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Westminster sleaze

Give me Hacker over Sir Humphrey

How would Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey have handled the pandemic? 

We usually think of civil servants as “disinterested” and politicians as “venal”, says Daniel Hannan in The Sunday Telegraph. But giving more power to the Sir Humphreys in Westminster would be a disaster for competent government. “Britain’s scramble for testing kits and PPE” at the beginning of the pandemic, overseen by government departments, was a “fiasco”, with a “glut” of masks and gowns arriving after the first wave and reportedly clogging up our ports. But our vaccine procurement was “world-beating”: Kate Bingham called her industry contacts “on their private numbers rather than waiting for the rusty, screeching cogs of our administrative machine to turn”.

Bear this in mind when reading about texts between ministers and business leaders. Would it really be better for the country if these went through government channels? A “culture of compliance” would give more power to the civil service, which seems happy to let staff work for private companies and government simultaneously. In the past 14 months, “Ofqual messed up the exams, the police persecuted the wrong people, the post office hounded innocent postmasters, the Electoral Commission baselessly pursued Leave campaigners” and Public Health England “cocked up pretty much everything it touched. Yet we seem bent on making officials even less subject to democratic oversight.”

Read the full article here.