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Video: In the Thick of It: What do Special Advisers do - and does it make government better or worse? 

8 November 2012

Duncan Brack and Michael Jacobs

Venue: Archaeology Lecture Theatre G6, Gordon House

Special Advisers are now an established feature of British government: there are currently over 80 of them in Whitehall. But what do they actually do? What relations do they have with ministers and civil servants? Are they - as some have claimed - a threat to the impartiality of the civil service? Or are they essential to make democratic government work well?  

Michael Jacobs is Visiting Professor in the School of Public Policy at University College London and in the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the LSE.  He was a Special Adviser to Gordon Brown at the Treasury (2004-07) and at 10 Downing St (2007-10).  His major field of responsibility was energy, climate change and environment policy, but he also worked at the Treasury on health, public service reform and the third sector.  Beginning his career as a community worker and adult educator Michael has variously been an economic and environment consultant, an academic environmental economist at Lancaster University and the LSE and (from 1997-2003) General Secretary of the Fabian Society.  His books include The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future (Pluto Press, 1991), Greening the Millennium? The New Politics of the Environment (ed, Blackwell, 1997), The Politics of the Real World (Earthscan 1996) and Paying for Progress: A New Politics of Tax for Public Spending (Fabian Society 2000).   

Duncan Brack is a freelance environmental policy researcher. He is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) and an Associate of Green Alliance. From 2010 to 2012 he was special adviser to Chris Huhne at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, focusing mainly on UK, European and global climate policy and low-carbon investment. Before that he worked for Chatham House, and from 1998 to 2003 was head of its Sustainable Development Programme; his work included international environmental regimes and institutions, the interaction between environmental regulation and international trade rules, and international environmental crime, particularly illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber. He was also a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Environment Select Committee and Environmental Audit Committee. From 1988 to 1994 he was Director of Policy for the Liberal Democrats. 

Find out more about the Constitution Unit's special advisers project or the SPP seminars 

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