A recent tweet by Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, read: “Turnover of Permanent Secretaries over six times that of Cabinet ministers since May 2010. Three depts will have 3 Perm Secs in two years.” A startling revelation—but why? One suggestion is that officials in their 50s, knowing they will go no higher, leave Whitehall for one last big executive job. Suma Chakrabarti, now at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Helen Ghosh, who now runs the National Trust, are both examples. But tensions are also rising between permanent secretaries and secretaries of state, impatient with the pace of implementation. “Permanent secretaries are battered and no longer the masters of Whitehall,” said one Westminster watcher. No wonder they’re leaving.
Adonis the lion tamer
In his new book, out in early September, Andrew Adonis calls his experience of working with the tempestuous Chris Woodhead, the former chief schools inspector, his “closest lifetime encounter with lion taming.” Adonis, Labour peer and former schools minister, notes that “I was fascinated by the lion but determined not to be eaten alive and just about succeeded.” He did; the academies project, which he developed under Tony Blair, has expanded, even if controversy has expanded too.
Will the feel-good multiculturalism of the Olympics cause the government to adjust its immigration policy? The word is no, it will not. According to one Whitehall watcher, the government is having a big enough problem achieving its desired reduction in immigration. Any kind of relaxation would lead it to missing its targets by an even greater margin.
Don’t Menschion it
Louise Mensch, in forsaking her parliamentary seat and moving to New York to be with her new husband, might choose not to repeat her past lack of generosity towards America’s most successful female politician. On Woman’s Hour in January 2008, when it seemed as if Hillary Clinton might beat Barack Obama to the Democratic nomination, Mensch (then Bagshawe) said: “As a woman and an aspirant politician I would like to see women politicians coming up who aren’t married to somebody… Would [Hillary] be in this position if she weren’t the wife of Bill Clinton? I don’t think so.” Mensch pronounced that the Secretary of State, twice-elected Senator for New York, had “fallen from grace” because “she doesn’t have the great affability and charm that her husband has.” She wins few prizes for…