Saturday 29 February 2020


It's turning into quite the day for culture warriors. (What's new?)

My Twitter feed (which I keep as wide-ranging as possible) has divided very sharply.

If you believe one camp, Sir Philip Rutnam represented the rotten heart of the Civil Service, presiding over disaster after disaster at the departments he ran. If you believe the opposing camp, he was the epitome of a decent public servant, a kind man of scrupulous integrity.

One camp says that Sir Philip was bullied, the other that Priti Patel is the one really being bullied.

One camp says his exit's an excellent thing, a win for a government seeking to drain the swamp, while the other says it's a bad thing and that it will actually harm the government, especially Priti Patel.

Basically, one side says 'Priti bad, Sir Philip good' and the other side 'Priti good, Sir Philip bad'.

Everyone said what I expected them to say, on either side, until I came to Spiked's Tom Slater, who - breaking the template of all my expectations -  tweeted:
I worked with Sir Philip Rutnam for 40 years. He was always impeccably neutral, diligent, intelligent, kind and of course loving. He was a giant among functionaries. No one had a bad word to say about him, nor could anyone resist his charms. Patel should be ashamed of herself.
I don't know either of them, so I'll just say that I'm inclining towards reserving judgement, with my natural pro-Priti instincts being balanced by Tom from Spiked's testimonial in favour of Sir Philip.

For those who are interested, here's BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall and his take on things. He's strongly leaning to the side that thinks this is very bad for Priti Patel:

  1. Can’t recall a resignation of a senior official quite like this. Potentially most serious is the oblique reference Rutnam makes towards the treatment of other staff...court case has the potential to be an embarrassing and long running sore for Patel and the govt.
  2. Patel isn’t the first politician (not Home Secretary) to have had difficulties with Rutnam. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we were bound to end up here. Things appear to have stepped up several notches with the incumbent.
  3. Sedwill will also have to oversee a replacement as Permanent Secretary. Patel will have to do her best to try and secure a replacement to her liking. For that person will be very powerful. One thing is for sure, she can’t afford to lose another Perm Sec/more officials.
  4. Am struggling to understand the dual view, held by a some, who maintain a) Ruttnam’s resignation doesn’t matter because the public isn’t paying attention but b) think it’s a strategic triumph because it signals to the public Patel is super tough on Home Office issues.
  5. Am told that Rutnam is not typical Home Office. More of an economist, in some ways not a natural fit there. But also, that there’s no way he would be bringing an action like this if he doesn’t think he’ll win. Depending on the details which emerge, could be devastating for Patel.
  6. Source also tells me that though though some in Home Office were wary of Rutnam, this whole thing (and the way Home Sec has handled it) has potential to unite the dept against her. With little Spad support (denuded by Number 10) next few months promises to be v tricky for her. 

Update: Please see the comments below for proof of where I went embarrassingly wrong here! To quote Wallis Simpson: D'oh!


  1. Unless Tom Slater is Dorian Gray operating under a pseudonym, I very doubt he worked with him for 40 years! lol

    1. Oh dear. I feel like one of those people who angrily replied to Titania McGrath!

  2. Yup ... I'd doubt that Tom will even being approaching 40 years of age ... ???

  3. So young 14 year old Mr Rutnam was Tom Slater's boss already!! If Tom Slater exaggerates here, what else does he exaggerate?

    Constructive dismissal is about compensation for loss of earnings or reinstatement. Given a probably large settlement was offered and refused, the Tribunal only has to decide whether it was too small a settlement. As for reinstatement for unfair dismissal, it would seem that going public in the way Sir Philip has means that likelihood is a non starter, especially when the Windrush enquiry into Home Office incompetence is published, for which was on Sir Philip's watch.


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