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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 27 March 2017

No Minister

It is a strange week to be a UK blogger with pretensions to comment on current affairs.  There has been a terrorist attack in London and this Wednesday the process for Brexit will actually start.  I send all love and sympathy to those affected by the attack last week.  Any lives lost is too many.  However, I suppose we should be very thankful that it is twelve years since a major attack succeeded and very grateful for the professionalism and sacrifice of those who dealt with the events of last week.

And in a way that links to my thoughts about the Brexit 'triggering'.  I did not vote for Brexit and I greatly resent that such a momentous, complex decision has been made on the basis of one vote.  However, since our government are determined to stand by that one (very close) vote and exit the EU, I believe we now have to fight for the details of that exit.  

The British civil service is one of the major factors which has kept our country from stumbling into extremism.  With a big enough mandate, the elected government can push through what it wants in Parliament - as long as it keeps its own MPs happy.  But the detail of how things are actually implemented and what they mean further down the 'food chain' is very much influenced by what ministers are told is possible or by how civil servants interpret the demands of ministers.

Yes Minister, the 1980s sitcom about the civil service, runs very close to the bone.  (Sort of how I might prefer my husband think it was his idea to book a holiday - but on a much grander scale!)

I do not doubt there are civil servants at all levels who supported Brexit.  I should imagine dealing with EU law and institutions is very frustrating for a start.  And I myself did not vote Remain because I think the EU is perfect.  Far from it.  But I would have preferred to be working for change from within the grouping.  The loss of so many protections and freedoms in order to be free of bureaucracy was, in my opinion, too high a price to pay.  Especially for future generations.

The close protection officers who whisked Theresa May out of Parliament last week would have done so whoever was Prime Minister.  Our security services continue to perform their functions whichever party is in power.  In the same way, other civil servants keep government ticking over through elections, reshuffles, etc.  A short while ago, one of the newspapers saw fit to publish outlines of the plans for when the Queen dies.  They are drawn up according to past history and long experience.  To be implemented by the occupants of ministerial offices, regardless of party loyalties.

And now we desperately need our civil service to step up for the Brexit negotiations.  It is their job to be politically neutral and to do the best for our country.  Ministers are too driven by the big pictures, by election results, by social media.  What we need for the next two years is people who will focus not on their own concerns but on what is best for our future.  They may not have long experience of this issue.  There was apparently very little contingency work done before the vote.  But they do know how to get things done despite the politicos.

Some commentators have said the gates through which the attacker arrived at Parliament last week were a security weak spot.  In part because ministers and members insisted on to being able to get through quickly by car. 

The government's majority in Parliament means that 'No Minister' needs to be heard far more often and more firmly as we enter these talks.  Or who knows what will be let through in the interests of government supporters.  

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