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.