Downing Street distances PM from email attacking civil service ‘blob’

Downing Street distances PM from email attacking civil service ‘blob’

Downing Street has distanced Rishi Sunak from an email attacking civil servants that was sent to Tory supporters in the Home Secretary’s name.

Suella Braverman has insisted she did not sanction the widely criticised message, sent to thousands of Conservative Party members, which blamed “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party” for blocking previous attempts to tackle illegal migration.

No 10 on Thursday stressed that this was not in reality the Home Secretary’s or the Prime Minister’s assessment.

His spokesman told reporters: “It doesn’t represent her (the Home Secretary’s) views and certainly does not represent the views of the Prime Minister.”

The official was at pains to point out the pair’s recent efforts to thank Home Office staff for their work.

He said he did not know whether the Government had received an apology from the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), which distributed the email to promote Ms Braverman’s plans to stop migrants arriving in the UK on small boats.

Penny Mordaunt also sought to distance Ms Braverman from from “those sort of comments” in the Commons, but also spoke about the “need” for ministers to “motivate the people that we work with, whether they are in the civil service or organisations we work with”.

The Commons leader praised the “wonderful people” working in many Government departments, who are “diligent, who are determined to deliver for the Government of the day and I’m pleased to be able to have the opportunity to put on record our gratitude to them”.

CCHQ on Wednesday admitted that “the wording wasn’t seen by the Home Secretary” and said it was “reviewing” its internal clearance processes.

Ms Braverman told ITV’s Peston show: “I didn’t write that email, I didn’t see it, and it was an error, really, that it was sent out in my name.”

She said she had been “incredibly impressed” with the dedication and hard work of officials in the Home Office who had been working on the latest measures to stop small boat crossings.

The Home Secretary faced accusations from unions representing Whitehall officials of breaching the Ministerial Code, which states that “ministers must uphold the political impartiality of the civil service”.

Mr Sunak’s spokesman also said: “From the Prime Minister’s point, he thinks the civil service is vital to the work of government and, as you’ve heard on other issues, he thinks civil service impartiality is crucial and he wouldn’t want to see anything done to have an impact on that.

“The Government continues to hugely value the work of civil servants who are working with ministers to provide full and, when necessary, frank advice to work with policy development in the standard way.”

Ms Braverman also brushed off a warning from Brussels that the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill violates international law.

She made clear that the UK was no longer bound by EU rules and was free to set its own migration policy, after EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson raised the concerns with her.

Ministers are braced for legal challenges to the plan to prevent anyone who arrives in the UK by unauthorised means from staying after it has already been denounced by the UN’s refugee agency as an effective “asylum ban”.

Mr Sunak will travel to Paris on Friday where he is expected to seek further help from President Emmanuel Macron in stopping the migrant boats leaving French beaches.