Don’t Bother Cummings! Vote Leave Uninvited From Civil Service Summit

DOMINIC

Guido has been passed a very amusing email chain showing how the civil service uninvited Vote Leave’s campaign director to give a talk about the referendum. The civil service had asked Vote Leave for a representative to speak to fast-trackers about Europe next month:

From: Thomas Barker, Civil servant
Subject: Invitation to EU conference
To: Vote Leave

I’m writing on behalf of a group of civil servants organising a conference for early February 2016. We would like to invite you, as a principle actor in the referendum debate, to take part in a discussion on the UK membership of the EU.

Vote Leave happily accepted the offer, and put forward Dom Cummings to speak on their behalf:

From: Vote Leave
Subject: Re: Invitation to EU conference
To: Thomas Barker, Civil servant

I have spoken to Matthew and our campaign director, Dominic Cummings, and they feel that – having worked in government before – Dominic would be better suited to address the leadership conference. Dominic would be delighted to participate on 9th February from approximately 4-5.30pm. I trust this is ok.

All sorted, then?

Alas not. For some strange reason, the civil servant then replied apologetically explaining that, actually, they had suddenly changed their programme and thus wouldn’t be needing Dom’s input after all:

From: Thomas Barker, Civil servant
Subject: Re: Invitation to EU conference
To: Vote Leave

Thank you for your offer to have Dominic Cummings participate in our panel discussion, following my invitation to Matthew Elliot in December. I’m conscious of Dominic’s seniority and so particularly grateful for the offer.

As the programme for the two days of the conference has come together in recent weeks, and taking on board feedback from ticket holders, we have decided to change our programme slightly. While the referendum is of interest, the organising team have decided that the programme for day one should more clearly deal with the history, context and procedural issues associated with the European institutions. This would then set the scene more clearly for day two where we will focus on specific areas of policy.

Given that we will now not have a referendum focused panel session I am writing to let you know that we can release Dominic from his obligation to speak.

I apologise for any inconvenience this change causes and not being able to get back to you sooner,

Tom

Why could the civil service possibly not want to hear what Cummings had to say? Surely nothing to do with his multiple highly scathing criticisms of… the civil service. They don’t want to hear the truth…

Mandarins Given New Labour Holiday Reading List

Bored civil servants have been handed a helpful memo on how to fill up their time until a new government has been selected by those pesky voters:

The bit that really caught Guido’s eye was the pen pushers’ idea of “a range” of recommended reading on governmental matters:

· Michael Barber, ‘How to run a Government’
· Tony Blair, ‘A journey’
· Alastair Campbell, ‘The Blair years: extracts from the Alastair Campbell diaries’
· Anthony King and Ivor Crewe, ‘The blunders of our governments’
· Damian McBride, ‘Power Trip: a decade of policy, plots and spin’
· Chris Mullin, ‘A view from the foothills: the Chris Mullin diaries’

Hardly an impartial list…

GOD Delusion: Pampered Panjandrum Strikes Back

There’s a punchy interview with the departed head of the civil service Gus O’Donnell on the front page of the Indy. The former Cabinet Office bigwig has settled a few old scores with ‘out of touch’ ministers:

“There are still a few out there [who say:] ‘We send our kids to public schools, we have private health care, we travel by car or chauffeur, we don’t go on public transport… There are unfortunately too many people in politics who just don’t get it; who just don’t understand what life on benefits would be like… we need to really care about public services”.

While Guido likes GOD’s idea for primaries, it would be remiss for him not to point out that Gus sent his own daughter Kirsty to Alleyn’s, the private school in Dulwich. He also enjoyed the spoils of the Government Car Pool chauffeur service when in office, and was on a higher salary (and pension) than the PM. Just sayin’… 

Homer’s Odyssey

As the government try to blame Labour and Labour forget they were ever in government, one element of the £224 million Raytheon row is the role of Lin Homer. As regular readers will remember, this is just the latest in a string of successes for the £180,000 a year civil servant, who first hit the headlines in Birmingham with electoral practices “that would disgrace a banana republic.” Then on to positions running immigration where her “catastrophic leadership failure” resulted in a £20,000 performance bonus and a move to Transport. There a disastrous franchise letting process, that cost taxpayers £100 million, qualified her for the biggest executive job in the civil service – collecting the nation’s taxes as head of HMRC. Last year her response to a critical PAC report was described as “woefully inadequate”. Keith Vaz says he will be haul Homer in front of his committee to ask how and “why she sanctioned such a defective agreement”. The warning signs were there…

All Gov Attacks on Labour Sums Must Be Cleared By Treasury

Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury PermSec, has fired the official starting gun on election season in a letter to Civil Service chief Sir Bob Kerslake. From now until May 2015, any government costing of an opposition policy will have to be signed off by the Treasury and pre-notification of the announcement will have to be given to Labour:

“I have personally committed to sign off all costings before they are provided to Ministers of Special Advisers for public use. Therefore, I would ask that the relevant permanent secretary’s office contact my office as soon as possible if officials in your department are commissioned to cost an opposition policy. They will be able to advise on the correct procedures to follow and the necessary clearances. 

I have also made a personal commitment to the Shadow Chancellor and the Shadow Chief Secretary to give them advance notice of the publication or release of any costing, in line with a similar agreement made to the Conservative party in 2009. This includes any briefing to the press or parliamentary questions. I take this personal commitment very seriously and therefore would ask that you also notify my office at the earliest opportunity if your department receives any FOI requests or Parliamentary Questions that could lead to the release of a costing. You should also be aware, and may wish to make your staff aware, that there are no exemptions under the FOI act which prevent us from releasing a completed opposition costing.”

Government SpAds are kicking off this afternoon, arguing that every time they brief the press about opposition’s spending plans they’re expected to phone up and seek civil service blessing. Though Treasury sources play down the significance of the move, suggesting that the Labour will simply be told it’s happening with no room for them to complain. It would help if they actually had some policies to cost…

£9m Bill for Whitehall Life Coaching

The faceless bureaucrats of Her Majesty’s civil service are the people really in charge of the country, so it’s a tad worrying that they’ve been sent on courses such as ‘Economics for Non-Economists’, ‘Enhancing Your Credibility’ and, particularly appropriate for working in this government, ‘Presenting Difficult Messages’. Sir Humphreys can learn how to ‘Be the Leader You Can Be’, not to mention ‘Going the Extra Mile’ and ‘Navigating the Leadership Labyrinth’. Though penny pinching mandarins could surely do without being trained in ‘Using Social Media’ and ‘Diversity and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Awareness’. If it all doesn’t work out at the end of the day, at least there’s the ‘Getting a New Job’ class to help the men and women in grey suits move on. Obviously the £9 million a year price tag for all this training is on us.

The GOD Delusion

Gus O’Donnell will bore anyone willing to listen about why the Civil Service is the greatest thing in the world, but his latest attempt at a power-grab should be given a wider audience. GOD wants MPs to meet “pre-qualification criteria” before being allowed to stand. Obviously this would involve GOD’s beloved mandarins. What we have here is a former civil servant so convinced of his righteousness and so native in his thinking that genuinely believes that his beloved pen-pushers are superior to the voting public. The electorate is too stupid, in his view, to elect MPs desirable to the permanent representation, so they need to be hand-held into making the right choice. Back off.

What GOD’s intervention really highlights is the need for Civil Servants to meet “pre-qualification criteria”. As Douglas Carswell points out over at the Telegraph“Rather than Gus’s idea of civil servants vetting MPs, MPs need to hold confirmation hearings for the appointment of senior civil servants. And, indeed, ministers.” Time to remind these miniature Whitehall megalomaniacs who they really work for.

Another Do’h for Homer

Guido is looking forward to Lin Homer’s appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon. This £180,000 a year civil servant first hit the headlines in Birmingham with electoral practices “that would disgrace a banana republic.” Thence to positions running immigration where her “catastrophic leadership failure” resulted in a £20,000 performance bonus and a move to Transport where a disastrous franchise letting process costing £100m qualified her for the biggest executive job in the civil service – collecting the nation’s taxes as head of HMRC. Here, her “woefully inadequate” response earlier this year to a critical report was noted by the Public Accounts Committee. Next episode begins at 2.30.

 

Margaret Hodge and Streamlined Benefit Payments

Another day and another chance for Margaret Hodge to enjoy some prime-time grilling at the Public Accounts Committee. Today it is the turn of DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux, who is set to be hauled over the coals over Universal […]

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Knives Sharpen For DWP Permanent Secretary

On Wednesday night Guido revealed that IDS himself had to launch his own investigation into Universal Credit after he suspected the civil service were not giving him the whole picture. Yesterday, little was left to the imagination over who DWP […]

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War of Words on Universal Credit

The National Audit Office has given IDS’s flagship Universal Credit policy two barrels this morning. It concludes that £34 million has been wasted so far due to ‘weak management and poor governance’. Liam Byrne managed to get his embargoed […]

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Dave Wants Sir Bob Kerslake Out

Looks like the PM has had enough of his panjandrum-in-chief Bob Kerslake. Sir Bob has been a constant brake on Civil Service reform, blocking Francis Maude’s attempts to give Secretaries of State greater powers to hire and fire Permanent Secretaries. […]

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