LONDON — In Britain and Japan, civil servants are supposed to be nonpolitical and to give unbiased advice. But their independence is threatened by some politicians who want posts to be filled by what Margaret Thatcher used to call “one of us” — people who share the same aspirations as the governing party. They advocate that our countries should move closer toward the American system, where the higher posts of an administration are filled by people chosen according to political affiliation rather than by merit.

Until 1855 in Britain, civil servants were recruited through a system of patronage. This was reformed as a result of the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854, which provided that civil servants were to be appointed on merit through open competition. The core values of civil servants were to be integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality (including political impartiality).

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