Shortly after Theresa May became Prime Minister, her team stressed to the overwhelmingly Remain-supporting civil service that Brexit must be at the centre of all decision-making, that there must be no equivocation: we are leaving the EU. Panjandrums were told they must include a commitment to Brexit in all of their “write rounds”, the regular Whitehall memos circulated to ministers, sub-committees, the PM and the Cabinet Secretary. Alas, Europhile mandarins have defied this order, repeatedly omitting the Brexit commitment. Forgetfulness or a vain act of dissent? Downing Street are taking no chances – whenever they receive one of these incomplete write rounds from civil service Remainers they add the words “We are leaving the European Union” and send it back, reminding the sore loser responsible of their duties. “You will remember next time, won’t you Humphrey?” “Yes, Prime Minister…”
Sue Cameron’s unrivalled sources were adamant last week, telling the civil service toady that “at least two ministers” have written to Francis Maude “telling him to get his tanks off their lawns when it comes to centralising procurement”. Which is all well and good apart from the fact that awkwardly for Sue, Philip Hammond then announced an “innovative deal” between the MoD and the Cabinet Office to centralise procurement, in this mesmerising grey-on-grey video. The Ministry literally in charge of tanks inviting Maude’s tanks onto its lawn then. Mis-fire!
Sue Cameron, the civil service toady, is quick to attack anyone that has the temerity to question her darling mandarins. Last week she put the boot into Stephen Kelly, the former FTSE 100 exec turned UK Government Chief Operating Officer:
“Mr Kelly claimed this week that it took him seven minutes to boot up his PC – the equivalent of three days every year. He also complained that Whitehall’s desktop computers cost £6,000 a year to run – enough to buy 10 iPads. This, he said, was “government in the old world”. Again, such claims sound damning – but you have to ask if someone, somewhere is being economical with the truth.”
Not happy with being called a liar in the pages of the Telegraph, Mr Kelly has made a little video:
Kelly tweeted that he was “keen to be transparent”. Guido wonders whether Sue will apologise in her column tomorrow?
Former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell told the Daily Politics last week that “we need to be proud of our Civil Service – it’s impartial, it’s objective, it’s honest”. GOD had been confronted with a bruising column from Thursday’s Telegraph that attacked a mid-ranking Civil Servant who had addressed the weekly meeting of Permanent Secretaries, known in the trade as “Wednesday Morning Colleagues”.
Gus reassured the BBC that he “would be very annoyed about that particular meeting [leaking]” and said although it “happens every week” it “never, ever gets out…”. Really Gus? Never, ever?
Back in April 2010 the FT recounted comments from exactly that meeting. Sue Cameron was leaked a snippet from the “regular Wednesday morning meetings”. She was told that “Sir Gus O’Donnell, the present cabinet secretary, gave his colleagues a solemn undertaking. If Prime Minister Gordon Brown is forced to resign after the election, Sir Gus will not be breaking into tears”. How very impartial.
A few months later Sue Cameron was leaked another poisonous attack. This particular piece recounts how Sir Gus “demanded an explanation [over some matter] from Mr Heywood at the mandarins’ regular Wednesday morning meeting”. Gus came out of this piece frightfully well while Sir Jeremy was left rather bruised. Yes, Gus those meetings never, ever, ever leak do they? What was that about honesty…
Yesterday’s column by Sue Cameron has gone down pretty badly with more radical elements of the government. The Telegraph commentator, known for her pro-civil service outlook, essentially accused the Tories of imagining that the mandarins are all against them. One Whitehall source raged to Guido last night:
“Sue Cameron says “the idea that officials are blocking reform” is “patent nonsense” wondering whether these are “imagined” failings. Yet with no sense of irony at all, she misquotes Jeremy Heywood (who is known to be supportive of giving ministers a greater say in Permanent Secretary appointments) to (falsely) claim he will “block such a move”. Ms Cameron suggests Sir Jeremy will use a “policy of ‘masterly inactivity’” – but wouldn’t that be exactly the sort of blocking or treading water that ministers like Maude have been complaining about?”
They have a point…
UPDATE: Westminster wag adds “It’s unfair to describe her as Jeremy Heywood’s mouthpiece; she takes briefings against him, but only from Sir Gus.”