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Andrew McDonald

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About Andrew McDonald

Andrew McDonald is a writer and a campaigner. He spent most of his career as a civil servant initially working in the National Archives and subsequently in the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice.

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​Andrew’s interests as a writer fall into three categories: modern Britain; constitutions; and access to, and the nature of, historical evidence.

Andrew was first trained as a historian at St John’s, Oxford and at Bristol. His doctorate was on the political economy of inter-war Britain. An article on the politics of public expenditure appeared in The Historical Journal in 1988.

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National Archives

Since his early years as a curator at the National Archives, Andrew has been interested in the nature of historical evidence, teaching on the topic at the LSE through the 1990s. In parallel with this, he has developed expertise in how best to use Freedom of Information statutes to access historical evidence. He has used FOI in North America and Europe as a research tool. As an official, he led the implementation of FOI in Whitehall. Working with Greg Terrill, he edited a collection of essays on FOI and privacy (Palgrave; 1998). His essay on FOI in the UK appeared in 2006 in a British Academy volume.

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Constitutional Reform

His work on constitutions was closely intertwined with his time as a senior civil servant. He ran the second Blair administration’s constitutional reform programme from 2003-05. Throughout his time as a senior official, he took a comparative approach to policy-making, drawing on the experience of others to inform Britain’s reforms. This approach is clear in his new book on constitutions and national identity, which contrasts the reform of three Commonwealth jurisdictions (Changing States, Changing Nations; Hart Publishing; 2021). Research for this volume was conducted while Andrew was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. His time at Berkeley also resulted in the edited volume, Reinventing Britain ( Politico’s, 2008).

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Andrew’s work as a campaigner has primarily concerned the rights of patients and of disabled people. This work has been sparked by his own diagnosis with Parkinson’s (2007) and Prostate Cancer (2010). 

Andrew was chair of the pan-disability charity Scope from 2014-2019, overseeing the development of its radical new strategy and reforming its governance.  He has spoken publicly about his experience of disability, including the shortcomings of the benefits system. (See for example the Guardian article of 2019).

Andrew has chaired the patient advocacy group Chapter 2 since 2015.  This has concerned itself with improving the quality of communications with patients. This has been an important theme for Andrew for the last decade. He lectured on this in 2014 and 2016, writing the report The Long and Winding Road, which argued that investment in the communication skills of healthcare professionals was likely to save costs and improve the patient experience. Since 2017 he has been working with NHS England on implementation of these ideas.

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