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Sir Philip Rutnam: he was contractually obliged to carry out the orders of the Tory government; he didn’t make those orders.

The Guardian has published a comment piece criticising Sir Philip Rutnam for his decision to quit as permanent secretary – de facto boss of civil servants – at the Home Office over bullying by Priti Patel.

Columnist Amelia Gentleman reports that some consider it offensive that, by contrast, he could preside over – for example – the “hostile environment” that led to the Windrush Scandal with no concerns.

The criticism is understandable, but wide of the mark because of one fundamental point:

Civil servants put into effect the decisions of Parliament. They do not have a say in those decisions.

So Sir Philip had to enact the policies of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson that created the “hostile environment”, Windrush and all the other scandals because, as a civil servant, he had no choice.

Ms Gentleman suggests that he should have spoken up to get the Tories to change the harsh – racist, in my opinion – policies that they were ordering him to carry out. But who says he didn’t?

That would have been a private discussion that he or his officers would have had with the relevant Tory MPs. We would not have been told about it because civil servants put into effect the decisions of Parliament.

The decisions of Parliament, of course, are mostly dictated by the government of the day, and we have a Tory government.

And who has been able to persuade a Tory to change their mind?

But leading civil servants do have a duty to protect their subordinates and themselves from mistreatment.

So, if the allegations are correct, Sir Philip was right to highlight that civil servants in his department, including himself, had been mistreated by Home Secretary Priti Patel; to point out that this behaviour apparently had the support of the prime minister; and to take legal action over it.

It might be an uncomfortable fact, but a fact is what it is.

If you’re angry about a government policy, don’t blame the civil service for it.

Blame the government you elected.

Source: Victims of the Windrush scandal have little time for complaints about bullying at the Home Office | Amelia Gentleman | Opinion | The Guardian

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