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2004-07-14 - 9:10 p.m.


So Butler has escaped and it looks mild. Having skimmed the report I find one rather nice recommendation. It concerns the chair of the JIC – the post that Scarlet held during the drafting of the naff dossiers. Butler recommends that the occupant of this post in future should not be held by someone who is angling for promotion. Scarlet has of course been promoted to head up MI6 since the Iraq War.

This is important – Butler seems to be concerned that civil servants may depart from their duty to be objective – and clearly as Butler finds – the JIC wasn’t objective. Butler seems to be suggesting that Scarlet may not have been objective because he was angling for promotion, Hutton was less up front. He suggested that Scarlet may have unconsciously been influenced by what his political masters needed. Butler says these unconscious biases might be triggered by career objectives

About 10 years ago Butler had a crack at defining the duties of a civil servant – at the time at which he created the Senior Civil Service as a distinct cardre. He put to the forefront the idea that civil servants had a duty to give objective advice “without fear or favour”. Needless to say since then the “spin” culture in public service has suppressed this commitment to objectivity in all sorts of ways.

In the 19th century the Northcote Trevelyan reforms tried to root out patronage. They did this in terms of recruitment – trying to establish recruitment on merit – on objective rather than patronage grounds. This has been fairly successful although the swing towards regional administration raises some question marks in the last five years in my view. The Civil Service Commissioners are still there looking at recruitment. Paul Wheeler’s father was one such commissioner – in fact I believe he was the lead commissioner. I had to manage a recruitment in my Department and we were very careful to meet the Commissioners’ procedures. Lots of objective assessment.

One of the reasons why the firm I work for now is so effective is that my colleague Stefan is good at testing recruits and knows a great deal about how the tests operate. Toyota – the most effective car firm these days – spends 14 hours on objective testing before it picks a recruit to go on the line making Corollas.

Of course, patronage can happen on recruitment but it can also happen in terms of promotion – people can be promoted on non-objective grounds – because they suit the prevailing political climate for example rather than because they are best able to do the job. Such issues might arise with Scarlet’s promotion.

The scrutiny of senior promotions is much less effective – the result is a politicisation of thinking at senior levels in the Civil Service. Less objective advice especially where objectivity is uncomfortable for the ruling party is the inevitable consequence.

Lots of people die because the decision to go to war isn’t as good as it needs to be.

So much for the British Constitution.

At least we can rely on gthe press:TONY BLAIR was under pressure today to block the promotion of Scarlett to the head of MI6 as the Butler Inquiry into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war reported its finding. A stint of saucy suspender-sporting nightclub prancing and word of an up, up and a whey-hey-hey moment with pug-faced film star Benicio Del Toro in a lift have shored up sexy Scarlett's reputation for being, er, a bit of a girl, in the tabloids. Two left-wing Labour MPs have put down a Commons motion saying Scarlett should not get the top job in British intelligence and they have been backed by the Tories and Liberal Democrats. Scarlett chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which wrote and published the controversial 2002 dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. >

This included the controversial and false claim that Saddam Hussein could unleash strategic biological or chemical weapons "within 45 minutes" of issuing the order. >

This was further fuelled by an alleged girlie snog with her mucker Tara Subkoff. >

Scarlett’s judgment and relationship with Downing Street is one of the crucial issues in the five month inquiry headed by former Cabinet secretary Lord Butler of Brockwell. Mr Blair promoted Scarlett from the chair of the JIC to the head of MI6 in the middle of Lord Butler’s investigation. >

Now left winger Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Alice Mahon are calling for that promotion to be rescinded citing the fact that in the United States George Tenet, the head of the American counterpart to MI6 the CIA, resigned over the intelligence failures on Iraq. Their motion "deplores the promotion of John Scarlett to head MI6" in May while the Butler Inquiry was still underway. The kissy-kissy claim became the talk of old ladies at bus-stops across Manhattan, amid rumours that the Lost In Translation star might be no better than she should be.

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