Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

An Anonymous Tyranny

5 minutes reading time (963 words)
DS Civil Service Replace Elected Government

Adam Tolley's report on the behaviour of Dominic Raab is flawed.

The accusations were plainly coordinated between departments and were 'afterthought' accusations that would have been dismissed by an employment tribunal. Of the accusers "Only some of those individuals had any direct experience of the DPM (Deputy Prime Minister - Raab); some had never met him at all but were seeking to support their colleagues." The accused was denied the right of knowing, and facing, his accusers who all hid behind anonymity. The report states "This approach to confidentiality means that the report is not as factually detailed as it might otherwise have been; that is in my view the correct outcome. The public interest in maintaining the principle of confidentiality, in this instance and for future investigations of this nature, hugely outweighs any interest that anyone may have in the full extent of the factual detail." It adds "I have not been required to apply and have not applied strict rules of evidence". Why is the public interest served by allowing anonymous accusations that are not tested to the standards required elsewhere?

The most serious accusation is that of bullying. The report notes that "Bullying' is not a legally defined term and is not a defined term for the purpose of the Ministerial Code". The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word 'Bully' as "A person who uses their strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people". The Civil Service has an expanded definition: "The definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service accepts that legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker's performance will not amount to bullying. It defines bullying as intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down." A definition that introduces a person's subjective perception as a fact. This is reflected in the report. "In relation to the question of variable criticism and praise, while there may be an issue as to the way in which he provides critical feedback, what became apparent to me is that the DPM (Raab) does not, after an occasion of criticism, then keep track such that on the next occasion the same official will be disadvantaged. The DPM tends to 'wipe the slate clean' from one occasion to the next; he will neither expect to offer criticism nor necessarily offer it." The report continues: "What is, however, also apparent is that some officials, not used to the DPM's approach, may reasonably anticipate that one occasion of criticism from the DPM will necessarily lead to another. The anticipation of criticism may well be inhibiting to good performance."

Like any boss, Raab was interested in getting the job done. He criticised substandard work and demanded it be done properly. The report using the concept of subjective perception states: "However, individuals who had previously experienced the DPM express an unconstructive criticism of their work (and probably understood it as a criticism of them personally) might reasonably have interpreted a series of interruptions as a form of implicit criticism. The combination of explicit unconstructive criticism and frequent interrupting may have a cumulative effect as a form of intimidating or insulting behaviour". This seems to be close to Critical Race Theory. All of us are guilty in the eyes of someone else who subjectively decides that that is the case. This goes a long way toward establishing Orwellian 'Thought Crime' as a 'reality' that can be relied upon.

Of the Eight accusations (complaints) totalling 24 accusations Tolley upheld two. The anonymous, and on the face of it malicious accusers, face no sanction. Their jobs and pensions are safe. That would not be the case for non government employees. Of the two accusations upheld, one relates to the British Ambassador to Spain. During Brexit negotiations concerning Gibraltar he decided to ignore instructions and offer the Spanish a deal to place Spanish 'Boots' on UK territory. He was summoned to London, told off and replaced in the negotiations, but not as Ambassador. Anywhere other than in State employment his action would have been Gross Misconduct and resulted in summarily dismissed. The civil Service is different. According to Tolley: "His (the DPM's) conduct was experienced as undermining or humiliating by the affected individual". The second case was a question of inadequate work for which the DPM expressed his strong disproval and, apparently, referenced the Civil Service code as a benchmark for quality. Tolly states "The DPM referred to the Civil Service Code in a way which could reasonably have been understood as suggesting that those involved had acted in breach. This had a significant adverse effect on a particular individual who took it seriously. The DPM's conduct was a form of intimidating behaviour, in the sense of conveying a threat of unspecified disciplinary action, and was experienced as such".

That's it. In a normal process none of this would have amounted to a 'Hill of Beans' to quote Rick in Casablanca. In creating a mountain out of a molehill, Tolley has done a serious disservice to democracy and the ability of any elected government to carry out the people's instructions. The Civil Service is now confirmed as a law unto itself. Like mediaeval Church Courts they are the sole arbiter of the conduct of state employees. They place themselves above the law that all others are subjected to. It is not possible, in a democracy, to have an elite group who have the power to impose their own agenda, frustrate elected ministers and ride rough shod over the electorate. The system is rotten. Tolley has compounded that rottenness. It must change and those who are paid by the people must be held to account. Held to the same standard of behaviour and proof that apply those who pay their wages. 

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