Corbyn’s Begging Letter to Sedwill

Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly hapless attempts to be the Leader of the Opposition – not helped by John McDonnell’s freestyling all week – have culminated in him sending another letter to Mark Sedwill, this time begging him to intervene to stop a No Deal Brexit. With friends like these…

Corbyn is trying to get Sedwill to declare that Boris leaving the EU without a deal if a general election had been triggered would be a policy decision and therefore in violation of civil service ‘purdah’ rules during an election. Corbyn’s issue is that the policy decision was already made when he and a majority of Labour MPs voted to trigger Article 50 back in 2017. Corbyn can huff and puff all he likes but leaving deal or no deal when the (extended) Article 50 period comes to an end is the legal default. Boris seeking an extension during an election period would arguably be a bigger purdah issue…

Yesterday’s YouGov poll found that more than twice as many people thought Boris would make the best PM than Corbyn, with the Tories maintaining a 9-point lead over Labour overall. Corbyn had his chance to try to trigger an early general election by tabling a vote of no confidence on the final Thursday before recess, instead he decided to give an underwhelming stump speech in Parliament Square to a few dozen hardcore protesters. Too little, too late, Jeremy…

Sedwill Bollocks Permanent Secretaries Over Corbyn Health Briefing

Guido has been leaked a letter from the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Sedwill, bollocking Permanent Secretaries over the story in Saturday’s Times citing anonymous civil servants saying that Corbyn seemed to lack a firm grasp of issues and was being “propped up” by his advisers. The Cabinet Office has reportedly been ordered to investigate the source of the leak speculating about Jeremy Corbyn’s health, and Downing Street says that it will take disciplinary action against any individuals found responsible. Guido suspects that as usual no one will be found responsible…

Yesterday Corbyn wrote to the Cabinet Secretary demanding an investigation in to who leaked the story which appeared under Rachel Sylvester’s byline. Ironically it is Sylvester herself who usually has well sourced stories that seem to know the mind of Sir Mark Sedwill and his “friends”.

Note that the letter appears to be hand dated “1 July”, the day before Corbyn’s angry letter was sent to Mark Sedwill. Fancy that…

MPs Demand Sedwill Hands Over the Evidence

Mark Sedwill has suffered another setback in his attempts to put the row over his defenstration of Gavin Williamson to bed. Now MPs on the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy have written to Sedwill demanding that he hands over the results of his leak inquiry. If Sedwill refuses, the country’s most powerful civil servant could be found in contempt of Parliament…

Sedwill’s Sticky Leak Dilemma

After the resounding success of his leak inquiry into Gavin Williamson, Guido is looking forward to Mark Sedwill getting to the bottom of several other high-profile leaks which have plagued the highest tiers of Government in recent months. Here’s a few that Sedwill will no doubt have at the top of his investigation in-tray:

  • Top mandarin’s bombshell No Deal warning: Food up 10%, police unable to protect public, direct rule in Ulster, worse recession than 2008 says leaked letter – private letter from Sir Mark Sedwill to ministers leaked to the Daily Mail. Shocking that this made its way to the press at such a politically sensitive time.
  • No-deal Brexit planning winds down with ‘immediate effect’ – internal civil service email leaked to Sky News reveals that Mark Sedwill has taken the decision to cancel all no-deal planning. How could civil servants be so indiscreet about the hard work their boss is doing?
  • Secret Number 10 memo damns plotters: Leak reveals May fury at ministers manoeuvring for leadership as she fights to save Brexit deal – angry email attacking leaking ministers leaks itself to the Daily Mail. What sort of twisted sense of humour must someone have to leak something about leaks?
  • Sedwill and Manzoni dismiss attacks on civil service as “nonsense” in message of support – email from Mark Sedwill to civil servants defending them from “nonsense” attacks in the press over Brexit leaked to The TimesHow can Sedwill continue his noble mission to stick up for civil servants if private emails like this are systematically leaked to the press?

No doubt Sedwill will be pursuing his inquiries into these terrible leaks with the same vigour and zeal as his inquiry into Gavin Williamson. How will he ever find the time to get to the bottom of them all and reveal the culprits?

Rudd Case Shows Sedwill Wrong to Put Civil Servants Above Criticism

Amber Rudd levelled some remarkable accusations at her former civil servants in the Home Office this morning following the publication of a report into the events surrounding her resignation over the Windrush Scandal. Sir Alex Allan’s report, which was completed on May 23rd but not published until today after being leaked to The Times, pointed the finger of blame at civil servants for not providing Rudd with correct briefings which led her to misleading MPs about the existence of removals targets.

Rudd herself went further on Today, effectively accusing senior civil servants of politically-motivated leaks against her:

JW: You were leaked about at the time as well – do you have a sense that this was just incompetence or was there something political as well – was there an attempt to embarrass you?

AR: It certainly felt like the latter as well… yes, there were a series of leaks during the past year at quite a high level that were definitely intended to embarrass me.

The two civil servants singled out for criticism in Allan’s report, Director General for Immigration Hugh Ind and Permanent Secretary Patsy Wilkinson, have simply been moved to other high level jobs within the civil service. Ind is now Director General at the Cabinet Office while Wilkinson has moved into a national security role. Classic civil service promotion for failure.

The whole affair makes a mockery of Mark Sedwill’s protestations only two weeks ago that civil servants should not be subject to scrutiny from the press. It is a basic fact of politics that individual civil servants have agendas and leak to the press for political reasons. It is a basic fact of life that civil servants are not infallible and sometimes make mistakes when carrying out their jobs.

Yet the notion still persists in some quarters that civil servants should be immune to political criticism despite carrying out political attacks of their own, while politicians take the flak for officials’ mistakes even as the Whitehall gravy train ensures that the officials responsible still have a cushy job at the end of it all. Funny how many of those rushing to defend Robbins now want officials’ heads to roll over Rudd…

Former MI6 Boss Slams Sedwill’s Robbins Moan

Former MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove has hit back at Mark Sedwill’s whiny letter in the Times yesterday asking people to lay off poor old Olly Robbins because he’s just doing his “duty to implement the decisions of the governments they elect.” Like preparing his own “Olly plan” for Brexit without the Cabinet’s knowledge for 9 months?

Dearlove says “It is not critics of the once great British civil service but members of that service in No 10 who need to cease and desist”. He calls for Robbins and his defence adviser Alastair Brockbank to answer “serious questions of improper conduct” over the so-called ‘Kit Kat tapes’ where Brockbank was covertly recorded pledging to continue propping up EU defence programmes with UK taxpayers’ cash. Since the referendum there has been a complete reversal in the UK’s longstanding policy of opposing EU defence integration with no public debate…

The fundamental truth is that individual civil servants have agendas, biases and prejudices – just like anybody else. Different government departments can even have competing agendas. Reporting on this is a public service. Sedwill’s special pleading that civil servants should be immune from criticism and scrutiny is both arrogant and chilling for democratic accountability. The buck stops with elected politicians but that does not mean that high-powered civil servants should be given a free pass from the press to run their fiefdoms with impunity…

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