Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued the return to in-person working will deliver wider benefits for the economy. (Photo: Aaron Chown via PA Wire/PA Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been labelled a “nasty patronising man” after reportedly leaving notes on the desks of civil servants who were not in the office.
The government efficiency minister is leading efforts for a “rapid return” of officials to their Whitehall desks after working from home became the norm during the pandemic.
In a letter to cabinet ministers this week, Rees-Mogg argued that the return to in-person working would bring the benefits of “face-to-face, collaborative working” as well as delivering wider benefits for the economy.
On Friday, podcast producer Dino Sofos posted a picture on Twitter of an official-looking note apparently authored by Rees-Mogg, who is also minister for Brexit opportunities.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is leaving this note for civil servants who aren’t at their desks… pic.twitter.com/7KzBcGKVJP
— Dino Sofos (@dinosofos) April 22, 2022
It read: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. Wish every good wish.”
The alleged note caused an exasperated response on social media, with some pointing out the officials may have been away from their desk briefly (like Rees-Mogg himself) and that the WFH crackdown could prompt people to quit in favour of the private sector.
Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote: “What a nasty patronising man he is.”
What a nasty patronising man he is. https://t.co/InGNYTTUVF
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) April 22, 2022
Most of them hot desk I think
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) April 22, 2022
But … almost no civil servants have fixed desks … so he won’t know who he was “visiting”, where they were, or who they are if he “sees them in the office”. The Minister for Government Efficiency https://t.co/e1noWu01Ls
— Jonathan Jones (@SirJJQC) April 22, 2022
At least one person in this story has far too much time on their hands. On the other hand, sneaking around leaving glorified post-it notes on strangers’ desks is probably the safest deployment of Rees-Mogg. He does serious & lasting damage when he’s allowed out of nursery mode. https://t.co/4pbNnwbApt
— James Oh Brien (@mrjamesob) April 22, 2022
The Minister’s own desk would have been empty when he was leaving these notes.
Similarly, officials would have been in meetings, visiting other colleagues, out on visits too.
Hardly anyone in the civil service has a job that’s best done all day at the same desk https://t.co/IsKG6gUBcV
— Ciaran Martin (@ciaranmartinoxf) April 22, 2022
nothing says government efficiency like a minister going desk-to-desk with a pile of printed notes https://t.co/NCvR7BYnjU
— Henry Mance (@henrymance) April 22, 2022
Can’t believe they waited until after I stopped doing a Westminster column to provide the perfect intro for a column on the decline of British state capacity. https://t.co/bKMgMXcsOK
— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) April 22, 2022
With up to three-quarters of staff still reportedly working from home, Rees-Mogg accompanied his letter with a league table showing how many staff in each government department were attending the office on an average day.
The drive has been branded “vindictive” by Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA representing senior civil servants, who said ministers were out of step with practice in the private sector.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.