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« Integrity and scholarship at the LSE | Main | Hot spot or not - Josh 335 »

Gray lady

The BBC for once has published a story that could credibly be seen as justifying its taxpayer funding - a fascinating profile of the head of ethics at the Cabinet Office, Sue Gray. The misdeeds of civil servants is something of a theme at BH, but I was particularly interested in this story because as far as I can tell it was Ms Gray who cleared Lord Deben's appointment as head of the Committee on Climate Change despite knowing that he had a conflict of interest.

The story paints a picture of an over-powerful Whitehall official, who seems to operate with an almost total disregard for the law, particularly on FOI. This would not be the first time we have come across public sector officials behaving like this - recall for example the breaches of the law by UEA. Nor is it the first time we have noted the almost complete lack of any consequences suffered by the perpetrators.

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Reader Comments (16)

There are no consequences for getting it wrong as a public servant. As there are no consequences for getting it wrong therefore there are no drivers to ensure Public Servsntsget it right (ie. follow the law!).


Jul 13, 2015 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I think this just confirms what we already know. There is a lot of corruption within the civil service (and associated NGOs and local government) at all levels. Of course this also applies to the UN and EU. They make FIFA look like a bunch of amateurs.

The only way to cure the problem is to make some examples - trials and jail. But since the civil service controls the whole system, this is nigh on impossible.

Jul 13, 2015 at 9:48 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Interesting to note that the BBC article is now closed for comments, after only three days and after only two comments were allowed.

Jul 13, 2015 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

Inevitably the comments on a civil servant who controls "ethics" will relate to the child abuse scandals.

As the lady has been demonstrably biased towards defending the powerful she can be expected to have made darn sure that Brittan is a country that keeps it secrets anyhowe it can.

Nut nothing lasts forever. Oneday she will got to jail. Unless she gets Saunders dementia.

Jul 13, 2015 at 9:54 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I think this is called "leading beyond authority".

Jul 13, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

If you have ever seen Yes Minster or Yes Prime Minster , you will know how it works for these programs where noted for their accuracy . If you not seen them, seek them out and you will come to understand how the Gray's of the world work and think and how often the 'service' part of civil service goes missing .

Still if it make anyone feel better , she is dead cert to be ennobled sooner rather than latter .

Jul 13, 2015 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Unaccountability is the dirty core of all 'public services'. The only way this type of person can be ousted is if they fall foul of the others of their kind. Their principal task is to ensure that outsiders don't interfere. God only knows how the FOI laws ever came into existence. I can only guess that most assumed that others would be the only ones affected. In Ms Gray's case, it's true. Judges, teachers, health workers, the BBC, etc all feel that the public should just butt out of decision making and just quietly appreciate what they're given. The EU is the pinnacle of unaccountability where it slowly eradicates democracy completely. I can imagine the civil service will be very keen for us to remain in the best bureaucratic wheeze ever. Want to get anything through or stop something dead? Just tell opponents it's part of EU policy. Nobody will ever check if it is or not. Don't like a ministerial edict? No problem, just don't co-operate and it will soon be an ignominious failure.

Jul 13, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Sue Cook shadowy Chief Civil Servant got the BBC over inflated Licence Fee in her sight just as the BBC has got Sue Cook in their sights.

Ratings loser Newsnight might be the first in the cull when the Beeb start making their budget cuts.Bet Chris Cook has started putting his CV out.
And just exactly why is a Policy Editor what ever that is, doing a reporters job.

Jul 13, 2015 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Do we get to know who appointed Sue Gray to her very secretive job, or is that information Classified by the Official Secrets Act and exempt from FOIA disclosure?

The Self Preservation Society is closely controlled, from the top, down.

Jul 13, 2015 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Good to see the Beeb making some attempt at reporting such goings on, but it will not last. Incidently, how can she have such a title, since it is the very opposite of that which she does. And a "public servant", if she were, perhaps we the Public could consign her to some far off, uncomfortable place. That should reduce the debt.

Jul 13, 2015 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

Beyond the lady's propensity for undocumented decision taking - she's there to field cockups and worse and ensure that it all goes under the thick carpet and little if anything escapes into the public's awareness...

That all is not completely wonderful in the domains of the Sir Humphreys is a given - and logically must be so - since to err is human. What is not acceptable is the fashion in which miscreants are dealt with.

There is enough legislation in place to deal with naughtiness - it's just that Ms. Gray and her ilk are determined not to use the tools already provided at considerable public expense to remedy badness and provide salutary lessons any who fancy they are untouchable.

If there was a moment in history that bears repeating - it's the Admiral Byng moment but hubris and what is essentially corruption run very deep in (pervade?) our present crop of senior public servants who also suffer from "too many chiefs" syndrome imho.

Jul 13, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Registered Commentertomo

"This would not be the first time we have come across public sector officials behaving like this ...." No, and the reason is simple. The assumption is that the likes of Ms Gray are in position to protect the public and the public interest. Well, they are not. They are there to protect themselves and the Civil Service as their first priority, the Government machine as their second priority and current politicians as their third. They have no other priorities.

Also the interpretation of 'public interest' is not the interests of the public at large (you and I) but the interests of their priorities, those in public service.

Jul 13, 2015 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter C

Peter C

indeed - one might also add most of the legal profession to the definition of rascals - since they collude in torturing the legal definition of "the public interest" on a rather routine basis - even when the formal tests are applied :-)

Jul 13, 2015 at 1:41 PM | Registered Commentertomo

The difference between third world countries and OECD countries is that those in the OED group are more sophisticated when it comes to the inevitable corruption in government circles, elected or otherwise.

Jul 13, 2015 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

Coup D'etat: A Practical Handbook by Edward Luttwak stated that the UK would never be a 'overthrow' candidate because of our respect for the rule of law, honesty of law enforcement, democracy etc.

But how have we tumbled down the slippery slope! Now we have some (not many but some) similarities with banana republics, with a protected political class, law enforcement patchy in application and increasingly 'odd' decisions being made.

Key civil servants bent so much that their head is up their backside, committees chaired by people who have obvious conflicts of interest.

More Intrusive laws, applied ferociously against the people, ignored by the elite.

Luttwak's work shows how a state can be felled, and it needs to be an authoritarian state to be a candidate state.

The UK is heading that way.

Jul 13, 2015 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

M Courtney

"Saunders dementia"

Nice to be reminded of that. Saunders was one of the 'Guinness four' who were jailed for fraud in 1990, but he was released early because it was thought he had pre-senile dementia. He soon made a miraculous recovery, or, as Alan Coren put it, "he forgot he'd got it". He is still alive and, presumably, fiddling books somewhere...

Jul 13, 2015 at 10:19 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

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