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Public administration might be viewed as a potential victim of populist-inspired backsliding. This chapter argues that when considering how to respond to populism public administration needs to recognize that some of its practices may have created an opening for the populist charge. Public administration may be a victim but also may have been an unwitting harbinger of the populist surge. The public administration reforms in vogue over the last two decades helped to create the conditions for populism. Performance management, citizen consultation, and evidence-based policymaking were popular managerial tools, but the evidence presented in this chapter suggests they may have encouraged a loss of public trust due to the way they were put into practice. The threat of democratic backsliding, driven by populism, should stimulate public administration not to hunker down but to search for better ways of operating in order to rebuild public trust. There are some positive signs of new thinking and practice.
Surveys show a lack of trust in political actors and institutions across much of the democratic world. Populist politicians and parties attempt to capitalise on this political disaffection. Commentators worry about our current 'age of anti-politics'. Focusing on the United Kingdom, using responses to public opinion surveys alongside diaries and letters collected by Mass Observation, this book takes a long view of anti-politics going back to the 1940s. This historical perspective reveals how anti-politics has grown in scope and intensity over the last half-century. Such growth is explained by citizens' changing images of 'the good politician' and changing modes of political interaction between politicians and citizens. Current efforts to reform and improve democracy will benefit greatly from the new evidence and conceptual framework set out in this important study.