The Civil Service Code is quite specific in telling those thus employed that “You must not ... disclose official information without authority. This duty continues to apply after you leave the Civil Service”. This provision came to mind when reading the latest outburst from Dominic Cummings, formerly Michael “Oiky” Gove’s most senior polecat, and the presence behind the @toryeducation Twitter feed.
Yes, "Oiky", he was your polecat
Cummings’ rant at the Spectator oozes abuse of confidentiality: “the Department for Education was not told about the universal free school meals announcement by Clegg at his party conference (until hours before it became public) because it was a deal struck in the quad [David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and George Osborne — the coalition's highest decision making body]”.
There’s more: “[Clegg’s] funding numbers were junk. His claims to the media of a Department for Education ‘underspend’ were fictitious since we actually had an overspend of hundreds of millions, and finding the money for the gimmick from our maintenance budget, as we were told to do, would mean fewer collapsing school roofs fixed. We told Clegg these things before he told the media his tale”.
More official information thrown around like so much confetti. Why? “Nobody understands what our jobs as special advisers involved. I spent less than 1 per cent of my time dealing with the media. My job was: what are our priorities, what policies can advance them, project manage them through the Department for Education, try to suppress the chaos-inducing entropic forces of Westminster [and] Whitehall”.
This is self-justifying bullshit: when Cummings says grandly “We did not go there to help politicians like Clegg try to buy his way into positions of power by bribing people with taxpayers’ money. We spent a huge amount of time trying to stop gimmicks from all over Whitehall, to limit Whitehall’s interference with schools, and to save taxpayers’ money”, the reality shows otherwise.
Free Schools and academies have sprung up seemingly at random, with many – like IES Breckland, now in Special Measures after a disastrous Ofsted report last week – being established where there were already plenty of free places. Fortunately, the military-style Free School in Oldham was nipped in the bud – but only after significant sums of taxpayers’ money were needlessly expended.
That, and his apparent breach of the Civil Service Code, has not deterred Cummings, who has also told that “I will write separately about the Ofsted issue because there are many misunderstandings about it after Wilshaw’s unfortunate interview”. He should tread carefully: there may come a point when not even Gove will tolerate his abuse of past office.
Although it would be excellent, er, “spectator sport”, to see him come to grief.