Friday, August 11, 2017

Public servants are Patel’s latest target

Priti Patel, the woman who is waiting for British Prime Minister Theresa May to make one more mistake so she can jump into the breach and drag the Conservative Party even further to the right, has been targeting the country’s public servants in her latest outburst.

Government workers’ pay rates are “crazy, wrong and out of step with pay for comparable posts in the private sector” she is claimed to have said (without actually defining what these ‘comparable posts’ might be) and “must be restrained”.

What really seems to irk her is that many senior public servants earn more than she and her Ministerial colleagues. Patel is one of those Members of Parliament, and there have been many down the years, who believe that Government Ministers should automatically be better paid than the people to whom they give orders.

In fact, any rational comparison between the work even a mid-range public servant has to do, compared with that of a Minister, would suggest otherwise.

When a Treasurer, produces a Budget in Parliament, has he sat down and worked out all the figures, making the policies proposed at least halfway affordable? Is Ms Patel as International Development Secretary, across every item of aid that goes to every country that her Department supports?

When Ms Patel sits in her office and signs the cheques, or rushes off to some donor country for photo opportunities, it is the workers in her department who have decided on the number of water purifiers and sacks of rice that can be afforded and from whom they can be purchased.

It is they who will decide what level of security she will need on her trips overseas and who provides it. They will even write the speeches she delivers to the grateful aid recipients.

In the past Ministers have always come back with the claim that they are ultimately responsible, and if public servants foul up it is the Minister that takes the hit. Yet how true is that in the modern political climate? How many Ministers actually resign these days over mistakes others have committed in their departments? Wriggling off the hook is a skill well practiced and honed to a fine art in today’s Government.

Of course Patel, who learned her politics at the knee of Margaret Thatcher, cannot help but hate public servants. It is in her DNA that they are a drain on the taxpayer, unproductive, lazy, their jobs protected from the ‘real world’ and so on.

She has accused top bureaucrats of having been too close to companies that have been awarded lucrative foreign aid contracts. This from a woman who has constantly advocated on behalf of the tobacco and alcohol industries and has sought to have bans that discourage smoking overturned.

One wonders how Patel would cope for one day without the support of the workers in her department. How her beloved Brexit would cope without hard working public servants trying to unravel the mess that her incompetent Front Bench colleagues are creating daily.

She should do no more than listen to the restrained response to her ranting from a Government spokesman: “The Civil Service deals with varied and complex issues and needs to attract, recruit and retain highly skilled individuals, which means it is sometimes appropriate to pay higher salaries.”


  1. As usual, your logic seems slightly weird. When you were an active journalist, for example, would you have expected to earn more than your editor on the grounds that you did more work? I accept that you have contempt for any Conservative, apart from the abject failure that was Edward Heath, but I'm equally pretty sure that you are not in favour of a workers' state. I, incidentally, am a lifelong Labour supporter who is delighted that my party is fully committed to leaving the undemocratic EU. PS: Still waiting for you to describe your alleged career in Northern Ireland, which I fear is, in fact, pure fantasy.

  2. To expand on my last point and for the benefit of new readers: As a journalist who was blown up on two occasions — once by the IRA and once by the so-called Unionists — I cannot say how much I resent being lectured about Northern Ireland politics by someone who, to the best of my knowledge, has never set foot in the province. If you dispute what I am saying, do not hesitate to provide your evidence.

  3. Belfast Telegraph and Linfield Football Club 1969-71.

  4. Further to this I really don't know why I have to justify myself or my background. Fortunately I still circulate in countries that have free speech enshrined in their constitutions and I will continue to write about affairs that interest me. I am sorry that you 'resent' my opinions, but you have two choices: Stop reading them, or get used to them.