In February 1974, Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath called a General Election appealing for a mandate to take a tougher line against militant trade unions, whose endless strike action had brought the country to its knees. He called on voters to ask themselves: Who governs Britain?
Nearly 50 years on, that question has become just as relevant – arguably more so. With the defenestration of Justice Secretary Dominic Raab after an orchestrated and largely exaggerated slew of bullying claims by civil servants, the relationship between Ministers and Whitehall has hit rock bottom.
This was a transparent and carefully choreographed hatchet job, designed by civil servants to bring down a Minister who held himself to a high standard and expected the same of his staff.
It was a work ethic and strength of purpose some were clearly unable, or unwilling, to match. In other walks of life, such dedication would be inspiring. To some in Whitehall, it appears to have been seen as a threat.
But there is also a deeply troubling political dimension to this. The Civil Service is the engine of government, employed to advise on and implement policies drawn up by elected politicians. Scrupulous impartiality is essential if it is to function properly.
In February 1974, Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath called a General Election appealing for a mandate to take a tougher line against militant trade unions, whose endless strike action had brought the country to its knees
With the defenestration of Justice Secretary Dominic Raab after an orchestrated and largely exaggerated slew of bullying claims by civil servants, the relationship between Ministers and Whitehall has hit rock bottom
Yet it’s scarcely a secret that much of Whitehall, from the top down, is heavily biased against both Tories and Brexit. The unseemly appointment of Sue Gray – the senior mandarin whose Partygate inquiry contributed hugely to Boris Johnson’s demise – to Sir Keir Starmer’s top team is only the latest telling defection.
Others from Whitehall’s top table, among them former Civil Service chief Lord Kerslake, have been advising Labour for years, raising questions about their political neutrality when in post.
Mr Raab complained of a ‘cultural resistance’ from his officials to Conservative plans for post-Brexit reforms such as overhauling the Human Rights Act. Indeed, one of the two substantiated bullying charges concerned his removal of a senior Brexit negotiator he believed was undermining Government policy over arrangements for Gibraltar by engaging in backstairs talks with Spain.
What on earth was Mr Raab supposed to do in such a situation? Smile and look the other way?
Another ex-head of the Civil Service, Lord O’Donnell, took to the airwaves yesterday, adamantly denying the claim that some civil servants have become ‘activists’ rather than honest brokers.
Mr Raab certainly doesn’t believe that denial, neither does this newspaper. Led by hard-Left unions, the Civil Service is beginning to act like a branch of the Labour Party. And when the impartiality of the Civil Service can’t be relied on, its integrity is holed below the water line and good governance becomes impossible.
But it’s not just Whitehall which threatens to make Britain ungovernable. There is a broader affiliation, mainly but not exclusively of the Left, apparently intent on grinding this country down.
From junior doctors prepared to risk lives in pursuit of an absurd 35 per cent pay claim, through rail workers cynically sabotaging economic recovery, to teachers, nurses and other groups of public sector workers, trade unions are in the forefront of this movement. The arrogant prigs of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, the police who dance with them instead of locking them up, the barristers who refuse to prosecute them and the judges who treat them leniently are all culpable.
The pernicious rise of cancel culture, critical race theory, identity politics, the corrosive wokeness of academia, the bias – conscious and unconscious – of the BBC and the inability of local councils even to fill potholes have all added to the sense of a nation in drift.
Rishi Sunak’s failure to stand by his Deputy Prime Minister was a mistake. The PM has to be stronger and face down the cynics and the wreckers, rather than giving in to them. He must take the fight to Labour over the economy, NHS, the small boats and much else.
There is time to reverse this tide of declinism before the General Election, but not much. Mr Sunak is lucky his principal opponent is such an obvious dud, but he can’t hope to win merely by default.
He might take inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s memorable words before her 1979 triumph: ‘We want to be elected so we can do better, not because we couldn’t possibly do worse.’
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12003489/DAILY-MAIL-COMMENT-hatchet-job-prompts-question-governs-Britain.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270