I have recently been sent a copy of this interesting private email from Dr Spendlove of Special Projects to his civil service boss Dame Lucy Doolittle:
I think your memo asking us to find ways of co-operating with Labour in opposition to avoid the U turns and difficulties the Coalition government have experienced was a stroke of genius. I am so glad you persuaded me to stay on after the 2010 election when I was down in the dumps.
Your suggestion reminds people of all the mistakes of the Coalition politicians where they failed to listen to our good advice. Those failures did lead to a series of policy reversals, most notably with the latest budget, as with the sale of forests. It also implies that serious people in the civil service do not think they can win again, without being in any way disloyal. The civil service is at its best when it is loyal but prudent, working with our current masters but planning an orderly transition should that be the people’s wish. We do need to begin a serious process of preparing them for power, as some in Labour will also wish to rewrite the rules of government which have been so carefully constructed here at home with the help of the EU. They need to know in advance there is little scope for manoeuvre in the circumstances.
Meanwhile I am sure you are alert to outstanding business with the Coalition. Now we have succeeded in implementing our plan of public spending rises in cash and real terms in the first two years of the Coalition, the difficult years, we need to ensure that Ministers do not now implement the damaging cuts we have dissuaded them from so far. We left some very tight numbers in the more distant years in 2010. We now need to explain the political wisdom of quietly moving away from those. There is renewed interest in growth, and we can suggest to Ministers cuts now would not help it. All Ministers, will I am sure see the dangers of unpopular cuts ahead of an election. It was a nice touch to make sure official figures for the economy take full account of the likelihood that reduced levels of public spending growth have already damaged output. We can adjust them upwards later should it clearly emerge we have been a bit too cautious.
We need to be aware of a new stridency in the Conservative party over European matters. We need to ensure they are not able to opt of all those excellent Criminal Justice measures in the EU that we have helped create. There should be a majority in the current Parliament to keep them, and Labour will I am sure be understanding. I would be happy to be a secondee to Labour, as working with them might improve our mutual understanding on these sensitive issues. We also have a duty to brief Ministers of the importance of not trying to disrupt this autumn’s complex negotiations on keeping the Euro together with any demands for the UK to get powers back or have a looser relationship. This would be seen as very unhelpful by our partners and lead to a further loss of UK influence, which is bad enough thanks to our position on the Euro and banking matters.
I am pleased to report that several of our former colleagues have found good jobs in consultancies and other private sector areas where they can use their wisdom and skills well. They tell me it is not too bad out there, and they of course do have the nice advantage of the generous compensation Ministers so thoughtfully provided when we explained to them the complexities of their plans to slim down the civil service. I fear we will need to make more use of outside help again, now we have lost so much talent through the voluntary redundancy programmes.
Yours in hope of a new assignment