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Number 10 defends Sir Jeremy Heywood’s freelancing

22 April 2013

What is Sir Jeremy Heywood up to? Last week he jointly wrote an article praising Margaret Thatcher which led to a Labour MP accusing him of having ‘prostituted his high office’. This week he’s revealed to be discussing the behind-the-scenes wranglings in the Cabinet on economic policy.

The Times’ Sam Coates reports this morning that the Cabinet Secretary revealed to a private meeting of bankers that there were four different positions on growth in the Cabinet. Coates reports that Heywood said David Cameron was focused on exports, free trade and micro and small businesses, Nick Clegg is more interested in regional growth and city-led schemes, Vince Cable is annoyed with the banks and worried about the availability of credit, and George Osborne is concerned with infrastructure investment, long-term finance and overseas business.


None of these positions would come as much of a surprise to anyone who follows the speeches and announcements made by these four men, but The Times’ report suggests that Heywood implied ‘his job was being made harder by the differing priorities of senior government figures’. This is astonishing: no matter how different the positions of its members are, the Cabinet is tasked with maintaining collective responsibility once a policy is published, and nowhere is this more the case than on economic policy. There are surely questions about whether Heywood should be breaching that collective responsibility on ministers’ behalf, even in private meetings.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman tried to play down the significance of Heywood’s comments this morning. He said he was ‘rather puzzled by that story’ and that ‘the only surprise would be if we were’t doing all of those things’. He added:

‘All of these things come together as part of the government’s strategy: I think the Cabinet Office have explained that was emphatically the point that the Cabinet Secretary was making.

‘I think it would be rather odd if senior officials as part of their very important role in supporting ministers weren’t engaging with various sectors of industry.’

There’s already a feeling in Whitehall that Heywood has a tendency to freelance rather too enthusiastically: he also briefs journalists on stories. That he has been suggesting to an audience outside Whitehall that the wranglings of senior politicians make his life more difficult will only add to that impression.

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  • Jupiter

    Time to fire Sir Humphrey

  • HookesLaw

    Different ministers have different responsibilities and there is nothing contradictory in their positions (not on the face of it anyway).
    So there is no issue in explaining this.
    The Cabinet Secretary has a tricky balancing act to perform? Shock horror – tell us news.
    (We actually that would be a novel experience for most journalists – the people who think they are beyond reproach and regulation. Ignorance rules in the world of journalism. Indeed it helps)

  • GUBU

    Perhaps he sees himself as our very own future Mario Monti…

  • John Staples

    Whatever his technocratic skills, the man is increasingly coming across as a plonker, signally lacking in the basic judgement and gravitas you would expect from the Cabinet Secretary. If he can’t deal with Ministers who have different policy priorities, he is the wrong man for the job.

  • foxoles

    ‘The head of the Number 10 policy unit, now staffed and controlled by the civil service rather than by political appointees, bars Tory advisers from attending key meetings …

    ‘It is said that David Cameron half-jokingly once asked Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary: “Remind me Jeremy, do you work for me or do I work for you?” It was a good question …

    The word “coup” has been used to describe the increase in civil service power since the election. “Coup” is a little strong. Heywood hasn’t taken over the state broadcaster or posted troops on Whitehall to maintain order, yet.’

  • Tom Tom

    Is Jeremy Heywood still a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley the sponsor of the cocktail party where Victor Blank and Gordon Brown destroyed Lloyds TSB ? He seems to have a remarkably free hand as a Civil Servant, one might question why

  • foxoles

    What is he up to?

    A technocratic power grab to bypass all democracy.

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