BoJo Aide Recruiting ‘Misfits and Weirdos’ to Shake up Civil Service

Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings arrives at a venue in central London for a victory speech by Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 13, 2019. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Dominic Cummings is recruiting data scientists, policy experts, and other “assorted weirdos” to shake up the Remainer-dominated Civil Service, saying “Oxbridge Humanities graduates” need not apply.

Mr Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior advisor, has long criticised the institutionalised nature of Whitehall, where, he had said in 2014, “almost no one is ever fired.”

In a blog post published on Thursday, Mr Cummings said that while there are many “brilliant people in the civil service and politics”, “there are also some profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions”.

Announcing an overhaul of the human resourcing culture, Mr Cummings — who Remainer Tony Blair once described as a “quasi-anarchist” who “wants to blow the system up” — said: “We want to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work in Downing Street with the best officials, some as spads [special advisers] and perhaps some as officials.”

Looking for specialists with useful skills who could contribute to the success of Brexit Britain, the government is looking for economists, software developers, project managers, and “weirdos and misfits with odd skills”.

Saying that Whitehall needs “true wild cards”, including people who may not have gone to university but who “fought their way out of an appalling hell hole”, Mr Cummings said: “People in SW1 talk a lot about ‘diversity’ but they rarely mean ‘true cognitive diversity’. They are usually babbling about ‘gender identity diversity blah blah’.

“What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity.”

Brexiteers criticised the Civil Service, dubbing it the Deep State, during the Brexit process. Senior Leave campaigner Nigel Farage condemned the career bureaucrats as “the enemy within” who “take their orders from Brussels” and who are “out to sabotage Brexit”.

Mr Farage made the comments in October 2018 after it was revealed that the Civil Service had been wargaming a second referendum, under the pretext of planning for all conceivable eventualities.

The Brexiteer name-dropped Oliver Robbins, the senior Civil Servant in charge of Brexit planning under then-Prime Minister Theresa May, as one of the Europhile cadre within Whitehall that set out to stop Brexit.

“The problem I’m afraid is there is a rogue element in these negotiations. A group of people who do not wish to see a solution, who put up an immovable brick wall to stop us from breaking free. I regret to say it isn’t your chief negotiator Monsieur Barnier, it is actually the British civil service, Olly Robbins’ team,” Mr Farage said.

Just three months before, the Civil Service had leaked a Brexit “Armageddon” scenario to the press, where a clean-break Brexit would result in the almost immediate collapse of the supply chain of food, medicine, and fuel.

In November 2018, senior Conservative Brexiteer Mark Francois MP criticised Mrs May’s deeply unpopular withdrawal agreement — which failed in the House of Commons three times — as having been “negotiated from the British side by a small group of extremely pro-EU senior civil servants, working in Downing Street in the Cabinet Office, and reporting to the prime minister”.

Mr Francois continued: “They are led by a man called Olly Robbins, who the public have never heard of but who has had tremendous influence over the future of this country.

“Those senior civil servants have never accepted the result of the referendum. They have always thought the British people were wrong, or daft, so they have negotiated the withdrawal agreement in such a way that we effectively remain with the European Union.”

Mr Robbins was awarded a knighthood in Theresa May’s resignation honours list in September 2019.

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