In Which They Serve

When the whole furore surrounding allegations of bullying was first made against Dominic Raab, I was reminded of a scene in the most recent series of ‘Happy Valley’. For those who recall the series aired earlier this year, it was when Catherine Cawood (the local Halifax police sergeant) was called to her grandson’s school when an allegation had been made by the PE teacher that Ryan had defaced his car with a marker pen. Catherine, her grandson Ryan, Mr Hepworth (the teacher in question), and Mr Baines the Headmaster, were all sat together in an office when the interrogation began. During a series of pointed questions, Catherine asked the two teachers what evidence they had to accuse her grandson. At one point, Catherine asked Mr Baines if he had asked Ryan to empty his pockets, to which Mr Baines replied: ‘I can’t do that’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYOpxEIYjn0&t=138s). 

That response caused me to gasp! Just imagine the gravity of a pupil under suspicion of daubing an obscenity on a teacher’s car with a pen, yet a Headmaster cannot infringe upon that pupil’s so-called ‘rights’ by demanding or even asking that he empties his pockets. When I was at school if a teacher told (not asked) you to empty your pockets, you emptied your pockets. And if you didn’t? Well, they emptied them for you. Could it be that we now have a new generation who were educated under such timidity when it comes to enforcing discipline, that they are totally unprepared for any sort of abrasiveness, directness or assertiveness from someone in a senior position in the world of work? If we have, and that is combined with the agenda of a powerful minority within the Civil Service to undermine ministers and policy with which they disagree, then we see the perfect combination of factors capable of stymying the manifesto commitments of this government, and future ones also.

Once the story leaked about Raab, the reaction of Left-leaning journos went in one of two directions. The first was to dismiss any accusation whatsoever that some in the Civil Service were out to undermine the government (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/may/01/civil-service-tory-ministers-politicians-dominic-raab). In their view it was back to the Conservatives as ‘the nasty party’, refusing to abide by normal codes and standards. The second was to use terminology in ways whereby the original meanings were aberrated beyond all recognition. For that is what the Left do best. For example, if you don’t want immigration levels to total a city the size of Nottingham arriving on our shores every year, ‘you’re a racist’. In Raab’s case, his belief in a hard work ethic and a desire to be robust with departmental staff swiftly led to him being labelled ‘a bully’. Now that is a term the Left can have a field day with. Cue stories of tormented souls driven to suicide or self-harm by a sustained experience of intimidation. I’m sure the Guardian will, at some point, post an image of a Civil Servant whose arms were covered in bandages after running a razor blade down his or her veins following a direct instruction from Mr Raab. Let’s face it, in these times language and imagery have never been more potent. Simultaneously, never have the qualities of nuance, introspection, self-reflection or respect for authority been so demonstrably absent among so many of our fellow citizens. 

It would be churlish to suggest that the entirety of the Civil Service is out to prevent this government from carrying out its agenda. There will be hundreds of thousands of staff who simply go to work and carry out instructions as per their contractual obligations. However, it would also be naive in the extreme to pretend every single state employee is solely focused on the job in hand. It is among this minority crowd, who’ve forgotten that the term ‘servant’ in Civil Servant is….wait for it….actually about serving, where the danger comes. They’ve already scalped one minister in the form of the erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister and they’re now out to take down a second – Steve Barclay.

I’ll remind you all of the reasons this government was elected back in 2019 with an 80-seat majority: It was about completing Brexit, taking back control of our borders, managing immigration by putting it on a sustainable basis, and levelling up those areas of the country that had fallen behind over the course of the last few decades. By every measure, they’ve failed dismally. And why? Because the leadership and upper echelons of the party have chosen to conciliate those voices who fundamentally disagree with the essence of conservatism. Rishi Sunak, a man who Raab has consistently stood by, did nothing to support his colleague or to reject his offer of resignation when it came. Elements of our Civil Service are now part of what Professor Matt Goodwin has termed ‘the New Elite’. Wherever their allegiance lies, it most certainly is not to any government minister outside the ‘progressive’ circle.

The term ‘bullying’ as used in this case has no bearing on the traditional sense of the word. We haven’t seen from Dominic Raab any systematic acts of physical aggression or intimidation. What we HAVE seen is the way some fully grown adults have weaponised their hurt feelings to discredit those government ministers they disagree with. If ‘bullying’ – whether it be at work or at school – now encompasses the odd bit of name-calling, the avoidance of eye contact, excluding people from certain activities, or even asking a potential vandal to empty their pockets, then we really are in a very dark place when it comes to addressing the ability of future generations to adapt successfully to the cut and thrust of working in an adult environment. All Tolley’s inquiry into Raab’s conduct concluded was Raab had upset some Civil Servants unintentionally. It upheld only two complaints and it confirmed Raab had ‘not once, in four and a half years, sworn or shouted at anyone, let alone thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone, nor intentionally sought to belittle anyone’. When I watched that episode of ‘Happy Valley’, I thought to myself: ‘Who runs that school? The teachers or the pupils?’ Likewise, I have to ask a similar question in this context: ‘Who runs Britain? Elected ministers or unelected bureaucrats?’

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One thought on “In Which They Serve

  1. With the conservative?government abandoning science and evidence while following policies such as the pandemic, climate change, Ukraine, mass immigration, etc is there any surprise that they do not command any respect? They have been horrifically wrong on almost everything. They are only there because the alternative is even worse

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