Political cultures differ. In Iran, for example, hyperbole is expected in all political conversations. So slogans always call for ‘Death to the US’, and nothing less. In Britain, of course, the use of language is more even-tempered, but other rules apply. Blaming the civil service for failure is considered OK, but charging an individual official, even a Permanent Secretary, for the same is considered off-limits. If a minister were to try it, then he'd be accused of trying to pass the buck on towards defenceless officials.
But, as Camilla Cavendish points out in today's Times (£), failure is often also the fault of senior officials who, despite problems in the past, move seamlessly from job to job and from Department to Department. Many hoped the coalition would find a way to deal with this. Remember the talk about permanent secretaries bidding for jobs by showcasing their plans? Or the idea that MPs would be given very specific jobs, rather than organisational briefs? Or the talk of adopting a New Zealand-style ‘beehive’ model with ministers located outside of their Departments and civil servants coming to them at a central location for meetings?
1) The coalition's reliance on officials. Coalition has meant greater reliance on officials, not less. Officials have often been the unofficial go-betweens; hammering out agreements between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Sub-Cabinet committees that once lay dormant are now taken seriously, and have had to be staffed up.
As understandable as some of this may be, it's still a problem. If the coalition does not push for a rebalancing of power between unelected officials, elected ministers and their mandated advisers, large-scale reform of the British machinery of government may never happen. And that means country-wide reforms may be stalled too.