The Tories propose to abolish the age old rule that the civil service appoint the head of each government department. They want to side-line the civil service and pick their own department heads. Soon enough whole swathes of Whitehall will be run by their old chums from school.
Just when you thought this government had been humbled by Leveson, they have hit back with a proposal to abolish checks and balances. It will be virtually impossible to detect a bribe taking-minister, once he’s picked his own bribe-taking civil servant to be his partner in crime. If anyone thinks this government is interested in being whiter than white, think again. Patronage has come back, and it’s about to be made law.
Imagine if Liam Fox had been able to pick his own head of Armed Forces. Mr Verity could have had the job. That way, he could have had real business cards, as well as a gold-plated pension, at our expense. Not to mention the sheer joy of having one’s own army to play with for a while.
All of this is being proposed at a time when Leveson is in full swing. We’ve heard about horse-riding and country suppers with the people who wanted to turn our national media into their personal mouthpiece, and we’ve read the text messages between Mr Hunt’s man and Mr Murdoch’s man. We’ve had the Prime Minister in the witness box telling us that procedure needs to be tightened up.
But within three working days of him stepping out of that witness box we have policies being floated that will allow ministers to pick and choose which senior civil servant will be hired and which will be fired. From now on, a career in the civil service will be considerably enhanced by affiliation to a political party. Politicising the system is something the Tories have been trying to do since day one, and it’s rearing its ugly head again.
Have they learnt nothing, or do they know exactly what they’re doing, and simply have an absolute commitment to polluting the system?
It’s a mixture of the both I imagine. The man proposing it is Francis Maude. What does that say to you? This is the man who begged Margaret Thatcher to stay; wiping tears from his eyes, and then, in the same breath, told her he didn’t think she could win.
His other brilliant idea is that the “bottom 10%” of civil service staff should be sacked if they don’t improve their performance. It is difficult to imagine this scheme ever working. The culture of the Civil Service is about fairness. Are they overnight going to transform themselves into Goldman Sachs? If they are, then you’d better start by throwing mega bucks at them. Live and let die materialism is the fundamental feature of city culture.
From the start, this government has not known why they are in power. They know they want to be in power, but they don’t know what to do with it once they’ve arrived. We’ve watched them struggle to find a purpose, with embarrassing ideas like The Big Society. We’ve watched them try to connect with the electorate by pretending to be left wing. Now we’re seeing them revert to type, with a right wing free-for-all as the inevitable result.
The single thing that unites these Tories is that they like to sack people. When they are lost for what to do, they can at least reassure themselves that they are sitting in the boss’s chair. After all, if they’ve just put a whole bunch of people out of work, then they must be in charge.
That’s how they think. That’s the mindset of the people running this country.
By the way, there are only 1,053 days to go till the next general election. Enjoy.