Simon Case, Sir Mark Sedwill’s replacement as Cabinet Secretary, has got off to a strong start in the job by sending an email to all civil servants boasting of his ‘profound sense of pride in our nation’s history”, telling Whitehall staff “We must maintain our dedication to honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.” Guido hopes counselling will be put in place for any distressed metropolitan mandarins at this time…
Following Boris’s remainer clear-out of permanent secretaries, some Conservatives hoped Simon Case and David Frost’s appointments marked the end of Whitehall’s hand-wringing: from telling civil servants to educate themselves in black culture; to emails on ‘Bisexual Awareness Month’; to the FCO head calling for the toppling of controversial statues. It seems Simon is on the case…
If serving my country is my first passion and horse-racing the third, my second great love—by a nose—is history. Before joining the Civil Service in my twenties, I had spent much of my time as a PhD student trawling the National Archives at Kew for previously secret Cold War intelligence material. I was fascinated, as I am still today, by the inner workings and decision-making of government and its supportive armies of public servants.
My profound sense of pride in our nation’s history and those people who help make it has only deepened this last month since I was appointed Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary. It is a huge privilege to lead over 450,0130 people and I am acutely conscious of the responsibility that comes with my role. Our Service has an enormous contribution and difference to make in supporting the country, the Crown and the Government of the day through an unprecedented time.
With the exception of a two-year spell working in Kensington Palace, my career has been spent in government departments, including the Northern Ireland Office, Foreign Office, GCHQ, and most recently as Permanent Secretary in No10, helping the Prime Minister as he leads our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And across the board, my experiences have turned me into a passionate advocate for the Civil Service and an admirer of what we achieve every day in the service of our country.
There is no doubt in my mind that we serve the public and government best when we remain true to our core values. We must maintain our dedication to honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity. When we apply those values in today’s context, we show ourselves to be an effective, evidence driven, adaptable and loyal Service. We do an ‘outstanding job’, as the Prime Minister recently put it.
As historians know, the story of a nation is not a simple timeline of events, but a complex chronicle of continuity and change. This has been a long and difficult year for our country. Many of you I’m sure will be feeling exhausted and, in keeping with the majority of people in this country, be longing for life to return to normal. If I have learnt anything throughout my career, it is that when our country is enduring challenging times, we step up, and you should all take real pride in the work you do. Yes we have to continue to evolve how we do our jobs, and we have already made great strides in doing so. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this and shown us how we can and must do things differently. What the country needs right now, today, is for us to carry on doing our jobs to the very best of our ability. It’s the most important thing all of us can do in the coming months. Ina crisis, the basics matter more than ever – we must focus on the core of our purpose and function.
So I want to finish by thanking you. Both in this role and previously at No10, I have seen firsthand the difference your efforts have made during this difficult time. Wherever you are reading this and whatever you are working on, my ambition is to make the Civil Service the best it can be, so that you have the power to deliver the finest possible public services and become a force for lasting change. I will be working with you every step of the way to help make this happen.
Look after yourselves and never forget what you can do for this country.