Letters: Our broken civil service

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

Beyond the party

Sir: Rod Liddle is spot-on in arguing that the attitudes revealed by ‘partygate’ extend to senior civil servants (‘The truth about that No. 10 party’, 15 January). He gets the extent wrong by tarring all public-sector workers with the same brush, which would include all NHS workers, and is not true. What is true is that the attitude has indeed spread in the civil service well beyond the public school and Oxbridge-educated elite. I spent a couple of years seconded to a department of state, trying to make progress on implementing reforms that had been approved by parliament. I failed. I was eventually blackballed for speaking truth to power — that is, reporting directly to a minister, as my contract said I should. That truth was that many of the civil servants I worked with felt they knew exactly what to do. Consultation was an irritating distraction. Their ignorance was not revealed because they also delayed everything, so no one could ever accuse them of making a mistake. Dominic Cummings is a controversial character but his assessment of much of our civil service is accurate, and nothing is being done to fix things.

Peter Furness

Whissendine, Rutland

Jobs and jabs

Sir: After reading Steve James’s piece (‘Doctor’s note’, 15 January), I felt compelled to write. I am a 61-year-old male and have had both my Covid-19 jabs and the booster; I am very grateful for them and for the scientists that developed them.

So far so good, but what of my brother? He is a consultant anaesthetist at the same London hospital as James, with more than 30 years’ experience; no doubt countless lives have been saved by his work. He has been on the front line breathing in the virus since it started and has never got sick. He puts this down to possibly being infected early on and developing a strong immunity due to constant exposure. He also points out that studies suggest that even if you have the vaccine, you are capable of carrying and passing on the virus, possibly more than someone who has developed an apparent immunity from constant exposure.

Here however is the rub: because of this logic and his own conscientious objection, he is prepared to be forced to give up his job rather than be made to have the vaccine. There are estimated to be around 85,000 people like him working in our NHS, an NHS which may find it impossible to cope with such staff losses. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has given them until 1 April to have the vaccine. Who will be the April fool if they refuse?

Dr Brian Mathew

Chippenham, Wiltshire

Decent exposure

Sir: Two observations in Dr Steve James’s defence of his right to choose whether to be vaccinated leapt out at me in his utterly convincing article. He casually talks about microdosing as if this is something widely discussed. It isn’t. If it is true that the best way to boost an immune system is to expose it to regular low doses of the virus, then locking everyone down will have prevented many of us — perhaps everyone without comorbidities — from developing natural and possibly better defences to the virus than through a vaccine programme. The other is the stunning remark that ‘nearly all’ unvaccinated patients in critical care have other risk factors. Not ‘most’ but ‘nearly all’. If this is true, why have we not been encouraging the population to eat well, exercise and get some sleep rather than scaring them into darkened, airless corners? We would have been better off directing our resources to the vulnerable and sending our extra doses to countries that need them more.

Christopher Potter

London E3

Manifest error

Sir: Mary Wakefield’s piece (‘Work in progress’, 15 January) is another example of how the loss of Christian faith among so many of my generation (the millennials) leaves us deeply impoverished. ‘Manifesting’ seems to me to be a secular version of praying. Unlike praying to God, however, ‘manifesting’ seems entirely self-interested, whereas at the very least the Christian at prayer seeks God’s forgiveness and gives thanks before moving on to the list of needs and wants.

The Christian ought to be humble enough to leave the answers to prayer in the hands of God to do with as He will; what does the secular ‘manifester’ do when his call for whatever it is he is ‘manifesting’ is not answered? Without a God whose mystery is beyond understanding he can only blame himself or society, and that is exactly what we see: a generation crippled with personal anxiety and collective victimhood.

Adam Kelly


A word in our weir

Sir: I was interested to learn that the local term for water at the weir on the Thames is lasher, derived from the verb lash, meaning dash, rush, flash, pour, rush (Mind your language, 8 January). In Slapton, Northamptonshire, we have a weir adjoining a former mill that is known as the Lasher. In spite of living here for 42 years I have never known the reason for this. Thank you Dot for enlightening me. I will tell the locals.

Caroline Coke

Slapton, Northamptonshire

Jam session

Sir: I was interested to read Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s Notes on Marmalade (15 January). I have just finished making my annual 52 jars over four days. While preparing each batch, I listen to a Mahler Symphony. Hence in our family it is called Mahlerlade.

Roger Greene

Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments