Does the Civil Service really behave like this?

Public Strategist rightly noted in their comment on yesterday’s post about the Civil Service in a hung parliament that:

If the author of that article thought “the blue folder was the only game in town” and that “across Whitehall the yellow folders are being taken out of the bin and carefully read for the first time” he or she should probably not be taken seriously as a guide to what was – and is – going on.

They also rightly note the slightly dodgy idea of coloured folders doing the rounds in Whitehall. The key approach, therefore, being scepticism.

With which, I’d like you to read the Sunday Telegraph’s take on things in Whitehall:

Whitehall insecurities about its new Conservative masters are laid bare in eye-opening secret papers leaked to The Sunday Telegraph. The documents, instructing senior officials at the Department of Communities and Local Government how to woo their new bosses, give a checklist of what are called “hot button”, Tory-friendly words, to be dropped into conversation whenever possible. These include “families,” “radical,” “neighbourhoods” and “progressive.” [C]ivil servants are told to “talk of efficiencies / value for money without prompting” and advised to deploy blatant flattery, with suggested phrases including: “Congratulations! I had so much confidence in you, I might get complacent!” The documents order mandarins to “smile!… Lean forward!… Be interesting!” They are told to engage in “supportive listening,” and “take cues from the Secretary of State.” Officials are advised that “eye contact [is] the real currency.”

Scepticism, folks: a true Whitehall quality.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

One thought on “Does the Civil Service really behave like this?”

  1. I think this demonstrates that, outside of the real whitehall power bases (this was from CLG after all), our civil servants do not have the nous of a Sir Humphrey

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