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Responsibility to Be Enthusiastic? Public Servants and the Public Face of “Promiscuous Partisanship”

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Abstract

Contemporary public service leaders are no longer the anonymous mandarins of Westminster folklore. Whether giving public speeches to outside organizations or communicating directly with the media, senior public servants are emerging from anonymity to become public actors in their own right. This article undertakes a comparative study across four Westminster jurisdictions—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—to examine the formal rules and guidelines that apply to public servants when making public statements in their official capacity. Drawing on the late Peter Aucoin's notion of “promiscuous partisanship,” the article argues that public servants are expected to demonstrate a new level of enthusiasm when explaining or justifying government policy to the public. This has implications for the extent to which nonpartisanship can continue to effectively function within Westminster systems.

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