A recent survey suggested that our senior civil servants spend approximately a third of their time working on their Minister's agenda, a third on EU initiatives and a third on interests of their own devising. It explains in part why ministers, with a remit from voters, find it almost impossible to effect change during their period in office. Mandarins also know that ministers are 'here today, gone tomorrow', with few having sufficient experience to know how to manage their Departments of State. Thus when cuts are actually biting across the armed forces, libraries, the NHS and the like, the civil service has remained virtually unchanged and intact. As for accountability, the convention, established by Sir Robert Armstrong in 1985, is that mandarins are accountable only to their ministers. Whilst insisting at the same time that they have higher duties than to political objectives, that they are guardians of the State, independent and impartial. It's a defence in depth, a series of fortifications that means in effect that senior civil servants are accountable to no one but themselves.
It's the mandarinate more than any other component of our polity that has built the 'Big State', that has established the poisonous message that only the bureaucratic Central State can be trusted to be fair and uncorrupt. When I suggest on here, for example, that Welfare should be local, the greatest countervailing argument in the comments is that people can't be trusted to be fair and ration Welfare with probity, that only the State can do so. And that's the message from the mandarinate - that we can't be trusted to manage ourselves, that we're flawed, incapable, inept and unskilled, and that they only know know what's best for everyone. I'm sorry, but it's bollocks. It's a crock. The mandarinate are the greatest single threat to our freedom and liberty, the EU's fifth column, the enemy within, with loyalties not to our sovereign realm but to some specious international ideology. They can't be trusted as far as I can spit. Give me a bent local Imam creaming off the Welfare budget to Lahore any day - at least it's honest theft.
Gus O'Donnell's parting shot in defence of the mandarinate is revealed in the Telegraph this morning. Margaret Hoxha had the temerity, as Chairman of a Select Committee, to put a senior mandarin to the question, and when she suspected him of lying, insisted the rest of his evidence was taken under oath. O'Donnell was incandescent with rage. Civil servants are immune from Parliamentary scrutiny as far as he is concerned. How could they govern the country if they were subject to direct democratic control?
But there's a new mood in Parliament. Reform is on the wind. MPs are feeling their breeches for the first time in many years. The mandarinate may have a shock coming.