29th February 2020
What this blog calls the “Executive Power Project” – in affectionate mockery of the so-called “Judicial Power Project” – is not just about attacks on an independent judiciary.
The Executive Power Project is about all the current concerted attacks on those elements of the state that check and balance executive power.
And so it is as much about the attacks on the impartial civil service as it is about the assault on the courts.
This morning we have had a further manifestation of the Executive Power Project – the resignation of the senior civil servant at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam.
His piece to camera announcing his resignation is extraordinary, and should be watched in full (and it can be read here).
"I have been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign"— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 29, 2020
Top civil servant in the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, quits and says he intends to sue the government for constructive dismissal https://t.co/9m4hL9nUcp pic.twitter.com/U23fXTJnLT
(From a defamation law perspective, it is striking how carefully drafted this statement is – the “I do not believe her” stands out especially – and if Patel countersues she will struggle to do on this wording.)
It is a measure of how rotten this government is that it can make a senior home office civil servant seem sympathetic, even a hero.
The Home Office routinely is brutal and excessive in the administration of its duties.
But what Rutnam has done today is admirable: he could have, as he alludes, taken the payout and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Instead he has made the matter public and, he says, will sue to uphold his rights at a public tribunal.
In the days to come, his personal reputation will be trashed – just as attempts to do so when Sir Ivan Rogers resigned – and he appears to have factored that into his decision.
But beyond that knee-jerk trashing (which will be facilitated by the very free press that is also a target of the Executive Power Project) there is the issue of the extent to which ministers are now placing civil servants and diplomats in untenable positions.
For this resignation to be so public, and for the the follow-on suit to be just as public, means that the minister-official tensions are now hardening into contradictions.
Even in these strange political times, this is an important and worrying event.
Thank you for visiting this law and policy blog.
I will be spending less time on Twitter in 2020 as I want to move back into longer-form writing – in particular examining and commenting on key texts and other developments, and looking at attempts by the executive to take power from elsewhere.
If you value this free-to-read and independent constitutional, legal and policy commentary, you can follow and support this blog by:
- subscribing to this blog, there is subscription box above (on an internet browser) or on a pulldown list (on mobile);
- becoming a Patreon subscriber.
Comments are welcome but pre-moderated, and so comments will not be published if irksome.