Reforming Whitehall

Michael Gove’s lecture makes interesting reading. He says he wants a civil service which is better at delivering and places more emphasis on the implementation of agreed policy. Previous governments too have sought to make distinction between the civil service as policy advisers to Ministers, and the civil service administering large programmes of tax and grants, or managing public services and investment programmes. Tony Blair set up a Delivery unit in the Number 10, to reflect his frustrations that things he wanted done were delayed or diluted.

When I was Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Adviser I always regarded getting the policy worked out and agreed by Cabinet and Parliament as the start, not the end of the process. It then had to be turned into practical administration or spending. Margaret embarked on a substantial reform of the civil service, encouraged by Michael Heseltine who ran a Ministerial information system based on big data. Michael was right that Ministers often were not shown the key data any business person would expect at the top of a large company. The purpose of the reform was to separate the implementation or administration of various activities from the policy work and Cabinet level decisions over priorities and resources. A set of Next Steps Agencies were set up under professional public sector chief executives to run substantial services or programmes. The CEOs were set targets, offered bonuses for good performance, and were responsible for the day to day detail. Ministers remained responsible for the policy, the overall results and the financing.

A service like the NHS has long had professional and medical management running it. There is management at the national level, at the regional level, at the local level and in each hospital and surgery. They have large budgets and considerable devolved power. Ministers do not expect to be making decisions about which cleaning services to use or how much protective clothing to buy. Ministers are never involved in awarding huge contracts to suppliers. During the recent crisis responsibility moved upwards, and Ministers were drawn into procurement of ventilators and clothing, blurring the divisions between overall responsibility and the day to day judgements about how to spend budgets and provide for staff in each unit. Ministers had asked for plentiful supplies of PPE and tests and had offered the money to pay for them, but found they were pulled into how to do this at a time of world scarcity and rapidly changing views of how to defeat the virus

Under Labour some hospitals had scandals over high death rates or poor levels of care. Ministers had not ordered those to take place, and had not designed policies likely to produce such results. Once these issues became important national arguments, they of course had to step in, make decisions, and take some blame. It went to prove that in what can become a very centralised large service it is difficult to keep responsibility and remedial action at the local level, even though it was individual hospitals that created these problems.

It would be good to sharpen Whitehall’s focus on delivery again, and to learn from recent experiences in adapting a large public service to the hostile conditions of Covid 19. The call for better data is also a wise one. Often in the public sector the data is there but it it is not available to decision takers in a timely and accessible way, or it comes in data series where the basis of computation is not properly understood. The data at the regular press conferences on the pandemic kept changing with different definitions and different aggregates, which made good decision taking more difficult.

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  1. Mark B
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    What a good read. Thank you Sir John. I especially enjoyed reading the second paragraph and, to labour a point I made sometime ago, I think this government would benefit from a few wiser heads in it.

    There are many problems with the Civil Service and we all can draw our own long list of what we might think should be done. But I think it is time that the government seriously looked at the culture of that body of people. These people, like MP’s, are in receipt of the UK taxpayers money. They are, and need reminding that, they are servants of the Crown and her subjects. It is ‘we’ the people that give them reason to exist and I sometimes really do wonder if they all have lost sight of that ?

    Our membership of the EEC / EU has been nothing but a malign cancer in our society, an organisation made up of, and for, civil servants that seeks power. it allows our own CS, via the EU, to create policy that the people and government of this country may not want and can be very detrimental to its well being. Leaving the EU is not the end but the beginning of the process and, having a functional CS that works solely in the interests of this nation is key to bright and prosperous future. Our government has had its hands bound too often and for far too long. We voted to break the Gordian Knot of the EU and the power that our CS had over us.

    Remember ! No man can ever serve two masters. The CS has been serving both the EU and itself and not the HMG for the last 50 years, it is time now for those in the CS to choose. Stay and work for us or, Leave and find pastures new.

    • Sharon Jagger
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      An excellent article written by Sir John and an equally insightful response by Mark B!

      I agree with the sentiment of having a few wiser heads in government. There are plenty ‘out there’ who have been writing in to government with policy ideas throughout the Brexit years. Why not take them and their wise words on board?

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Sharon. Indeed. If only the government would consider many of the excellent ideas put forward on this diary the UK would be in a better place. With all the experience of business and life we would make a better job.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      Your last paragraph is only applicable where the analogous masters supposedly have absolute power, which is not the case for any service provider working for a range of clients in civil society.

      It is therefore nonsense.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        So you are unaware that all EU Commissioners swore allegiance to the EU and many were Privy Councillors too? But the. We have not been living in a ‘civil society’ but in a vessel state where even our Queen was a common citizen of the EU.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted July 1, 2020 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          The Oath taken by Commissioners refers expressly to what they do in the capacity of that Office.

          It requires no contradiction with any other undertaking or belief which they might have.

          If they do not believe that every Commissioner should serve the whole European Union and not just their own nation, then why would they apply for a job which is defined exactly as requiring that?

    • IanT
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Very well put – and in the case of at least one senior Civil Servant, it looks like the decision has finally been made for him, although the “pastures new” have been softened with a dollop of milk and honey…and a peerage

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink


    • Ian Wragg
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      The Civil Service loves the EU because it gives them a chance of advancement with like minded people.
      They can gold plate rules and regulations to show Brussels how clever they are.
      The whole public sector wants ridding of this pernicious cancer that is slowly destroying our lives.
      Immigration, police,education and a myriad of Quangos need clearing out.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        David Cameron already had a bonfire of the QUANGOs.

        Unfortunately it rained and he couldn’t get the bonfire going.

        • Fedupsoutherner
          Posted June 30, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

          Brilliant comment Mike

    • DavidJ
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Excellent points Mark.

    • M Davis
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      ++ Mark B!

  2. Emma
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    The Conservative party has been in government for ten years. So every criticism that Gove makes is a criticism of the Conservative party. We are all sick of pretty speeches and media spin, do something useful or let Starmer have a go

    • NickC
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Emma, Starmer is too busy kneeling to the BLM proto-marxist anti-semitic rioters to bother with doing anything useful.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Is that why he sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey?

        • NickC
          Posted July 2, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          Martin, Was that useful? It seems more for show, or to cement his own power base.

    • Original Chris
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      That is the stark truth, Emma.

    • Robert Mcdonald
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      The Civil Setvice has been incumbent for generations, and untouchable… until now I hope.

  3. Javelin
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Perhaps consider my theory of Self-Calibration. All successful
    natural systems, such as evolution, capitalism, democracy, justice are able to self calibrate. How they do this is through small balanced changes against the context of a validating environment. So DNA, votes or products are validated against an ecosystem, election or market.

    Key to self calibration is transparency, small changes and feedback. You do however need to make big changes to be able to do it in the civil services.

    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    When unionised State employees who are employed in an apolitical capacity start to act like political animals with political objectives then the fundamental nature and purpose of the public sector becomes warped. The focus becomes one of extending political influence and political power rather than delivering on public policy

    The BBC and the NHS are classic examples of taxpayer funded, public organisations that have become political assets of the unionised Left. That is unacceptable

    The solution? Ban all political activity in the public sector. Ban all political activity in all organisations that receive taxpayers money. Any employee of any political organisation should be sacked.

    Have the courage to de-politicise this nation (and its public institutions) and those political vested interests that have infected this most vicious client state that Labour’s been building and expanding (even in opposition) since 1997

    Ban and purge activist groups from the corridors of power. Why is it acceptable for parents to be sidelined when groups like the pernicious Stonewall are embraced?

    What is wrong with your party that when in government you embrace cultural Marxists who seek to destroy all that we are?

    Does your party have an illness of some form? Is it fear?

    Who now represents the moral majority? It isn’t poisonous Labour and it isn’t the Tory party. Both parties are a moral offence

  5. Nivek
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    “Ministers remained responsible for the policy…. Ministers do not expect to be making decisions about which cleaning services to use or how much protective clothing to buy.”

    I would like to see Conservative Party ministers explain how they take responsibility for ensuring that policy is administered in a way that is compatible with the Government’s duty to protect the right to freedom of expression, whether of the public in general, or of, say, medical professionals in particular.

  6. oldtimer
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that the starting point for effective action must be a clear set of objectives, followed by an assessment and selection of the most practical means of achieving them. The selected means need to define who does what, why, when and how supported by suitable milestones to measure progress and benchmarks to measure efficiency. The more this process can be delegated the better. In business the results are clearly measured by sales revenues and cash flows generated as well as by units sold, new customers gained and so forth. That discipline is unforgiving. Perform or fail. That discipline is lacking in the civil service because people are always on the move and responsibility is fudged, according to the Gove (Cummings) thesis. The challenge will be to change the prevailing culture.

  7. MPC
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    You can’t teach old dogs new tricks. There have been umpteen ‘delivery’ reviews and good practice guides down the years – I had a hand in some of them. HS2 proves change to be in vain. In the past when ministers took a major ‘political’ investment decision they at least had regard to a business case and option appraisals. Now such decisions are based on whim or expediency.

  8. Stred
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    God help us if the Civil Service delivered the policy that Michael Gove thinks is agreed policy. We would be into blackouts and bankruptcy. At least now we have ten years to work out the data and costings and realise that agenda 30 will be a disaster.

    • Original Chris
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Michael Gove is a loose cannon, in my view, and apparently seduced by the “green blob”. Something that would apparently have been unthinkable for him in an earlier “incarnation”.

      I believe Gove is after power, and will adapt in order to gain and keep power, hence his blatant “stabbing in the back” of Boris in the leadership campaign. I believe he is not the man to save the Conservative Party, but rather one who will hasten its demise.

  9. zorro
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Oh yes, I was going to mention that speech. Interesting that the first words related to Antonio Gramsci and his analysis of history from his prison cell. Tells you a lot probably about this government’s philosophical direction of travel – i.e not conservative


    • Original Chris
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      I fear it has not been Conservative for many years, Zorro. That is why the Left has had such an easy time in its march through our institutions, cementing its grip over the year.

      There is an insurrection by the far Left taking place in this country and our Tory politicians seem unable to see it, or unwilling to stop it. Perhaps that is because so many “Conservatives” in positions of power subscribe to the one world government agenda, which is actually based on communist principles. Thus so called Conservatives are apparently aiding and abetting this infiltration of our country and society by the Left, and the insurrection from within.

      Do not imagine that all these BLM protests and attacks against our heritage and way of life are not coordinated and funded. They are, and on a large scale. We are currently facing the biggest threat to our country and democracy, and we apparently do not have a leader who is courageous and principled enough to take the necessary action against this threat in order to defeat it. That is the problem with having a “progressive” Conservative, who subscribes to the globalist agenda, at the helm.

  10. Bryan Harris
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Something surely has to be done about the quality of advice that reaches ministers and Parliament. It can be seen to be ‘establishment’ advice because it is consistently biased. Experts are provided that support the status quo – there is no original thinking allowed to get as far as ministers desks.

    Sometimes it is easier to see these things when looking from a little way off – Up front it appears to be business as usual, but it is the ‘establishment’ view that is doing so much harm.
    The way justice has been turned on it’s head in recent years is but one example.
    As for implementation of ministerial directions – again it is clear that the ‘establishment’ view gets in the way and either waters down effectiveness or changes the direction.

    The two aspects of what the civil service do are closely linked to our failures as a country, whether it was extracting ourselves from the EU in a timely and reasonable fashion, or having rational reactions and policies for the virus.

    Rewarding good application and productivity is fine, but the opposite applies, or should do most strongly, and poor performances should result in removal.

  11. Martin in Cardiff
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    So, John, let’s get this right.

    You clearly imply that specific NHS hospital failings while Labour were governing were the then Government’s fault.

    Yet recently, the outrages of covid-infected people being discharged to care homes, and the inability of this country to equip front line staff with PPE – for instance – are entirely the responsibility of the NHS, or of the Civil Service, or of anyone except the Government, or so you appear to claim, I think.

    Could you clarify then, please, how the nature of government has changed in this country since that time, and for what it actually is now answerable, if anything?

    Thank you.

    • Richard1
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      read the piece again but a bit more carefully this time.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Comprehension not your strong point is it? How did you get through school?

    • dixie
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      You are wrong, read what John wrote again. In particular read his fourth paragraph slowly and carefully.

      Then, take a deep breath and apologise.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      A large plank of Tory or pro-Tory electioneering has been repeatedly to highlight the failings of hospitals under Labour and to attribute blame to the then government.

      John’s curious statement of the obvious – “that ministers did not order” whatever was done wrong – does little to counter the litany of earlier claims against the then government on a structural or systemic basis.

      I do not absolve the government of the day either then or now from a share of the blame. The extent of that would depend on a fair analysis of the facts.

      • dixie
        Posted July 2, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        What has your diversionary waffle to do with your false accusation that John “clearly implied” something when in fact he explicitly stated the opposite as can be clearly read in his fourth paragraph.

        And you have the gall to demand a “fair analysis of the facts”.

  12. agricola
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    If everybody recognises the following rules the system we theoretically have , after considerable pruning could work.

    1. The ultimate power is with the people, and in future this should be recognised more frequently. More referenda.

    2. MPs translate the wishes of the people into government policy which is then clarified and laid out by ministers. Ministers do not dictate in detail how purchasing in the NHS should work, only that it should work. Civil Servants (administrators) do this , and this is where responsibility for success or failure remains.

    3. Civil Servants are implementers of said policy within the constraints of the designated budget. They can advise, point out potential problems, but ultimately act as management. They are not, as at present, while members of the EU, there to act as creators of policy once we leave. Evidence is overwhelming that as creators and implementers of policy they put themselves in direct conflict with the electors. This they need to come to terms with or suffer “Heavy Rain.”

    My comments arise from how I understand it is supposed to work and an affection for the lessons portrayed in “Yes Minister.”

  13. Nigl
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    I think reform of the civil service went even further back to Harold Wilson who commissioned a report and tooK action. So Michael Gove is another in a long distinguished list.

    Obviously successive Ministers have done little to follow anything through so why should anything change this time? The blob always comes out on top.

    Instead of solely blaming the CS for your failures, part of why this has come out now I guess, you also need to look closer to home. Allied with the their changes has to be a far greater emphasis on performance management from ministers and the fact that of a 100 large projects few have KPIs shows the appalling state of affairs. You can show the money spent but no idea of its effect or efficiency.

    Ministers also need to go back to ‘school’.

  14. Nigl
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Ps. If you want more ‘other’ experience and skills from the ‘CS you should change your Tory candidate recruitment profiles. Law, politics, philosophy degrees etc, almost useless and we are seeing the results. Practical qualifications with provable business skills needed.

    Career politicians from Uni via special advisers to candidates without doing anything else is frankly not fit for modern purpose.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Spot on! The Constituencies must be free to freely nominate their own candidates, as they were.

    • Original Chris
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      President Trump has just passed an Executive Order to change recruitment to the Federal government. It will have profound implications, I believe:

      “President Trump is transforming the Federal hiring process to replace degree-based hiring with skills-based hiring. From a tweet by the White House:
      “Unnecessary degree requirements exclude otherwise qualified Americans from federal employment and disproportionately harm low-income Americans. President Trump’s executive order will help more talented, capable Americans pursue careers in civil service!”

      Also from the White House website:
      “Our moral obligation is to the American workers, and we’re committed to helping them climb that great ladder of success.
      President Donald J. Trump
      MODERNIZING FEDERAL HIRING: President Donald J. Trump is transforming the Federal hiring process to replace one-size-fits-all, degree-based hiring with skills-based hiring.
      President Trump is signing an Executive Order requiring Federal agencies to focus hiring on the skills job seekers possess, rather than focusing on whether they earned a college degree.
      The order requires Federal agencies to revise and update outdated Federal job qualification standards and candidate assessments, improving the quality and competency of the civil service….”

  15. Ian @Barkham
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    As with Government itself Whitehall for the last 40 years or more it has been bogged down with being a local State Council, not a machine for driving a independent modern democracy.

    The consequence is we have lost a generation of expertise and the depth of ability and knowledge to get past go.

    We have also lost the ability to trust the people, lost the thinking that free the people and they will make it work. As with Parliament the Government machine(Whitehall) is to big to bloated. The UK needs to pass more of the internal day to day activities down to were the job gets done. Parliament needs to be significantly smaller and reflect it is a coordinating body internally, primarily focused on external issues.

  16. Adam
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Payment by Results would deliver a Civil Service achieving what is worth paying for.

    • Robert Mcdonald
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      As long as the results being achieved are not the wordiest report or the most boring pontification. But it is the Civil Service, all talk and no action.

  17. agricola
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Littlejohn in the Mail is worth reading on this subject this morning. Colourful but on the money.

    • ukretired123
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Yes esp Sedwell pushing Huawei contrary to Britain’s security esp as our National Security Advisor unbelievable esp declaring his stated vindictiveness….

  18. Sakara Gold
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    The NHS may be over-managed. There are layers and layers of middle management, many of whom may be medically qualified/experienced but few who have private sector management expertise; we could probably do without PHE completely.

    What is needed are more beds, more nurses and more doctors. And more ICU. If we divert our limited resources sensibly in these areas, we will be better prepared for what may be a bad winter for the NHS.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      The complexity is essential, so that no one can be held to blame with any certainty when things go wrong, and lives are lost or blighted – especially the ministry of politicians, who supposedly oversee the whole thing.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        It is absurd to expect a single politician to micro manage a whole department. Which is what you imply if you expect a politician to take responsibility for every failing.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          You are making a False Opposition. No one seriously expects that.

          However, if after ten years say, under a given government’s watch, there are still systemic or structural failures, then fair-minded people will question whether they can absolve themselves of all responsibility for that – as seems to be the intention here.

          That is quite a different thing.

          • a-tracy
            Posted July 1, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

            Hancock needs to check his outline rules for say the purchase of PPE that he or rather his predecessor issued to the devolved Health organisations across England and Wales, and ask for a report on what they had at the start of the crisis and what stocks were missing.

            Hancock then needs to look at all the suppliers that it has been suggested put the PPE contracts out to tender to and see which ones let PHE down and remove their contracts if they are deemed negligent.

  19. Tabulazero
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Since when the Conservative party is in power ?

    since 2010.

    Blaming it all on Labour or the civil service after a decade in power is a bit rich.

    The problem with the politicization of the higher echelon of the civil service is that it will lead to the promotion of yes men.

    Why speak the truth to power when your future is in the hand of a politically appointed minister, especially when the latter is one who is more interested in staying on message as part of a semi-permanent campaign rather than fix problems ?

    You might like this system better as a politician but it remains to be seen whether it will actually deliver better public service.

    Look at David Frost. What has he achieved in the negotiations ? Absolutely nothing. Yet he gets promoted. A clear case of failing upward.

    • NickC
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Tabulazero, What Frost has achieved (obviously backed by Boris and Cummings) is lifting the UK up off our knees.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Cummings and Johnson are intellectual dwarves compared with Frost, and yet he has materially achieved relatively little, exactly as the Remain campaigns said would be the case.

        However, They Need Him More Than He Needs Them.

  20. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    “The data at the regular press conferences on the pandemic kept changing with different definitions and different aggregates, which made good decision taking more difficult.”

    I have to confess I was staggered at just how poor quality and slow this was. If it’s indicative of the usual input of information, it is no wonder such poor decisions are made at the top. Of course, if that’s not available to key decision makers, then we really are at square 1.

    There is so much opportunity with IT to massively improve and speed up data input and therefore decision making. It’s obvious with the NHS sending out duplicate letters for appointments that they don’t get it. Somehow part of this enormous so-called investment has to be put into data generation and data sharing.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Can you imagine a supermarket still delivering huge quantities of Spam to its stores because it didn’t know data about its customers? We get personalised ads on Google but somehow our health situation and threats are as clear as mud to us.

    • Fred H
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      you misunderstand. Its all designed to be changing so comparisons are difficult.

  21. Lifelogic
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Richard Littlejohn has it right today – why on earth was Sir Humphrey (and the rest) not fired the day Boris took office? After the appaling mess May and these people made of things.

    I will take a look at Gove’s lecture but I find it impossible to take the man seriously. He was the man who inflicted Apeaser May on the nation (and cost me my wager on Boris first time). He has clearly fallen for the greencrap lunacy of the Greta types (such are English graduates in the main just no science, logic or numeracy).

    Then the lefty dope even suggests putting VAT on to private school fees (when parently already pay three times over). Exactly the reverse of this is needed – some tax breaks or top up education vouchers (to augment the numbers at private schools) is what is required. Thus lifting the load of state schools giving people freedom and choice and driving up standards.

    A similar approach is needed with the NHS and health provision.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      when “parents” and the lift the load “off”

  22. turboterrier
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you Sir John for confirming what we (well most of us) already thought we knew about the roles of ministers and Health Trust Officials and owners of care homes .It is a tragedy that the press and media after all their experiences still do not understands how the country and parliament should operate. What is an even bigger tradegy is those who are responsible will not beheld accountable.

  23. oldtimer
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I should have added another step – feedback of results and course correction to get back on track towards the objective. If no one “owns” a project this focus will likely be lost. Waste is the consequence.

  24. Lifelogic
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Jeremy Hunt on radio 4 just now. Telling us how wonderfully well the NHS has coped. The interviewer should have said:- Well Jeremy if this is so why did four times as many people die in the UK (as a % of those tested positive) as in Germany?

    Why did about 20% people catch Covid in hospital? Why did they kick people out into care homes without testing into care homes killing far more? Why have they stopped so my other normal medical services?

    But this being the NHS worshiping BBC we got nothing remotely like this needless to say.

  25. James1
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    “A service like the NHS has long had professional and medical management running it. “

    Yes, but the difference is that when people working in the productive private service fail they are at risk of losing their jobs. Failure in the public sector as often as not results in larger budgets being awarded.

  26. Nigl
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    And finally. The London olympics budget was under estimated by 100% and then brazenly spun as a success, couldn’t we all do anything if money is no object? Crossrail, budget out of control, Network Rail similar, TFL needing a bailout with the Mayor pouring out money like water, Ministers admitting that they had lost control of HS2 spending and as ever promising to do better next time. That’s probably close to 200 billion pounds. Add MOD procurement, umpteen computer project failures, the NHS etc and multiply over decades, that is trillions, you politicians have allowed to be wasted.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  27. a-tracy
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Mr Smyth in an article from The Times that popped free into my news feed this morning wrote; ‘Government has to get local leaders onside”. Who are these local leaders? I don’t consider my local Councillors ‘local leaders’ I’d trust the Doctors surgery panel on advise about covid before I’d trust a political leader (although local surgeries haven’t exactly been very patient friendly or informative throughout the last three months) nor would I trust a mayor with their own anti-government agenda.

    Or are the ‘local leaders’ he means people not on the public payroll or aware, or even necessarily need to be aware of all the statistics coming out about local outbreaks. Like the blm leaders. Let’s not forget they had 4000 people protesting in Leicester 6.6.2020. And the virus is reported to be amongst the young who could have taken it home to their families.

    Too many chefs spoil the broth and I believe we need one department to focus just on this outbreak problem and nip it in the bud wherever it raises its head in a spike of cases.

    • a-tracy
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      One other interesting point on this issue in Leicester I saw lots of tweets that showed evidence the local Leicester council had translated COVID advice into multiple languages for the local community as had the Leicester NHS website, so what was the local mayor and other interviewees going on about ignorance of rules on the news?

  28. Will in Hampshire
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Mr Gove could do worse than organise a round of focus groups or two with ambitious civil servants themselves. Unless he’s clear about how they think he won’t get far. What do they believe they have to do to reach the top? Is it more prestigious to be head of a delivery agency or head of policy in a department?

  29. oldwulf
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    The implication is that public sector management is not fit for purpose.

    The solution is self evident.

  30. Irene
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    “Reforming how Government works requires ministers who can reform themselves. ” The best line of all from Gove’s lecture. Add in a dollop of humility, an overdose of honesty, a shedload of kindness and caring and he’ll be on the right track with his attempt to reform. Plus compulsory language lessons for all MPs, removing much of the condescension that oozes from the pores of far too many who abuse their position of power. In the words of John Donne : no man is an island entire of itself.

  31. Caterpillar
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    An interesting piece. There is some danger that such discussions could be interpreted as shifting blame – there is little space for taking responsibility when Govt follows expert advice and the CS executes. I think to have open discussion and change then this Govt needs to demonstrate openness. For example it needs a mea culpa moment, admitting the lockdown and furlough policies were wrong and hugely damaging to the economy, and certainly the policy drift from staying within NHS capacity to local lockdowns to eradicate the virus.

    Three points I have read / heard on CS,

    1) Blair’s move to advisers effectively forced a defensive response from the CS, changing the relationship between Govt and CS forever.
    2) sometime around 2 or so decades ago the CS recruitment became viewpoint narrower and intellectually shallower.
    3) At lower levels the CS shifted from low pay and high hours (whatever was needed to get things done), but secure with early retirement and good RPIed pensions to high pay, lower hours, reduced benefits. There was a shift from a duty (the honour of service) ethos rewarded in later life to a ‘bog standard’ job (just a servant) and with this things didn’t / don’t get done.

    All of the 3 above are likely tittle-tattle, but nevertheless are consistent with wrecking the relationship, quality and culture.

  32. bigneil(newercomp)
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Will any new laws have to be checked out by the mega rich footballers first?

  33. jerry
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “Ministers do not expect to be making decisions about which cleaning services to use or how much protective clothing to buy.”

    No, but they DO make the national policy that affects regional or local decision making, such as the contracting out of NHS cleaning services, how PPE supplies are bought (centrally, regionally or locally), in what quantity and from where etc. – the same happens with LAs, such as the contracting out refuse collection, and with LEAs etc – often loosing local accountability in the process even those it will be the local politico or public official who get the blame when things go wrong.

    Sorry, but the buck stops with the govt and Departmental Minister of the day [1], stop trying to shift blame downwards, the civil service, NHS, LAs, LEAs etc. do not make the national policies they are forced to work to.

    [1] nor can a Minister carry on blaming the previous govt infinitum, it might wash for a year to 18 months but not, as the Cameron & May governments tried, 10 years. Hence why Boris, having been caught in perfect storms not of his making since taking office, is now rightly trying to distance his govt from his predecessors keystone “Austerity” policy!

    • a-tracy
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      I didn’t realise the Health Minister made a decision on how PPE supplies are bought, is all over England and Wales? Does Scotland and Northern Ireland choose for themselves?

      What does the Health Minister do exactly does s/he identify a list of suppliers they can choose from having put it out to tender and after checking if their products meet the basic requirements?
      Does s/he tell them how much they can spend or does each hospital/regional health department decide the amount they can spend on PPE?

      • jerry
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        @a-tracy; I never said the SoS at the DHSC buys PPE, I said the UK govt makes polices that PHE then have to work to, whilst the devolved govts make devolved policy that their equivalent health bodies work to.

        I suppose you think it was PHE making CV19 decisions the last 12 weeks, not DHSC, Cabinet and No.10.

        “What does the Health Minister do exactly does s/he identify a list of suppliers they can choose from”

        Actually in some cases that is EXACTLY what govt Departments do, hence all the fuss about 5G and Chinese involvement!

        “Does s/he tell them how much they can spend”

        In some cases yes, they divide up their budget, their spending limit having been set by the Chancellor….

        • a-tracy
          Posted July 6, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          I read there were millions of pieces of PPE that went missing.

          I do think that Public Health England were responsible for keeping the stocks that the government said they needed to keep the question is – did they store the correct amounts?

          I think that Public Health England did inform the government that they required lots more ventilators for example, that they were worried about the number of beds they predicted they needed and so Nightingale hospitals were created unnecessarily. It will be interesting to actually read in the future which experts made all of these suggestions to the Minister of Health, I’m quite sure Matt Hancock didn’t just dream these things up alone.

  34. Iain Gill
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    For me the NHS and MOD (and military) is just as bad as the Civil Service that Mr Gove describes, and has exactly similar problems, if not worse. And similar problems out in local government and education. And worst of all the FCA and Financial Ombudsman Service. So it is a wider problem throughout the public sector.

    Of course Mr Gove’s speech has been previewed on Dom’s web blog over years, and various speeches Dom has made. None of it is new to anyone who has regularly read Dom’s blog.

    Dom is significantly correct in his analysis of the problem with the public sector. The status quo cannot be allowed to trundle on, it needs breaking up, far more competitive pressure and real power in individual citizens hands (where it should be handed and away from the state). Yep moving the military officers every few years so none of them ever gain any specialist knowledge in much of anything, and only the senior NCO’s keep the show on the road, and similar elsewhere in the public sector is a massive problem.

    The rubbish procurement is worse than the analysis, and far too subject to fashions, none of which understand the real problems. Government Digital Service has been a real force for failure, its advice often worse than doing nothing, so beware of favoured friends of Conservatives in high places. The fashion to break up big public sector outsourcing contracts misunderstands a lot of the real issues, and again is making things worse in practice.

    Dom’s view that we need high levels of immigration, that we need high numbers of students, and we need to allow high numbers to remain after studying is wrong in my view for a lot of reasons. As is his view that high numbers of Indian nationals should continue to be allowed in working for the outsourcers, we should be using local staff.

    Dom’s attachment to some recent tech is laughable, especially as he is an arts grad understanding little of the hype curve and really implementing improvements. His faith in the white heat of tech is simply wrong. On the other hand people with a science education should be at least 50% of the senior levels of the public sector, as should people who spent their formative years actually delivering stuff.

    Dom misses that we need to protect our national intellectual property much more, as its the only thing (together with the quality of our people) that stops us being 3rd world. Allowing our IP to leak ever faster to competitor nations which can undercut us with cheaper people, cheaper safety kit, cheaper anti pollution kit, cheaper electricity, etc is not good.

    Dom misses that the way the whole “green” agenda does little but move production to countries which use cheaper less good anti pollution kit, from where we import the output, pushing up net world pollution. We need to be sensible in our anti pollution approach, and much more multi lateral.

    Dom nearly, but not quite, says the discrimination against white working class accents, even when they are highly qualified and skilled, is outrageous. I would be good if he (and the Conservatives) had a joined up message on that and pushed for a genuine meritocracy. He sort of gets it partially when he uses “Northern” as a placeholder for what he is trying to say.

    But hey anything is better than the status quo.

  35. glen cullen
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Establish electronic voting
    Relocate parliament to the midlands
    Establish an fully elected house of lords
    Reduce number of MPs & lords as percentage of region (4 MPs & 1 lord per 100,000)
    Remove all party foreign interest groups
    Reduce numbers on a committee to 6 members
    Pass law that party manifesto promises have to be implemented within 1 year or hold another general election
    No civil servant nor MP can have peerage see 4th point
    Every MP to produce an online schedule of MPs work

    • glen cullen
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Working hours 9-5 mon-fri
      Week 1-3 at parliament week 4 at constituent

      • Fred H
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Sir John would think he’s semi-retired at those hours!

  36. ukretired123
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “They work for us”?
    No they don’t!
    1. Civil Service
    2. BBC
    3. EU
    All dysfunctional with arrogant entitlement forgetting who pays them.
    Sadly they are incapable of recognising this and reforming themselves.
    In 50+ years things have moved on but these have added layers of crusts and barnacles.
    Meanwhile the Private Sector groans under their bloated influence.

    They need drastic pruning in synch with the Private Sector which will experience the great hardships of times long ago. While the BBC highlighted austerity non-stop 24/7 (since New Labour’s car crash 2007/8) they themselves have been unaffected largely growing to Salford and squeezing our local newspapers like a game of monopoly instead. Time for change indeed!

    • ukretired123
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      “What good for the goose is good for the gander” – old saying.
      “What’s good for the gander is good for the goose too!” Post-CV19 .

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink


    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      If you ring Companies House currently they have a message saying something like “our main concern is the safely of our staff so we have shut the enquiry phone lines down”. At least they are honest.

      They might as well have added “so just piss off you people who pay for all our wages”.

  37. Everhopeful
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Whole new set of data will be needed for the next pandemic. Whispers out of China about a virus that has “made the leap” from pigs this time ( leaving the bats out in the cold!)
    Numbers of cases…how to identify…how to test for…length of imprisonment…..endless fun!
    Fool me once etc.
    Adjust blinkers and yet again be “Guided by the science”.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Make foreign travel illegal. Just think, the only country in the world without the virus.

      • NickC
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        Mike W, Actually, it was nonsense to lockdown the country without locking down our borders back in March.

        And once the death toll rollover was confirmed, in early April, as not a consequence of the lockdown we should have lifted it.

    • Fred H
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Methinks their Lab leaks like a sieve.

  38. JoolsB
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    No doubt Sedwell was given a King’s ransom for being sacked this week only to be given another job with gold plated perks at taxpayers’ expense to keep him and his Civil Service chums happy. And why stop at the Civl Service? When is any government going to have the guts to cut the massively expensive and pampered bloated public sector? How many of them have had the worry of losing their jobs during the lockdown? Not one I’ll warrant. And whilst we’re at it, whatever happened to 650 MPs being reduced to 600? Why are 117 part time UK MPs on full salaries and perks still allowed to pontificate and vote on matters relating only to England?

    The whole system needs shaking up but that would take a PM of Mrs. T’s ilk which pathetic Blue Labour Governments masquerading as Conservatives under Cameron, May and now Johnson unfortunately are not.

    • Mark B
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 5:12 am | Permalink


      There is no alternative. Blue Labour is busy trying to steal New Labour’s clothes and voters. All to keep them in there jobs. They really are not going to upset the apple cart by doing something useful. Change, as we witnessed in the EU elections will only come when another party offers us a real choice.

      All we can do is keep going and add more voices to our cause.

  39. NickC
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Why send information all the way up the chain of command, so a decision can be taken at the top, and then sent all the way down the chain of command? Why not take decisions at the same level as the information?

    “Pull” systems, whilst primarily developed for discrete manufacturing, can be used in administrative processes, and even in hospitals. It is time that the civil service – and especially branches of government such as RNHS – stepped away from the top-down, authoritarian style of management, and adopted the “Pull” system instead.

  40. Lifelogic
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I have now read Gove’s rather tedious, track jumping & rather long winded and lecture. I am unimpressed lots of words and not much content but then that is more politician for you. Why use three words when you can use 300?

    At one point he says: “And the Covid epidemic has also, tragically, underlined the racial and ethnic inequalities in many societies, not least our own in the United Kingdom. The disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities is both heartbreaking and a reproach. “

    What complete drivel – is the fact that more men die by circa 2 to 1 a “reproach” to us or that older people (or people with blood group A or bald people) are more affected yet another “reproach” to us? Is it even true that BAME people are adversely hit when compared with others living in similar areas, similar conditions and doing similar jobs we do not have the figures for this meaning the figures are rather pointless. A rather shoddy job done for political reasons it seems.

    BAME is a very, very diverse collection different types with very different genetic backgrounds anyway. If there is some higher genetic susceptibility for some of these groups it is very sad but it is hardly anybody’s fault is it?

    Some have suggested low vitamin D levels might be a cause. No harm in popping a few tablets down or getting a bit more sunshine. I suppose.

    • Mark B
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 5:06 am | Permalink

      He ignores the very simple fact that viruses do not discriminate.

  41. Iain Moore
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    “Ministers often were not shown the key data any business person would expect”

    You do wonder if that is happening now, this Leicester situation appears a farce, the data of Covid infections would appear to be a state secret. What is going on? Right from the off I said that we needed to know where the infections were so we could take preventative measures, but no, nothing appears to have improved over the last three months, even local Government officials aren’t getting the data. Why can’t we see the real time data of Covid infections? What is it , are the Government, PHE , Civil Service on some sort of power trip, where they think as they control the data they make us beholding to them and their rotten decisions?

    • forthurst
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      The Arts graduates who run government and the civil service decided that it was best to bypass the skills available for testing in pathology departments, universities, and research institutes such as Francis Crick and set up ‘Lighthouse Labs’ with staff recruited from scratch instead. The consequence has been a serious delay when only symptomatic in-patients were being tested at all; now turnround is too slow to help with track and trace and a high proportion of tests are anonymised either by accident or design so active cases cannot be notified, but Hancock can still boast about how many tests he’s done.

      As to the track and trace, there again the Arts graduates decided to ignore local infectious disease tracing capability and set up a national programme recruited from scratch yet again run by the private sector (an Arts graduate).

      With the economy opening up, we can look forward with foreboding to a resurgence of disease in many areas because local people with local knowledge have been by-passed and the central data is too inadequate and delayed to be of practical use to deal with new clusters of disease in a timely fashion.

    • NickC
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Iain Moore, Yes, indeed, top-down mania appears to have infected the government. Instead, the information should be freely available to allow us to take the decisions.

    • Mark
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      You may well ask. According to the PHE official data there have been a total of 1,059 recorded cases in Leicester. Here’s a daily chart of them taken from their data:

      Whilst it looks as though cases aren’t completely dying out, they seem to remain stuck at an average of about 5 a day. Certainly no evidence of a second spike on these data. Their peak on April 4th was just under 25 cases a day taking a 7 day average.

  42. Dennis
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Sorry it bit off topic – change the PMQ rules. Not counting the leader of the opposition who can ask 5 questions let all others use 2.

    As the PM knows no one can have a comeback so he can say nothing sensible or rubbish which is often the case. With another go members can say the question was not answered or was not pertinent etc. This will sharpen the proceedings I think.

    Less PMG time is better than more rubbish time.

  43. hefner
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    So the giant Kim Jon Sohn is actually much smaller than his shadow. Who would have thought such a thing? Compared to FDR New Deal, BJ’s ‘generosity’ is 10 to 15 times smaller than his present great man’s.

    • NickC
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Hefner, Kim is the surname. As in Jon Sohn Arex (I gave up on Boris).

  44. Original Richard
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I find it extraordinary that I never seem to read of any civil servant being sacked for incompetence, malfeasance, corruption or misbehaviour.

    How is this possible with a headcount of over 400,000?

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Even Sedwell has gone to the Lords. Hopefully the Lords will be abolished shortly, easy decision, the real Lords are long gone, shutting their House is a no-brainier.

    • Andy
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Have you looked for it though?

      The ONS publishes interesting stats about the civil service.

      There were just over 445k civil servants as of March 2019.

      Less than 90k work in London.

      1 in 4 works part time – which is more common among women and older workers.

      The biggest department is DWP. Paying all those pensions is labour intensive.

      Around 2,400 civil servants were dismissed.

      And their median salary is £27k. Hardly gold plated. Facts are awkward.

      • a-tracy
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Interesting Andy I’ve never thought to look, there are about 10 similar size regions in the UK yet London alone employs double their share.

        If 25% work part-time then the median salary is high, it would be better represented pro-rata based on a 35 hour week. Then they should add in the full sick pay insurance cover, the extra days holiday over 28 starting around 7 extra days and going up and up. Then the 20-25% employer’s gold star pension contribution.

    • glen cullen
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      How dare you even in jest suggest such a thing…..they should all be promoted

  45. DavidJ
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    “A service like the NHS has long had professional and medical management running it.”

    In my recent experience that management has been totally unfit for purpose, aided by badly designed IT systems and a proportion of staff not fit to do the job either. Add to that the disastrous PFI projects and only a top to bottom reform will make it fit for purpose.

    The sacred cow approach needs to be abandoned; a ground up examination and redesign is needed, including evaluation of the various private companies milking it, with a view to making it sustainable in the long term.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Just copy from a country with a health system that works, like Australia. Dont let them reinvent the wheel again.

      and yes the top of the NHS and MOD is as bad as the civil service. hierarchical, biased in favour of public school Oxbridge arts grads. perfectly easy to get on with no delivery experience. etc

      NHS is a disgrace.

      • Fred H
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        A disgrace — NO! Management might be but the average nurse and surgeon are first class!

      • NickC
        Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        NHS management is a disgrace.

        • glen cullen
          Posted July 2, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          The problem is…there is no management, the workers have taken over

      • Lifelogic
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 5:13 am | Permalink

        +1. Simon Stevens never impresses me in the slightest. I wonder what subject he read at Balliol – oh yes PPE yet again.

        It is interesting to hear BBC favourite Jeremy Hunt nowadays, he does almost seem to realise the very many problems of the dire state monopoly NHS structure. How for example they cover up the very many appalling errors made daily by the appalling system then repeat them. Yet he did very little in his many years as health secretary to rectify this.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted July 1, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          Yes, makes a change from erstwhile BBC favourite Nigel Farage.

    • forthurst
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      I have just checked the management of my local health authority and the Chief Executive is not medically qualified and of the other executive directors and non-executive directors, I can only identify two who have medical qualifications out of twelve. As to professional management, there does not appear to be a clearly identifiable skill or skillset in common apart from ‘experience’ and that applies equally from the Minister level down in all government departments.

      As with the rest of the public service at every level, the NHS is top heavy with people without a skill which identifies them as qualified for their roles and what is more, there are far too many of them.

    • graham1946
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but not by the Tories. They did a complete re-design in 2012 which is what we have now. Take health and education out of political control where amateurs who know nothing tinker and experiment trying to make a name for themselves to the detriment of the users and the tax payers.

  46. George Brooks.
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    This is a huge subject and the overall standard of service has gone steadily down hill since 1990. Mrs Thatcher was the last PM to run the country, Sir John Major hung on to being PM by his finger nails and Blair came along with absolutely no experience of running anything, except possibly a hot bath, and handed the real work over to the Civil Service. He inflicted a lot of damage on the system through ignorance and inexperience allowing the CS to gradually take over and run the country from behind the scenes. This continued whilst Cameron was PM and then from August 2016 to August 2019 they had to run the country as no one else was.

    The whole central CS needs to be thinned out and revitalised as it has become over-maned and over layered with too many departments protecting their own vested interests. This happens in ‘multi-nationals’ and they have a clear out and realignment regularly so it should not be any different for Whitehall.

    There is only one place to start and that is right at the top which Boris and his team has done. The next step is to move as many of the departments as possible out of London which will enable the dross to be shed and for them to be rebuilt with vastly reduced head counts and equipped with 2021 technology and systems

    • Mark B
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 5:00 am | Permalink

      This was the plan all along. With every successive treaty we would lose more and more power to Brussels leading to a Parliament that was no more than an empty shell and a nation no longer able to self govern.

      We are getting out just in time.

  47. Remington Norman
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    John, you are too kind to the NHS. The front line is excellent but the back office substandard. Too many managers, many overpaid, external financial and management consultants employed in addition, poor procurement (eg paying £29 for Melatonin tablets which cost £1.49 retail), massive overtime costs for GPs at £3000+ per session etc. The NHS has no idea of economic prudence and lacks accountability.

    It is indeed short of front-line staff, but is in urgent need of reform of its administration. PHE has shown itself to be well below competence during this pandemic and also needs restructuring.

    It’s about time that politicians accepted the truth that much of the publically funded sector is complacent, overpaid and incompetent. This is not the time for tinkering at the edges – a wholesale shake up and slimming down is needed of departments and Quangos.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      As you say:- It’s about time that politicians accepted the truth that much of the publically funded sector is complacent, overpaid and incompetent. This is not the time for tinkering at the edges – a wholesale shake up and slimming down is needed of departments and Quangos.

      Alas Boris cannot even bring himself to cancel HS2 or all the renewable subsidies. State monopolies or near monopolies (like the NHS, state schools, the BBC and many others) have little of no incentive to be efficient. So they are not and will never become so.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      The front line is sometimes excellent but sometimes appallingly inept, …… and very many people die or suffer as a direct result. Just google the very many NHS scandals. Shipman, Bristol, Stafford, Morecambe Bay, Gosport and very many more.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted July 1, 2020 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes – have you to hand any stats on how the UK compares with “similar” countries for such disgraces?

  48. Mike Wilson
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    If Cummings gets the unkempt one to rid us of the BBC licence fee I myself will start a Go Fund Me (?) page to raise the money for his statue.

    • Fred H
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      In current parlance – – he’s become a LEGEND.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      I would contribute but he would have to also cancel HS2, all subsidies for renewables and introduce fair competition and freedom of choice in healthcare, education and housing.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Permalink


    • NickC
      Posted June 30, 2020 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      And I’ll contribute.

  49. Fred H
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Hilarious. Mrs May angry that Mr Frost replaces Mr Sedwell.
    Pro -EU Sedwell for someone with balls!

    Theresa May has criticised the PM’s appointment of his Brexit negotiator to be his new national security adviser. Speaking in the Commons, she suggested David Frost did not have the required expertise or independence to succeed Sir Mark Sedwill in the role.
    Labour said the choice of Mr Frost, who is currently leading the UK’s trade talks with the EU, was “dangerous”. But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said Mr Frost was highly qualified and would be accountable to the PM. Mr Frost is a former civil servant, having left the Foreign Office in 2013 to work in the private sector.

  50. Alan Joyce
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    I have just listened to the former prime minister, Theresa May, question the appointment of David Frost as the new National Security Adviser.

    Without a hint of irony in her voice or the slightest glimmer of self-awareness as to the enormity of the mess that she made of her Brexit negotiations, the Right Honourable Lady thundered ‘Why is the new national security advisor a political appointee with no proven expertise in national security?” Now, I do not know how Mr. Frost will go on in his new job but, so far, I am pleased with what he is doing in his current one.

    We have to suffer the self-righteous mutterings of ex-prime ministers of all persuasions – Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron (to a lesser extent) and now this from Theresa May.

    Is there any chance you or a colleague could enter the ballot after the next new session of parliament and introduce a Private Members Bill to outlaw the right of former prime ministers to make pronouncements on anything and everything?

    I am sure the Bill would receive wide-ranging support – at least from those of us who weary of these tiresome ex-leaders.

    • Mark B
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 4:54 am | Permalink


      Be fair mate, they all want to try and beat Ted Heath’s record for the longest sulk in political history.


  51. Lynn Atkinson
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The unquestioned hero of Whitehall today is David Frost. We are within hours of running out of time to request an extension of the transition period, and he stands firm. That is why Mrs May is huffing and puffing today.
    Without Mr Frost I would have no hope for Whitehall.
    In the fullness of time, Mr Frost may well need a plinth!
    The other hero is of course POTUS – nice to know he was telling Mrs May to her face what millions of us told her through the ballot box – witness the Tories 6% in a national election. Never again should people of such small talent be allowed onto a Tory Candidates list. She is an all time national disgrace, our own Quisling.

    • Original Chris
      Posted July 1, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      I wholeheartedly agree, Lynn.

    • Mark B
      Posted July 2, 2020 at 4:51 am | Permalink


  52. Peter Parsons
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    One only has to look at some of the questions today about the new National Security Advisor coming from the Conservative benches to see the direction that those currently in charge wish to take things.

    No doubt these political appointees will end up being paid off at our expense when the next change of government comes along.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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