Whitehall is swirling with rumours that the PM is looking for a new permanent secretary, after highly embarrassing comments by Case were leaked as part of the trove of private WhatsApp messages.  

In an exchange with former health secretary Matt Hancock, Case, a former royal aide, describes Boris Johnson as a “nationally distrusted figure”. In another exchange, he mocks people forced to serve time in the government’s quarantine hotels: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class into a premier inn shoe box.”

And in June 2020, Case called Rishi Sunak, then the chancellor, “bonkers” over his opposition to Covid restrictions on businesses.

Bashing the boss and joking about arresting families isn’t a great look for the country’s top civil servant, to put it mildly. Sunak is thought to be furious – and is under mounting pressure to act.

The obvious solution is to make Case walk the plank. 

If Sunak does so, one of the favourites to take over is Antonia Romeo. Currently the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Romeo is thought of as being on the younger, cooler end of the civil service spectrum (see this profile in Tatler). She is a real high-flyer who could be the breath of fresh air Sunak may feel he needs. 

Dame Melanie Dawes, an economist, civil servant and chief executive of Ofcom, is also in the running.

But the clever money is on Sir Tom Scholar, the former permanent secretary to the Treasury who was unceremoniously sacked by Liz Truss during her short tenure in the top job. He and Sunak are thought to have got on like a house on fire while Sunak was Chancellor, and this personal connection could make all the difference.

For now, Case is hanging on. Aged just 41, Case was handpicked by Johnson for the permanent secretary role, making him the youngest top civil servant for 100 years. His rapid fall from grace has been equally impressive. 

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