Lord Butler interview in The Spectator

In his interview with Lord Butler, Boris Johnson uncovers startling views of top mandarins about the extent of the disillusionment within the higher ranks of the Civil Service with the current style of Government.

Lord Butler of Brockwell was Tony Blair’s first Cabinet Secretary and headed last year’s inquiry into the failures of intelligence before the Iraq war. He clearly wanted to unburden himself about the way Labour governs the country and Parliament’s “shameful” inability to control the executive. He was critical of the growing influence of political appointees in Whitehall and frank about their penchant for “getting the best headlines tomorrow”. He believes that Mr Blair is too concerned with “selling, central control and headlines”.

Full interview here.

Daily Telegraph comment click here.

33 thoughts on “Lord Butler interview in The Spectator”

  1. “…adds flesh and bones to what some still see as statistics.”
    – Jordan Barab, Confined Space

    Whatever you touch Boris you turn into commonsense reality even if the subject is a surreal life inside the public service. Brilliant interview…

    I have sinned this week. I hung up Christmas decorations from the ceiling. Next week the occupational health and safety committee will report on my tresspasses. (smile) Wherever one happens to collect the crumbs for the family table, be it in the Legislature or the Commonwealth public service the absurdity and inaction tends to prevail.

    PS: The Sydney Morning Herald Weekend Magazine features your interview down under. The title of the interview sits opposite an ad picturing Donald Trump with hole proof socks which ‘they fall up not down”.

    On Page 61 the black and white photo makes you look almost like Ivana Trump in the 1980s … However, the headline alleges that you are a naughty boy!

    “He was a pin up boy of the British Conservative Party, often touted as a future Prime Minister. But then a sex scandal brought him spectacularly undone.”

    Ginny Dougary suggests that you might become a bouncing Czech. As they say the worst thing in life is not being talked about. I love the photo taken on the bite. Classic!

    [No Link available – can post if you wish your wish to be my command (grin)]

  2. I thought i was going to have a quite xmas. now i’ll have to spend it doing all that electrical diy which needs completing before our new year party and the new year diy regs come into force. it would be paradoxical and self-fulfilling if in my haste to beat the new saftey regs I should kill myself in the process. but I am willing to take the risk if it means beating new labour.

  3. >I am willing to take the risk if it means beating new labour.

    good for you, gwelaf! you’ll do a great job

  4. I was amused to see (in today’s Sunday Telegraph) that David Blunkett has indiscretely said that he thinks that Michael Howard was a better Home Secretary than Jack Straw.

    But then something occurred to me. Boris, with the assistance of the article from the gentleman with the nightstick and the hunting knife, has established that Mr Blunkett is a dangerous looney who wants to institute a police state. Consequently, what is an endorsement from Mr Blunkett worth? Just a thought.

    BTW, I do think the Home Secretary has gone too far with his proposal to ban free speech vis-a-vis religion. I don’t mean that as an anti-religious statement, but I do think that it’s dangerous when you ban people from saying what they think. And I hope Boris is with Rowan Atkinson on this one.

    I’d best say no more. I was only trying to be funny, and I really do think Boris is OK, and I certainly don’t want to annoy Melissa, who is, of course, dangerous online:



  5. Michael! 😉

    Was that the pernicious computer virus that tantalised with a comment like “I love you – open to see” – do you know that in reality curiousity didn’t get the better of me and I escaped being infected!

    So melissa, virus or otherwise, now benefits from a clean bill of health – long may it last

    Of course we know Michael is very clever but could be dangerous too:



  6. quite spoo-o-o-ky – when the image eventually popped up, thought I was seeing things!

    Thanks v v much

  7. Head line and the media that’s what poltiks about these days. Get your face known and then become PM. How about Boris Johnson on Tv three times a week with his onw chat show – just like Wogan in the eighties. Ok fine bad idea. I’ll go back to sleep now.

  8. Well I know this may not have a lot to with this thread – but I was just looking at the Mirror web site where I notice a report that says that Blunkett may resign. (www.mirror.co.uk 13 dec 2004.)


    By Oonagh Blackman Political Editor

    HOME Secretary David Blunkett has considered offering his resignation to Tony Blair, amid Cabinet fury over a new book.

    And he could still decide to go if the crisis over his public and private life refuses to fade away, said a senior source.

    Mr Blunkett’s explosive views about other Cabinet Ministers were made public in a new biography.

    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is said to be “white with anger” after Mr Blunkett said Michael Howard had been a better Home Secretary.

    Yesterday a close aide of Mr Blunkett did not deny talks about resignation had taken place.

    He said: “I am not saying anything.”

    Asked if Mr Blunkett had met the Prime Minister and offered to quit he said: “No.”

    Mr Blair has strongly defended Mr Blunkett and is determined not to let him go.

    A Mirror poll last week revealed that Mr Blunkett is still hugely popular with the public.

    But there are signs of rising tensions within the Government and on the Labour backbenches over the biography in which he attacks colleagues.

    As well as angering Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by saying Tory leader Michael Howard had been a better Home Secretary, he also accused Education Secretary Charles Clarke of being “soft on education” and failing to live up to expectations.

    It was claimed that Mr Clarke had drawn up a grid to show how much progress he had made in his job.

    Yesterday Mr Blunkett came out fighting against new allegations that he had fast-tracked a visa application for ex-lover Kimberly Quinn’s nanny.

    He again insisted his only involvement was when he checked the form was in order.

    Yesterday the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, questioned Mr Blunkett’s affair with a married woman at the same time as holding high political office.

    Dr Hope said: “I want to raise the question about the impact in the public sphere.

    “Two words are crucial here. Integrity seems to me to be quite crucial and the word trust.”

    Mr Blunkett has also been criticised by outgoing Scotland Yard boss Sir John Stevens.

    Sir John apparently attacked the Home Secretary for heaping praise on American policing tactics rather than British bobbies.

    He said: “There has been a thread running through newspaper reports extolling the virtues of US police chiefs and their approaches to law and order.

    “This has invariably been coupled with an attack on the Metropolitan Police and on UK policing in general. Crime is not going up in London, it is going down.”

  9. Melissa,

    > Was that the pernicious computer virus that tantalised with a comment like “I love you – open to see”

    A different one. But I guess your many fans in this site would click immediately if they thought it was you sending. 😉

    You know there’s an Anna Kournikova virus and a David Beckham one, too. They used to say you know you’ve arrived when the Cockneys use you for rhyming slang – e.g., Sandy Gall/wall. Now I reckon you know that when you have a virus named after you. No Boris virus yet …

  10. ha ha! rofl

    Good point about rhyming slang and virus names – so a virus can bring some kudos, eh?

    You bloggers have the most original of thoughts – prize ones!

    Wish I could give all my blog friends some pressies for Christmas to keep you all in good spirits for the onset of the New Year – Wifey’s excellent nicecupofteaandasitdown Book is going down a storm and is really lovely. All fascinating facts about biscuits/cookies – for instance cookie is derived from the Dutch for ‘little cake’ and biscuit comes from the French words ‘bis’ and ‘cuir’, meaning twice cooked. I love it!! shame I can’t shower a few copies on you all or make it rain smarties from the sky

    would’ve been one way to show appreciation

  11. Wifey – have you been on those happy pills? If your going to take happy pills then at lest you could share them around:) May be your taking happy pills and listening to Nick Drake. Does this bring on a case of the borisdelic’s.

  12. I’d just like to tell Boris that if he decides (like many) to leave the Tories due to thier absurd support for ID cards, the Lib Dems will welcome him 🙂

  13. t could be a virus that turns your computer blue and fixes the back drop of VDU with a wall paper of Maggie T

    It sounds like a relatively benign payload, Nick.

    There was apparently a recent email promising naked pictures of a 22 year old blonde go-go dancer. Those who clicked got more than they bargained for.

    I suppose a Boris virus email might promise naked pictures of a 40 year old blond magazine editor.

    There’d be a rash of infections among Tory ladies in the Home Counties.

  14. If Your called Blunkett do not pass go – do not collect Hs salary – go stright to the back benches – thank you for resigning….

  15. I work in the mental health (for which read illnesses that are deemed to place the public at risk of harm); before that I worked in the NHS. Am I alone in wishing to see:
    1. Evidence-based (not opinion-based) political decision making?
    2. Performance management of MPs and explicit governance?
    3. Firewalling of health, social care, education and transport infrastructure from endless short-term polticial ambition?
    4. Withdrawal of 30% of taxpayers contribution of “core funding” to civil service and politicians; so that they can explore for themselves the joy of having to spend an equivalent amount of time raising funds for all their light bulbs, secretaries, meals, car trips etc? Perhaps this would also lead to an end to the playful notion that all of us can only bid for “innovative projects”?
    5. A Modernisation Agenda that applies to New Labour? Abandonment of cronyism/insider dealing/power ranting/short-term narcissistic agendas/wigs and robes..all spring to mind?
    6. The power-politician who wants to start a war should be in the first tank?
    7. People who make foul decisions should have to hang around to experience the consequences and clear up the mess (with help if necessary)..but stay around. This creates a fast-learning organisation?
    8. An end to blasting us all with worth rhetoric about equality/social inclusion/work-life balance/wellbeing…when we are already convinced. We need support and the resources to deliver consistently and sustainably..not endless interference from ill-informed slef-serving short-termers (does not apply to you Boris?)
    9. A credible opposition to New labour that captures the above?

    Happy Christmas


    If it is

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