Will the country’s top civil servant end up as the biggest casualty of the Lockdown Files?
According to the FT, humiliated Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is considering standing down.
Then youthful high flyer – the civil service’s youngest head in more than a century – is said to be “genuinely undecided” on whether to depart his role early and allow his successor to bed in before the next general election.
If he deliberates for too long, he may well find the decision has been made for him. This suspiciously feels like a case of “jump before you’re pushed!”
As the Hound reported yesterday, the latest tranche Matt Hancock’s leaked private WhatsApp messages contains some highly embracing content for Simon Case.
Messages show Case describing his old boss Boris – who handpicked him as cabinet secretary in September 2020 – as “nationally distrusted”. The 44 year-old, who is supposed to sit above the fray, has also expressed a juvenile glee at the inconvenience lockdown rules caused to wealthy travellers. Referencing the time they were forced to send in the government’s budget quarantine hotels, Case remarks: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class into a premier inn shoe box.”
This isn’t the first time Simon Case has been caught up in a Westminster scandal. Yet, until now, the ‘Teflon’ Cabinet secretary has managed to emerge remarkably unscathed compared to colleagues around him.
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Indeed, a number of civil servant are said to remain shocked he did not resign over Partygate.
Ironically, when news first broke in November 2021 that some aides had held illegal lockdown parties, Johnson actually appointed Case to lead the inquiry.
Less than two weeks later, it emerged that a party had actually been held in Case’s private office. Scores of junior colleagues, later fined by the police, were reportedly furious that Case managed to avoid paying a penalty.
Equally curious was the police’s decision not to punish the Whitehall chief for attending Johnson’s infamous birthday celebration in Downing Street, despite both the PM and then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak receiving penalties.
Case was also embroiled in Wallpapergate. The senior civil servant was criticised at the time for his personal involvement sorting out the financial arrangements surrounding the lavish Downing Street refurb.
According to a host of his colleagues, Case has a talent for “smoothing things over.” But, this time, he may have run out luck.
Sunak is under mounting pressure to act. And, given that the PM has been personally undermined in the leaked messages – with the Cabinet Secretary branding the former Chancellor “bonkers” – he may feel less inclined to save Case’s bacon.
As the Hound revealed, the favourites to replace him are Sir Tom Scholar, former mandarin at the Treasury who was sacked by Liz Truss, Antonio Romeo, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Justice and Dame Melanie Dawes, economist and boss of Ofcom.
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