Do advisers advise while Ministers decide?

When questioned recently about the influence of one of his special advisers, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, replied with the well worn aphorism ‘advisers advise, Ministers decide’.  In an interesting article in The Guardian this week, Fiona Millar examines the role of political advisers and think-tanks in policy formulation.

Interestingly, Gove’s response was a, no doubt deliberate, echo of Margaret Thatcher (a previous holder of the post currently held by Gove), who as Prime Minister most famously used the phrase in response to questions about a significant difference of opinion between her Chancellor Nigel Lawson and one of her principal economics advisers Sir Alan Walters over the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Although in that case it was the Minister, who ultimately resigned.

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