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Thursday, January 5th, 2017

What to Expect from Officials

Houses of ParliamentThe Ivan Rogers affair is reverberating around the corridors of power at the moment, both in the UK and Europe. The election of Donald Trump is reverberating globally. Both raise some questions about the role of elected and career officials.

It seems to me that elected officials at all levels are there to act in the interests of the electorate and, where elected on a platform or enacting the outcome of a referendum, to deliver what the people voted for.

Furthermore, that career civil servants and their equivalents are there to provide specialist advice and support to elected decision takers and to act upon determined policy to see it through.

What Sir Ivan Rogers did, whilst making good headlines, strikes me as well out of order. I say this despite having been an enthusiastic ‘remain’ voter and having some concerns of my own about Brexiting.

Officials may disagree with those elected to take responsibility, but their lot is surely to ‘put up and shut up’. For someone who has been as distinguished as to gain a knighthood to break ranks in such a way damages the credibility of nation in the eyes of the world, our system of governance in the eyes of the people and, most of all one might think, of himself.

Meanwhile, over the pond, there is open speculation that ‘all that talk about a wall was just posturing, there is no intention to deliver on it’. In other words, what soon to be President Trump said to get elected may not be what he intends in practice. As if his very election did not show that the credibility of ‘the system’ is already creaking.

I would suggest that all levels, including local government, that credibility depends upon both the elected doing what they elected to do and the appointed doing what they were appointed to do. Otherwise, how can they, and ‘the system’ gain our respect and trust?

And what it comes to Parliament, a lot less public bickering splashed over the salivating tabloids would help rebuild some public confidence when it is clearly waning!

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