Gove takes aim at anti-Brexit civil servants who believe EU Exit was ‘mistake’

Michael Gove slams Civil Service

Michael Gove has used a podcast interview to blast civil servants who have a negative “attitude” towards Brexit.

The Levelling Up Secretary, who has now been at the top of Government for 13 years, said partisan feelings within the civil service are slowing ministers down.

He told former Tory spin doctor Andy Coulson: “One of the issues, inescapably, has been the attitude that some people have had towards Brexit.”

“There are some ministers who have been hard-driving, who have worried that across the civil service, there was a sense that Brexit was a big, historic mistake.

“Therefore there hasn’t been the same enthusiasm for some of the changes that are necessary as there might have been for other policy changes.”

Mr Gove also argued that Government rows with Whitehall are not exclusive to the current Conservative party, pointing out that Tony Blair also had difficulties with ‘the blob’.

“Tony Blair once talked about the scars on his back as he was trying to drive through public service reform.

“And it’s naturally going to be the case that people invested in an organisation, and invested in a particular way of doing things, will find it difficult to change. Because even if you admire them, even if you want to get better performance out of them, any argument for reform or change they will sometimes take as an implicit criticism.”

Mr Gove conceded that individual personalities and interactions play a large part in how well ministers get on with their civil servants, making light of the fact he spent three years attacking the Department for Education while in opposition, only for its civil servants to then find him appointed as their boss when the Tories won the 2010 election.

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Interviewer Andy Coulson, who served as David Cameron’s chief spin doctor before quitting amid the phone hacking scandal, reminisced about the PM visiting each major department and holding a town hall meeting to say to civil servants: “You’re a Rolls Royce machine and we’re lucky to have you.”

He admitted, however, that in the back of his mind, he thought: “Actually this is a bit more like a Cortina than a Rolls Royce.”

Michael Gove is often credited with coining the disparaging phrase ‘the blob’, used by Conservatives to attack the civil service.

The then-education secretary used the phrase to refer to the education establishment resisting change, in a reference to the 1958 science fiction film “The Blob”, about an amoeba which was eating up the world.

Rows between the Government and Civil Service have ramped up in recent months, both because of Brexit and leaks against cabinet ministers like Dominic Raab and Suella Braverman.

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