If the cabinet secretary keeps stonewalling, he risks being sucked into the same ‘vacuum’ as his boss

Editorial: Simon Case failed to provide MPs with clear answers about the chaos in No 10

Monday 26 April 2021 21:30
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arely has a public official said so little to so many. The newish cabinet secretary, Simon Case, cut a sorry figure when he appeared before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Sorry in the sense that he must have apologised to the honourable members a couple of dozen times for saying nowt, but also sorry in the sense that his performance was pathetic.

Hiding behind various made-up precedents and a constitutionally dodgy procedure involving confidential briefings to the speaker of the House of Commons, Mr Case spent a lot of time telling the members of the House of Commons that he couldn’t help them understand why Downing Street, under his tutelage, is so dysfunctional and why, months on, the leak inquiry into the announcement of the second lockdown is still not completed.

Nor was Mr Case much help over the funding of the prime minister’s flat in Downing Street. Here is something he could surely be more forthcoming about. It should be the work of a morning to find out where Boris Johnson found the funds to bring the premises up to the standards he and Carrie Symonds desired. It cannot be that difficult to “follow the money”, but the suspicion is that it came from an unnamed donor, and that would mean another potential breach of the ministerial code. The cabinet secretary is presiding over a situation where ministers refuse to declare interest in a timely way; where there is no standing adviser on ministerial behaviour, since the last one resigned on principle; and where ethics are for other people. Dominic Grieve recently described the prime minister as a “vacuum of integrity”. Alas, many prime ministers have fitted that description, but it is a shame, to say the least, if a cabinet secretary is also sucked into that vacuum.

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