Simon Case would be crazy not to think about his future

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Good morning Another change in public service? Simon Case is set to weigh his future as the UK’s top civil servant. Some thoughts on our scoop in today’s note.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stefan on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to

Case closed?

The news that Sue Gray would be joining Keir Starmer’s team came in the middle of the Conservative Party’s away day. The news spread “like wildfire” among the assembled MPs, one participant said, with MPs spotting them on their phones and alerting their colleagues nearby.

It startled MPs for a number of reasons. The first is that some of them have been directly involved in Sue Gray’s role as a fixer and “disappearer” of secrets in the Cabinet Office, and they fear she will take those secrets with her.

The second, as I wrote on Friday, is that it presents an opportunity for some of Boris Johnson’s allies to muddy the waters around Johnson’s departure and the importance of her party report. (For the true story of Gray’s account, Rob Hutton’s article for the critic is worth reading). But it will help them cast enough dirt and enough confusion to cover up the real reasons behind Johnson’s departure and, they hope, ease his return as prime minister.

Third, they see for others a respected official jumping ship to the opposition, and they conclude that Gray, like many in Westminster, has written off the Conservative Party’s chances of staying in office after the next election. Isaac Levido, the party’s chief strategist, had spent much of the day off presenting data showing that Labor leadership is weak and that the Conservatives have a viable path to victory in the next election.

That senior officials believe their own prospects are better covered if they leave the civil service for the head of the opposition office, rightly or wrongly, seems like evidence against Levido’s conviction.

I don’t think that’s entirely true, but enough MEPs believe it. It is also another issue for Simon Case, who was appointed Cabinet Secretary in September 2020. Controversy over whether or not Gray was correct in disclosing her meetings with Keir Starmer and her interest in the job may yet backfire on him.

Here’s the background to our report from Chris Cook, George Parker and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe: Case is considering exiting the role early.

case would be crazy not to think about his future. He was very fortunate to weather the change in leadership from Boris Johnson to Liz Truss. What saved him was the fact that Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng thought Tom Scholar, the former permanent finance minister, was a more important roadblock. The two figured they couldn’t master both at once without causing too many problems for themselves.

Case now faces challenges on two fronts. On the one hand, questions remain about Johnson’s Downing Street and the Cabinet Secretary’s knowledge of Home Affairs, not least Johnson’s alleged personal financial relationship with BBC Chairman Richard Sharp. (Sharp said he put Case in touch with Sam Blyth, a businessman who had approached him to support Johnson.)

On the other hand, the Cabinet Secretary is quoted at length in the Telegraph’s ‘Lockdown Files’: the leaked WhatsApp messages received and sent by Matt Hancock at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He at least seems to be emerging as someone on the same page as Hancock.

Essentially everyone in the Conservative Party knew that there were three key Cabinet figures in the lockdown debates: Matt Hancock (Pro), Michael Gove (Pro) and Rishi Sunak (Anti). But what’s really new about the internal rhythms of the Tory party is that Case described some opposition to the Covid-19 restrictions as being driven by “purely conservative ideology” and that Johnson was “nationally distrusted”.

It puts Case in a difficult position: raising concern among those who see him as Johnson’s last courtier, a docile and ineffective cabinet secretary who should not have outlived the prime minister who appointed him. But he’s also faced criticism from lockdown skeptics on the Tory right.

will he go I don’t know. But given the forces he faces in the Conservative Party, he would be insane not to at least consider going on his own terms.

Shameless self-promotion

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