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The Politics of Quangocide

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Christopher Hood
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Quangos (a vogue term for central non-departmental bodies) have been one of the growth sectors in British government in recent decades. But the election to office (in 1979) of a Conservative government committed to retrenchment and the curbing of quangos might lead us to expect ‘quangocide’ – a massacre of quangos. What actually took place in the review of non-departmental bodies announced in January 1980 was nothing of the kind. Rather, it amounted to a combination of cuts in future spending, personnel changes, a degree of cosmetic and of ‘politically selective’ surgery, and a degree of rather weak ‘medicine’. On past evidence, quangos seem to be a fairly hardy breed, and the gap between pre-election rhetoric and the realpolitik of actions in office may be explained by the fact that quangos are instruments too useful to politicians of any colour to be lightly discarded.

Christopher Hood
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