Blog: Dominic Cummings is RIGHT: Brexit Britain needs fresh blood to deliver REAL change – Express

And, whether you laughed or not, the thrust of it remained true, at least in British public perception, through the post war decades. The image of the Teflon, untouchable, string-pulling, power-hungry Whitehall civil servant was further crystallised forever by Nigel Hawthorne’s portrayal of Sir Humphrey in sitcom Yes Minister. And particularly Sir Humphery’s claim “if the right people don’t have power then the wrong people get it…. politicians and ordinary voters… you need a system to protect the important things of life and keep them out of the hands of the barbarians!”

TV fiction it may have been but to us, the tax-paying viewer, it seemed like a particularly accurate mirror.

The higher echelons of the civil service seemed to offer a job for life, a gold-plated pension and access, through Byzantine systems, to potentially unlimited and, more concerningly, unaccountable amounts of power.

The real power in Britain it seemed lay not with the MPs, nor even with big business, but in the hands of the Whitehall mandarins who operated largely in the shadows of politicians.

And that was that, and tough luck if you didn’t like it.

Until now.

A chill wind it blowing through the upper echelons of the civil service as Boris Johnson has struck the first telling blow for his mate Dominic Cummings in putting Britain’s most senior civil servant Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill out of his misery.

Publicly Sir Mark (why are they always knighted?) is standing down to take on new ventures, pressures of work, blah blah blah.

But we all knew he was the first, and perhaps most prized scalp for Dominic Cummings – man openly on the warpath to revolutionise Britain’s civil service.

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Sir Mark, a decent enough chap by all accounts, was simultaneously Cabinet Secretary, the head of the civil service, and our national security adviser – the first man to hold all three positions at once. That is a spectacular amount of power in the hands of a bloke who, be honest, you only really heard about after he was canned. Sorry, I mean stood down of his own accord. Or by mutual agreement. Or something.

Cummings has talked of a “hard rain” which presumably is gonna fall on every aspect of the civil service. And, while Cummings remains human Marmite, it’s very hard not to agree with him on this one.

First, and perhaps foremost, the deal was sealed when the supposedly apolitical civil service tried its damnedest to overturn Brexit after a democratic vote.

A senior civil servant I spoke to last year said this: “I have met thousands of civil servants in the past few years – and I can only recall five who voted for Brexit. And when it was announced Gina Miller had won her case, I witnessed large teams within the Foreign Office break out into cheers and applause. Seriously.”

I know that is only the testimony of one woman but that sound apolitical to you?

While the rest of Britain has been modernising getting on with Brexit and forging ahead with the realpolitik of the 21st century (and will have to supercharge this process in the post-Brexit era) the civil service remains a sprawling, cumbersome machine, all too often guilty of over-spending and under-performing.

Try this too: If you’ve nothing better to do this afternoon you might like to apply for the CEO job currently being advertised by Surrey County Council. That’s a public service position which would see you trouser the right side of £200,000.

TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND QUID! Think we’d all work for the greater good on that sort of dosh.

No, public service has for most people, on both sides of that equation, long since stopped being that. Churchill once said: “after a time civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil” which may be a touch harsh but the post-war consensus feeling of being in it for the greater good is hard to justify.

Of course Britain needs a civil service – of course she does. But like business, like schools, like even your own domestic set-up it is always, always a useful exercise to take a good hard look at the books and the bottom line and see where you can do things better.

Hard rain may be too harsh, but there’s nothing quite so refreshing as a flash storm after a long period of stultifying drought.

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