The UK Home Office civil war boils down to a matter of trust - GulfToday

The UK Home Office civil war boils down to a matter of trust

Tom Peck


Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.

Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.

Priti Patel

Priti Patel

We begin the column with an apology to a man called Tim Loughton, an obscure MP best known for leading 2016’s “Leadsom 4 Leader” march on parliament, which remains the single stupidest act in British political history.

(All kinds of civil rights groups and other protesters have held marches on parliaments, all over the world, for hundreds of years. The idea is that when you get to the gates of said parliament, you then make demands on the people on the other side of them – not, as was the case on this occasion, wave your security pass against the electronic barriers and head up to your office to read your emails.)

The most senior civil servant at the second largest government department, the Home Office, has resigned and is suing the government for constructive dismissal. The Labour Party was granted what is known as an “urgent question” on this subject in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

When the Home Office is clearly in open civil war, the home secretary herself accused of bullying, it is hard to imagine a more appropriate occasion on which the government should be required to explain itself.

Loughton, however, disagrees. His searing contribution to the afternoon’s discussion was to point out that, actually, none of his constituents have even heard of Sir Philip Rutnam, the now ex-permanent secretary at the Home Office (it would be childish to wonder how many of them have heard of Tim Loughton). The Labour Party, he insisted, has absolutely no right to ask what’s going on, because of coronavirus and floods.

So yes, I apologise to Loughton, for having the sheer temerity even to discuss the former head of the Home Office suing the government for constructive dismissal. Who do I think I am?

The question of Sir Philip’s resignation boils down to one of trust. Sir Philip has said he has been “the victim of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign”. In a statement broadcast on Saturday, he claimed he was assured by the home secretary, Priti Patel, that she was not involved in said briefing campaign, but added: “I regret I do not believe her.”

So we, the public, for whom the intricate details cannot be known, must simply decide who we believe. Is it the lifelong civil servant of high reputation, or Patel, recently sacked from the government for having clandestine meetings with the Israeli prime minister?

And of course, it should fall to none other than Michael Gove to come to the despatch box and defend the transparently indefensible as only Gove can. Patel is “a brilliant minister”, Gove declared. By his side sat Gavin Williamson, who had just taken education questions, and serving as a convenient reminder that Patel is by no means the only member of the current cabinet to have been sacked for being a danger to national security, only to find themselves back in the cabinet a few months later.

It is so very hard to know what we are meant to make of all this. Dominic Cummings has openly told blatantly racist lies and cost the country hundreds of billions in lost economic growth, just to get his hands on the civil service, which he imagines he can rebuild as some kind of tech startup, in accordance with some ideas about maths that he once taught himself in his basement, while unemployed and living off someone else’s money.

How does little Dommy Robinson himself feel, knowing that the vanguard of his big brain revolution are the likes of Patel, Williamson, Suella Braverman, Dominic Raab... the list goes and on and on and on and on.

Who knows. Who even cares anymore? They’d had enough of experts long ago, which is convenient, because it’s even longer since they ran out of them.

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