Tuesday 27 April 2021

Investigating Johnson will not be straightforward


‘Investigation’ and ‘review’ are curious words to use to describe the task which the PM has entrusted to the new Cabinet Secretary in respect of the expensive refurbishment of the PM’s flat in Downing Street. It amounts to an individual who knows (and may even be the only person who knows) exactly what happened asking someone who was not in post at the time and claims to know nothing to investigate and report the facts back to the person who already knows them anyway. One might expect that it ought to be a very quick process –the Cabinet Secretary simply needs to ask the PM what happened, write it down and then tell the PM.

However, it will apparently take a few weeks to conduct this review, according to the Cabinet Secretary. Never let it be said that the civil service machinery acts in haste. It could simply be that the PM is too busy personally phoning newspaper editors briefing them against his own current or former staff to find time to talk to the top Civil Servant. He does have a certain difficulty with prioritising his time, and we know, for example, that at the outbreak of the pandemic he was far too busy attending to the ‘complications’ of his private life to attend Cobra meetings. And it would certainly be convenient if the outcome were not to become known until after next week’s elections.

On the other hand, Simon Case probably didn’t get to the top of the Civil Service by simply believing what ministers tell him, and there are some obvious good reasons why the review might take some time. In the first place, he’s intelligent and observant enough to know that whatever the PM tells him is unlikely to be the whole and unembellished truth. And in the second place, writing a report which exonerates the PM – which is clearly what he’s expected to do – without compromising his own integrity would challenge the report-writing skills of any would-be Sir Humphrey. A few weeks might turn out to be an optimistic assessment.


dafis said...

Bending the truth to suit the needs of the day - kind of sums up what most of these senior servants do with their time. Real unembellished, unwarped truth would be such a novelty very few of us would believe it anyway.

Spirit of BME said...

Yes, I know what you mean,
The Boy Johnson is hanging on y the skin of his teeth and people are being bought in with managerial experience to steady the Downing Street ship.
In a way it`s not his fault, in that like so many politicians they have no experience of managing anything, like good teachers who become Headmasters.
With the billions that has gone walk- about throughout HMG`s on this island over the last year, one might be tempted to speculate that reeving up the ‘outrage machine’ that has no public money involved, might be a slight distraction, but on the other hand it does sell newspapers.