Over the parliamentary recess, there’s been much speculation over what the government’s mooted Whitehall revamp will mean in practice. Part of the plans include a shake-up of the current government departments – the Home Office is expected to be divided, with immigration taken out, while there are plans to beef up the business department. However, the more significant changes will likely take longer to bring into force. Plans are being drawn up to rewire government, change the way the civil service works and ultimately transform the public sector.
Today Boris Johnson’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings has offered a taste of things to come. In a blog post, Cummings has called on members of the public to apply to work in Downing Street. While Cummings does find time to praise some of the ‘fantastic officials’ working in government, he says there are ‘profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions’ which need to be addressed and criticises the lack of genuine expertise and diversity of thought. This is somethings Cummings has been considering long before entering Downing Street under Boris Johnson – it’s also an issue he took time to think about during the election, with the Tory campaign led by Isaac Levido.
The election result means that the Conservatives now have the space to make such changes. As Cummings puts it, a majority of 80 means that this is ‘a new government with a significant majority and little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems’. So, what skills are in demand in the new No. 10? Team Johnson are looking for candidates who roughly fall into the categories of data scientists and software developers, economists, policy experts, project managers, communication experts, junior researchers and – finally – weirdos and misfits with odd skills (read the full blog here). While Cummings is critical of a certain type of Oxbridge graduate (taking issue at times with arts degrees and a tendency for blagging) it’s clear that science qualifications are highly valued.
The job descriptions are the cause of much amusement on social media. However, the key takeaway does not relate to a novel reference, the mafia or the impact of one of these jobs on the recipient’s love life. Instead, this is a government keen to break up the status quo and use its large majority to try and bring in a technology-driven approach to solving problems which relies on new talent, specialised skills and a different way of judging success. Key to this is ridding Whitehall of any sense of complacency – or bluffing:
‘People in SW1 talk a lot about ‘diversity’ but they rarely mean ‘true cognitive diversity’. They are usually babbling about ‘gender identity diversity blah blah’. What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity.
We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole, weirdos from William Gibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand ‘diviner’ who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger or that Chinese-Cuban free runner from a crime family hired by the KGB. If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news.
By definition I don’t really know what I’m looking for but I want people around No10 to be on the lookout for such people.
We need to figure out how to use such people better without asking them to conform to the horrors of ‘Human Resources’ (which also obviously need a bonfire).’
Meanwhile, readers who believe the above applies to them can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.