Dr Bernadette Connaughton presented a paper at the International Political Science Association’s (IPSA) annual conference in Poznan, Poland, 23-28th July 2016. The panel titled “Cabinets ministériels”, SPADs & other collaborators of the Executive: the Reign of the Entourages?” was chaired by Jean-Michel Eymeri-Douzans (IEP Toulouse) and Mauro Calise (University of Naples) and it focussed on the ministerial entourages in several country cases.
Comparisons show that the “governors” (Presidents, Prime ministers, ministers) of Western democracies are surrounded by an entourage (personal collaborators, special advisors, “spin doctors”) whose number, influence and visibility in the media are increasing. The countries explored (Belgium, France and Ireland) are derived from different traditions of policy-and-political advice to ministers. Ireland followed the British model whereby in the 19th century the privy secretary who assisted his gentleman with his daily duties developed into a tiny “minister’s private office” in charge of his agenda, correspondence, speeches. Policy-advice was entrusted to the Permanent Secretary and the senior bureaucrats.
In contrast, in France and in other countries (Italy, Belgium etc.), the “cabinets ministériels” developed into a prominent, sizable yet often informal institution, bringing together party members, professional experts, and ambitious civil servants, not only assisting ministers but also speaking/acting for them in many arenas. The panel explored the national cases in order to explain their current (relative) convergence towards a reinforcement of these “entourages”.
Bernadette’s paper ‘Ideological Preference and how Institutions Work’ discussed the development of the ‘special adviser’ in Ireland. The evidence from the Irish case suggests a resistance to the process referred to as ‘cabinetisation’ which is informing institutional innovations in other Westminster system countries.
Bernadette is organising a research workshop on this theme in UL next October. Her participation in the IPSA panel was supported by funding from the AHSS Faculty Research Committee and the Department of Politics and Public Administration.