Politics Explained

Rainbow warrior: what’s behind Esther McVey’s attack on civil service lanyards?

The Tory minister for common sense has opened another front in the culture wars. Mary Dejevsky takes a look

Monday 13 May 2024 18:55
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McVey is unhappy with public sector workers advertising their personal affiliations or sympathies while in the office
McVey is unhappy with public sector workers advertising their personal affiliations or sympathies while in the office (PA)

Esther McVey, informally known as the minister for common sense, has not been especially visible since her appointment to Rishi Sunak’s government last November. Now, though, she has put her head above the parapet in a big way by calling for an end to the wearing of different coloured lanyards in the civil service and reiterating the duty of civil servants to be politically and ideologically neutral at work.

Is there really a minister for common sense?

It’s a purely informal title, but it has caught on. Officially, McVey is a minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office. But it was made known when she was appointed, that she would have a roving brief to cast what might be called the cold light of sanity on to government ways of working and to nip potential problems in the bud.

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