Whitehall row erupts as Home Secretary Priti Patel denounces her own officials – and they brand her ‘moronic’
Tensions between politicians and the Civil Service ‘Blob’ were threatening to turn into all-out war last night after Home Secretary Priti Patel denounced her own officials as ‘not fit for purpose’ – as recriminations grew over the chaotic race to become chairman of media regulator Ofcom.
Ms Patel used the same words attributed to Labour Home Secretary John Reid in 2006 as an ‘exasperated’ Boris Johnson ordered a Whitehall review into the migrant crisis, which has triggered a blame game in the Home Office.
Sources said Ms Patel has become so frustrated by the obstructions of officials and legal advisers that she has considered writing to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to list her department’s failings. Angry civil servants responded by describing the Cabinet Minister as ‘moronic’.
No 10 was left scrambling to find a new candidate for the Ofcom job after the withdrawal of Paul Dacre, the former Daily Mail editor, who described his experience as an ‘infelicitous dalliance with the Blob’, claiming officials were determined to block Right-of-centre candidates. Mr Johnson restarted the appointment after he was vetoed by the interview panel, but Mr Dacre lost patience with the hostility of the Whitehall establishment and will instead take up ‘an exciting new job in the private sector’.
Tensions between politicians and the Civil Service ‘Blob’ were threatening to turn into all-out war last night after Home Secretary Priti Patel denounced her own officials as ‘not fit for purpose’
Last night a senior Government source said that the rows were likely to increase calls for a root-and-branch shake-up of the Civil Service. They coincide with frustration in the Cabinet about the ‘oppositionist’ attitudes of civil servants supposed to carry out the Government’s wishes, particularly on the migrant crisis, which Tory MPs warned is becoming the biggest electoral issue in their constituencies.
Cabinet critics of the ‘Blob’ argue that many of the recent problems which Downing Street has been blamed for – such as a shortage of HGV drivers – were the fault of officials who failed to anticipate the problems and were then too slow to react.
They also say that the radical thinking required to reboot the economy as the country emerges from the pandemic has been stymied by Whitehall, with the Treasury singled out for particular blame for frustrating proposed reforms.
The Ministers say that it is partly the legacy of the Blair/Brown Labour governments, which used patronage to install ‘cronies’ in public posts, and partly the traditional ‘institutional Leftism’ of Whitehall.
Mr Dacre wrote in a letter to The Times: ‘To anyone from the private sector, who, God forbid, has convictions, and is thinking of applying for a public appointment, I say the following: The Civil Service will control (and leak) everything; the process could take a year in which your life will be put on hold; and if you are possessed of an independent mind and are unassociated with the Liberal/Left, you will have more chance of winning the lottery than getting the job.’
Ms Patel used the same words attributed to Labour Home Secretary John Reid in 2006 as an ‘exasperated’ Boris Johnson ordered a Whitehall review into the migrant crisis
The term ‘Blob’ was used by former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings to describe unbending mandarins at the Education Department, where he worked as an adviser to Michael Gove.
Yesterday, Kevin Saunders, former chief immigration officer for the UK Border Force, warned that migrants ‘know they’ve won the jackpot’ when they arrive in the UK.
More than 25,000 migrants have crossed in small boats this year, triple the number that arrived last year, with more than 1,000 crossing in a single day twice in the past fortnight. Boris Johnson has ordered a cross-Government review of the crisis, led by Cabinet Minister Stephen Barclay, after becoming ‘exasperated’ by the failure to stem the flow.
A senior Home Office official told the Mail on Sunday: ‘What’s become clear is that she [the Home Secretary] is out for herself and only interested in how this plays out publicly. If we worked collaboratively then we could get things done but instead we just have cloud cuckoo land public statements.
‘She comes into meetings and her suggestions are erratic and outlandish. Any sensible, mature politician would know they are never going to work, but she just comes out with it anyway. Officials come out of the meetings and the texts start flying, describing her as a ‘moron’ and an ‘idiot’.’