find Whitehall’s best fish and chips

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Beckie Smith
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is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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