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Does cream always rise to the top?

July 11, 2020 11:54 AM
ngtr (Thanks to Natalie Toombs for sharing their work on Unsplash.)A few weeks ago Michael Gove gave a wide ranging speech including a critique of the Civil Service. Too generalist lacking appropriate skills and to much moving around so people were not accountable for decisions made were amongst a number of criticisms made.
The speech was undermined somewhat a few days later by the appointment of David Frost. currently Britain's Brexit negotiator as National Security Advisor even though he had no previous experience in the area. This caused Theresa May to complain in Parliament about the decision
Despite this decision there is something in the critique that the Government needs more specialists who understand technologies and modern trends. The idea that in a meritocracy cream rises to the top seems a good one
This makes the decision of the Prime Minister to push Chris Grayling to be appointed as chair of the powerful intelligence and security committee (ISC) even more extraordinary It oversees MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and has the power to release the delayed report into potential Russian interference in Britain's elections
Grayling is best known as an error-prone minister who presided over the collapse of Northern and Thameslink rail services and the granting of a no-deal Brexit ferry contract to a company with no ships. As justice secretary, he part-privatised the probation service and banned prisoners from receiving books from relatives, a measure that was overturned in the courts. He was also a prominent supporter of leave in the 2016 referendum campaign.
"Failing Grayling" as he was often known in social media is not a shining example of promotion based on merit. On the basis of his track record he would not be an obvious choice for the prestigious role
The trend has continued with the nomination by the UK of Liam Fox to be the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO. Mr Fox, Britain's former international trade secretary, is famous for a 2017 interview in which he said the UK's free trade deal with the EU after leaving should be the "easiest in human history". He also suggested the UK would have up to 40 trade deals ready immediately after it leaves the EU. The UK actually has 20 such deals in place, according to the Department for International Trade's website.These include the economic powerhouses of the Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Kosovo and Palestine
If competence doesn't scream out at you with these appointments and nominations they do have one thing in common. All three chosen are true believers, supporters of Brexit. Like many in the cabinet it seems that ideology trumps ability. What appears to be the desired ambition for the future Civil Service is not one that appears to be applied when choosing their political masters!