LibLink: Lynne Featherstone: In praise of civil servants

Lynne Featherstone, writing on her own blog, has given us a very interesting insight into the mechanics of Government and is full of praise and appreciation for the people who have brought about her two key acts as a minister, equal marriage, and the fight against the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation.

She described receiving invaluable tips from Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis when she first became a Minister. It’s interesting that just a short time after Adonis left office himself, he was providing sensible advice for the newbies. Politics is a lot more civilised behind the scenes than you would actually believe.

The first piece of advice was to prioritise ruthlessly. We would find ourselves hit by a tsunami of work – a never-ending juggernaut all through our time in office – that was simply the business of government. If we weren’t careful we would do all our work, read all our submissions, make all our speeches, attend all our government meetings, take debates in Parliament and more – and we would exit our ministerships as good little ministers. Yes we would have done our work well but not used the extraordinary opportunity of our positions to deliver something we wanted to deliver during our time in the sun.

The second piece of advice was to trust our civil servants. They would, we were told, strain every muscle to enable us to deliver our mission if we made it clear what we wanted. They were not the satirical stuff of which ‘Yes Minister’ or ‘The Thick of It’ was made (although there have been some recognisable moments during my time in government!). We were told how civil servants are hard-working and noble in their efforts to make their new minister’s missions come true.

 She goes on to outline her experience both at the Home Office and DFID. Her priority at the first was equal marriage:
The civil servants then got to work. Always willing to raise decent questions about how and when, but always willing to stick to the priority and find a way to make the details work. From a standing start they guided me through all the many many hoops, pitfalls and dangers that I had to get through. I had nothing but support, advice, energy and dedication to my mission.

And now it is the law.

And when she went to the the Department of International Development, she wanted to tackle FGM.

I said to my civil servants I want to campaign in government on FGM (campaigning in government was a bit of a new concept for them at that point). And as I hope you have noticed – it is now in the media on virtually a daily basis. In fact – the media deserve plaudits for their coverage on this too – particularly the Evening Standard.

 She goes on to acknowledge and thank her civil servants, particularly those delivering aid projects in dangerous places.
You can read the whole article here.


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One Comment

  • Excellent. Well written and an example to others. .

    It just shows that a Libera Democrat minister can be effective, campaigning and achieve Liberal results.

    I recommend everyone to follow the link to Lynne’s full piece! You can read the whole article there.

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