Not much doubt which will be the most read newspaper in Whitehall today… the Daily Telegraph, which leads on a story headlined ‘worst civil servants to be sacked,’ and includes the remarkable line from a ‘minister’ that he is in favour of sacking 90 per cent of them, and paying the remaining 10 per cent lots more money.
Wow … talk about bold. I mean I know they don’t think much of ‘the State’, but this is dramatic stuff. And talk about how differently this story would have been projected had it come from a Labour voice under Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, when the merest hint of dissatisfaction with the ‘Rolls Royce’ machine was met with Tory and media denunciations of politicisation, undue interference and the rest.
The truth is that as in any organisation there is good and bad in the civil service, and a fair bit of indifferent. But there is also some very very good. Some of the brightest and best people I ever met came from the civil service, and not just at the top levels.
Both TB and GB at times felt the frustrations now seemingly being voiced by David Cameron. But he is making a big mistake if he thinks the answer is a massacre on the scale seemingly being canvassed.
His senior aide Steve Hilton, now off to America, made no secret of his feeling that the civil service was top to bottom mediocre and a brake on any meaningful change. But I can point to lots of policy areas in our early years in government when they made a real difference for the better both in policy making and implementation.
But they had to be well led by the politicians, and that is perhaps what is missing. One of the worst aspects of the current leadership of the country is the seeming desire to blame the whole time. Today it looks like it is the civil service copping it.
But whilst no doubt there are some in there who would struggle to find work elsewhere, there is plenty of talent and the key is making sure it is well used.
I can’t help thinking that getting them all to read about how useless they are, and how nine out of ten may be facing the sack, is not a very sensible form of leadership at a time when the leader is losing his reputation for competence, and being assailed from many sides because of a lack of strategy.
Ps … Sorry for ignoring the media organisations asking me to comment or do interviews on Andy Coulson’s evidence at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, or Rebekah Brooks’ today. I am due at the Inquiry myself next week, so I won’t be saying anything until then, and won’t be replying to requests for bids.