/Civil servants had their own way for years… but not under Boris Johnson

Civil servants had their own way for years… but not under Boris Johnson

THE dire 2017 General Election is burned into every Conservative’s memory.

When something goes so badly wrong, you have to look at what happened and correct it.

 Civil servants had their own way for years... not under Boris


Civil servants had their own way for years… not under Boris

The Tories changed leader (eventually) and have avoided repeating Theresa May’s policy mistakes.

They have also worked on their campaign machine, laying the foundations for their recent success. But there is still work to do.

Top-down control over who gets a chance to be a candidate is demoralising and messy.

And they are still outnumbered by Labour’s membership. It’s time to ride the Boris wave and add 100,000 new members to the blue ranks.

If Labour keep telling themselves Magic Grandad is perfect, and blaming the voters, then this is a chance for the Conservatives to steal a march.

WHILE this dwindling decade was stuffed full of exciting political events, it was not a vintage era for decisive majority ­government.

There have been thrills — from voters defying Project Fear to free our country from the EU, through to Boris ­Johnson’s crushing victory over Corbynism.

And there have been spills — David Cameron’s abrupt exit from power, Theresa May’s loss of her majority, and the hijack of the Labour Party by the far Left. But there have been only a few moments — mere months in the past ten years — of certain, stable, clear government.

We have had two hung parliaments, the uncomfortable alliance of the coalition, and a slim Tory majority which was swiftly diverted by the EU referendum.

At Westminster’s worst, a Remainer Commons — helped by a self-indulgent Speaker — trapped a minority Government in office while denying it the power to do anything.

It’s all been very entertaining, but entertainment value is not always a sign of great government

Too often, hung parliaments and paralysed ministers proved unable to make urgent decisions.


Important calls were postponed or fudged out of necessity, because the votes to get on with the job were simply not there.

Smashing that obstacle to decision-making is one of the many things about the election result to celebrate.

Getting Brexit done should only be the start of the changes made by a Government that at last has the chance to be radical and ambitious.

Not everybody will be cheering, however. Obviously, the Opposition aren’t happy. And I expect we will soon see some signs of unhappiness from the upper ranks of the civil service, too.

Why? First, because the return of majority government is a rude intrusion into the lives of civil service chiefs after a decade in which they got used to getting their own way.

The absence of clear authority under May, and before that the many tensions and fractures of the coalition years, offered plenty of opportunity for determined mandarins to manage things just as they liked. No longer.

Second, because the days in which the civil service was truly neutral, from top to bottom, have sadly ended — and a troubling number of officials seem to feel it is their role to promote a particular view.

Brexit has exposed that bias. In the referendum campaign, public bodies which should know better allowed themselves to be used to pump out Remain propaganda, damaging their reputations.

The agenda — to try to delay, disrupt and deny Brexit — was obvious. The election result has at last convinced all but the most diehard EU fans that we really are going to leave.

But this is not the only issue on which the Government and parts of officialdom disagree.

From Michael Gove’s criticism of experts, to Downing Street’s belief that Whitehall is overdue for radical restructuring and reform, there are changes on the way which will disrupt a state of affairs that rather suited a lot of senior people.

 Boris and his team know that the election was the start, not the end, of their job


Boris and his team know that the election was the start, not the end, of their jobCredit: Getty Images – Getty
 David Cameron's abrupt exit from power was a key moment of the decade


David Cameron’s abrupt exit from power was a key moment of the decadeCredit: Getty Images – Getty

If the New Year sees whole departments abolished or merged, and a new culture of ministers challenging the sacred cows of Whitehall thinking, then the machine will fight back, hoping to undermine change and keep things the same. There are three ways for ministers and their advisers to defend against that assault.

First, steel themselves for a bumpy ride. They’ll be briefed against by past masters of the targeted Whitehall leak who have little to lose. They must not let themselves be knocked off course.

Second, they must find allies. For every hidebound part of the civil service, there are others chafing to see things done better. Bring them on board.

Third, they should make full use of their power to make public appointments.

Labour stuffed the various quangos and commissions with like-minded people, with similar principles and priorities.

Why wouldn’t they? It would be bizarre for a government to appoint its opponents to wield state power against its agenda.

And yet that is exactly what the Tories have too often done, apparently through a misguided sense of fair play.

It’s time to realise that the other side never return the favour. Boris and his team know that the election was the start, not the end, of their job.

They have to deliver the change that they promised, to fulfil the trust voters put in them. There are battles ahead to make that happen, and wrestling Whitehall will be one of the biggest. Christmas truce will not last long.

It’s a boom time for UK

THE anti-democratic effort to block Brexit cost time, but it also cost money.

Fine, various big businesses might prefer we had voted Remain.

But we didn’t.

After the referendum, the private sector stood ready to do what it does best: Adapt and get on with life.

But what businesses really dislike is not change so much as uncertainty.

And Parliament made uncertainty an art form in the past three years.

Now that we’ve got a new deal, a new Commons and a new Government, we should see new investment unlocked.

Including money and decisions which were shelved during all the political hurly-burly.

Let’s get Brexit done, and get Britain booming.

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