Former Whitehall grandee calls on Dominic Cummings to ‘work with us’ over civil service shake-up plans

Posted On: 
5th January 2020

Ex-civil service commissioner Sir David Normington has warned Dominic Cummings he can’t reform Whitehall without support.

Dominic Cummings has called for “weirdos and misfits” to work at Downing Street
Credit: 
PA

His comments come as a senior source has suggested Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill could stay in the UK to oversee reforms, rather than move to Washington to be Boris Johnson's new US ambassador.

Speaking to the Observer, Sir David said Mr Cummings had some “interesting ideas”, but warned he needed “lots of allies” to get them done.

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He said: “He is going to need to work with Whitehall, not against it. It is a big machine and one person can’t change it without lots of allies. You do need the machine.”

Last week Mr Cummings, chief aide to Mr Johnson, published a 3,000-word blog post asking for “weirdos and misfits” to work at Downing Street.

Bypassing the normal civil service recruitment process he asked for “true wild cards” to contact him directly by email.

And he also criticised the makeup of the current Whitehall cohort, saying he didn’t want more “confident public school bluffers” and “Oxbridge humanities graduates”.

The controversial post faced widespread criticism, with some expressing concerns that his advert broke employment law.

Philip Landau, a specialist employment lawyer, told The Guardian: “It is not usually advisable to set out a specific age in an advertisement in case it can amount to discrimination. This is unless there is an occupational requirement to do so.”

“A lot of employers these days are more keen to promote flexible working and a healthy work-life balance.”

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports Mr Sedwill could stay on to oversee the reforms after a plea by Mr Johnson.

A source told the paper: "He is doing such a valuable job that they realise what a valuable job the Cabinet secretary can do for them, marshalling Cabinet, that they want him to stay.

"He is getting on well enough with Dominic Cummings and Eddie Lister. They want to use him... they are happy for him to go to Washington in the sense that 'if this is his dream job we will work it for you', but do this first."