The tragic news broke this morning that former Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has passed away from cancer overnight aged just 56. Yvette Cooper was live on air as the news broke and delivered a heartfelt tribute to the man she knew well. Guido’s thoughts are with Sir Jeremy’s friends and family.
Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service Sir Jeremy Heywood has today announced that he is standing down on health grounds – he previously had a leave of absence to receive treatment for cancer. Guido was never a fan of Heywood but we wish him well. He has been offered a life peerage by the Prime Minister, who said in a statement that Sir Jeremy “has made an enormous contribution to public life in our country and will be sorely missed.”
Guido wonders who will be his replacement? Hopefully not Olly Robbins….
UPDATE: Current acting Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill will be Sir Jeremy’s permanent replacement. Nothing has changed…
In response to more Brexiteer criticism of Olly Robbins’ customs partnership proposal in the Sunday newspapers, a clear concerted effort from Number 10 to back their Remainer civil servants:
@UKCivilService is helping to deliver Brexit. The quality of support/advice is world class.
Attacking ind civil servants is deeply unfair.
— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) April 29, 2018
— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) April 29, 2018
Jeremy Heywood sends some love back:
Thanks for your support. The Civil Service will always be true to its values – honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity. https://t.co/ff7iYOOI0m
— Sir Jeremy Heywood (@HeadUKCivServ) April 29, 2018
Hardly going to reassure Leavers. Pass the sick bucket…
Tory MPs and Cabinet ministers are telling Theresa May to ditch her ‘customs partnership’ fudge, with government sources claiming even Jeremy Heywood thinks it is a “turkey“. David Davis has been lobbying against Number 10’s so-called hybrid model, in which the UK would collect import tariffs on behalf of Brussels, continue to follow the Common Commercial Policy, stay in the single market for goods and effectively throw away our ability to strike new trade deals. There is a split among May’s top civil servants – this model is the brainchild of Olly Robbins yet Heywood reportedly thinks it is over-complicated and unworkable. It certainly isn’t a ‘clean Brexit’. “May and Robbins are the only ones still backing it,” says one well-placed source. The fudge has also convinced the EU that we are not set on leaving the customs union, encouraging Brussels to play hardball and offer a binary choice between a customs union and no deal. May will be told to drop the customs partnership at Wednesday’s meeting of the Brexit sub-committee.
Insiders say there are attempts by May’s Downing Street Europe unit, which consists of her special adviser on Europe Denzil Davidson and her Europe and Trade adviser Ed de Minckwitz, to “roll the pitch” ahead of caving on the customs union. Once again this comes down to May putting Remainers in charge of her Brexit policy. She needs to get a grip on this quick, it is in danger of kicking off…
After the Chequers summit the story was one of unity and consensus, with the agreement reached by the Brexit sub-committee last week holding until today’s Cabinet meeting. Yet during today’s talks senior Brexiters say there was some “drift” away from the language of the Chequers agreement, with a few “tweaks” that appear to be trying to reset the government’s approach towards convergence with the EU. The James Forsyth App reports that an idea was proposed to make a “binding agreement” to align with EU rules and regulations in certain sectors. David Davis, for the second time in a week, was “the hero of the hour” in fighting back against the suggestion. Where did this new alignment idea come from? Those in the room detect the hand of Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins, May’s troublesome civil servants, trying to move the Cabinet away from the agreed position. A Cabinet source says: “It seems to be incessant tinkering and manipulation by the Cabinet Secretary and his minions when everything should be focussed on what the Cabinet agreed at Chequers”. We will see when May speaks tomorrow whether Heywood and Robbins were successful…
Over the last few days some of the supposedly ‘great and the good’ have been clasping their pearls and theatrically reaching for the smelling salts at the suggestion that civil servants might have some groupthink going on, and that the Treasury in particular might be politically suspect when it comes to forecasting. Former heads of the civil service Andrew Turnbull and Gus O’Donnell came over like pantomime dames at the impilication, comparing Brexiteers to Hitler and snake oil salesman.
What are the views of the most recent ex-head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake? Strangely he was silent this weekend, fortunately we have the benefit of being able to read his 44 page independent review published last year “Rethinking the Treasury“. It was produced by another heavyweight panel of ‘the great and the good’ – and it was scathing…
The theme of the report is that the Treasury tells Chancellors what they want to hear, suffering from an arrogant inward looking “groupthink“, tailoring forecasts and analysis accordingly. In a wide-ranging criticism of the Treasury’s macroeconomic forecasting, Kerslake notes that “The creation of the Office for Budget Responsibility reflected a conscious decision to outsource Treasury responsibility for forecasting…”. He warned of “the specific need to re-establish the department’s credibility in terms of the impartiality of its advice and hence the importance of its economic expertise in designing Brexit.” Something Brexiters in government don’t believe has happened.
Jeremy Heywood of course pretends the civil service is impartial and departmental research is objective analysis. He is pictured above at the Civil Service Awards, held after the Scottish Referendum, presenting his Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Award to the Treasury’s Scotland Analysis Programme Team. At the time of the referendum their analysis was bitterly contested by the SNP as politicised and heavily slanted. Something the civil service denied haughtily at the time in much the same way it is doing today with its Brexit forecasts.
Celebrating after receiving the award team members spoke to Civil Service World Magazine. Mario Pisani, perhaps a little too in vino veritas said:
“… we’re part of a political campaign. We were doing everything from the analysis, to the advertising, to the communications. I just felt a massive sense of being part of the operation. This being recognised makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
Shannon Cochrane said:
“… it is possible for civil servants to work on things that are inherently political and quite difficult and you’re very close to the line of what is appropriate…”
Civil Service World is the trade press for civil servants, who are not famed for being candid in public. Very revealing – Heywood signalling that if you do get too close to, or even cross, the line in supporting his policy goals, he will be very pleased….