Liz Truss accused of ‘ideological purge’ in sacking top UK civil servant

British Prime Minister Liz Truss has been accused of carrying out an “ideological purge” of top civil servants after she approved the firing of Sir Tom Scholar, an experienced permanent secretary at the Treasury Department , on the first day of work.

Whitehall insiders fear that Scholar was fired on Tuesday would have a chilling effect on the civil service and make officials less likely to speak “truth to power”.

Shoes also fired national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove during her first week in Downing Street and is widely expected to replace Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, in the coming weeks.

Scholar’s immediate dismissal sent shockwaves through the upper echelons of the civil service. Dave Penman, secretary general of the FDA, the association of senior civil servants, calls it “an ideological purge of permanent secretaries”.

Lord Philip Hammond, a former Tory chancellor, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” to see Scholar ousted.

He told BBC’s Week in Westminster: “I’m a bit worried about what has become a trend in British politics when incoming prime ministers fire senior civil servants or at least move them out the door.”

“This is something we have seen in America. It has all sorts of negative consequences. It erodes a very strong principle and tradition we have that civil service is a continuing nonpartisan service. “

Lord Peter Ricketts, the former head of the State Department, also criticized what he described as “a kind of politicization of American-style top jobs.

“The whole point of the permanent secretaries is that they will provide continuity and experience because they are not the individual ministers,” he said. “They are more likely to tell the truth to authority.”

During the Tory leadership contest, Truss denounced the “orthodox” Treasury and “abacus economics”.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the new prime minister, agreed and fired Scholar shortly after Truss appointed him to the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday night. “The Prime Minister decided it was time for new leadership at the Treasury and so I would leave immediately,” Scholar said.

While it is not uncommon for new prime ministers and prime ministers to want to change their top officials, they usually wait a few months before reporting changes.

In a 30-year civil service career – including six years in a top job at the Treasury – Scholar has worked on projects such as the independence of the Bank of England and the renegotiation of the Bank of England. David Cameron with the EU.

He also helped deal with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and assisted former prime minister Rishi Sunak in the development of Covid emergency support plans at the start of the pandemic in 2020, including one furlough plan.

He is also known internally as a capable and well-liked executive who has helped ensure the Treasury is in a position to deal with other major economic shocks, including Brexit and the energy crisis. quantity.

Lord Nick Macpherson, Scholar’s predecessor as permanent secretary of the Treasury, said the Treasury “has always taken a diverse stance on some of the most unorthodox interventions in recent years – in 2008 and 2020 – heavily influenced by Tom Scholar”.

Macpherson said the Treasury Department has always been supportive of growth and said that if there is orthodoxy in the building, it reflects the importance of competitive markets, low trade barriers and keeping borrowing costs at bay. government is low.

“Probably [the Treasury] There is an outdated view that a stable macroeconomic framework combined with stability is one of the prerequisites for growth,” Macpherson said.

He added that the risk of firing respected figures like Scholar is that it will “promote fundamentalism rather than undermine it, but it will be the orthodoxy of the have”.

Sajid Javid, the former prime minister, tweeted his thanks to Scholar for “excellent government work for 30 years”.

George Osborne, another former Tory prime minister, told Global’s News Agents podcast this month: All talk of a civil service war is pathetic from the Tory party and it is inconsistent in government policy, not civil servants, that has failed. “

The Cabinet Office said: “Fairness is one of the fundamental values ​​of the civil service rule.”

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