THE BLOG

Politicising the Civil Service

18/04/2013 17:49 | Updated 18 June 2013

Top civil servants Jeremy Heywood and Bob Kerslake behaved disgracefully by writing a hagiography of Thatcher in the Telegraph. I accused them of prostituting their high offices by deserting their political neutrality.

They declined to apologise even after my charge against them was supported by other members of the Public Administration Select Committee. They had put their names to an article of emetic sycophancy that cooed in praise of her ability to 'consume vast quantities of briefings' always remembering to 'nourish her civil servants with home-cooked shepherd's pie whenever they were working late'. All is hyperbole adding to the swelling chorus of praise for the lost leader by the Telegraph. Not a syllable of reproach is allowed. The approval includes unconditional joy on her achievement of cutting 171,000 civil service jobs.

Many sections of the media have been awash with extravagant praise since her death: some justified; most wild exaggerations. The Tories have tried to milk the Thatcher legacy to halt their present collapsing poll ratings. It is the hottest, most divisive political issue. My own contributions on the subject probably erred so far on the side of balance, I had a letter of thanks from the prime minister.

There was much more that I could have said about her vengeful attack on the steel industry. The plants where I worked for 25 years are now closed or a shadow of their former selves. Could Heywood and Kerslake have missed the anger of ravaged communities and the effigy burners? Their replies to me at the select committee professed ignorance of the political minefield into which they had blundered.

The Civil Service's overarching nostrum is the supremacy of political neutrality. John Denham recently forced an apology out of a civil servant in his old department who had acted in an overtly political way. There is great concern because David Cameron overruled the appointment of David Kennedy as permanent secretary at the Department of Energy. He had previously been approved by secretary of state Ed Davey and the independent civil service appointment committee.

Francis Maude has raged that civil servants do not obey ministers. Rubber levers are pulled and nothing happens. The Government are at a dangerous three year stage of their rule. Blaming the last lot and the EU is no longer convincing. They have turned on civil servants. Are Kerslake and Heywood misbehaving in self-defence? To avoid the blame for the ineptocracy they have created, the Coalition is on the slippery slope to the politicisation of the civil service.