Civil servant revolt at ‘woke takeover of Whitehall’

Simon Case
Mr Case was told in a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments that gender ideology has become embedded in the civil service - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Cabinet Secretary has been warned by senior civil servants of a “woke takeover of Whitehall” that risks “improperly” influencing Government policy.

Simon Case was told in a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments that ideology on gender promoted by trans activists has become embedded in the Civil Service in a “significant breach of impartiality”.

It says the concept that “everyone has a gender identity which is more important than their sex” is “treated as undisputed fact”.

Staff who dare to air gender-critical views – meaning they believe there are two biological sexes that cannot be changed – suffer “serious harassment” at work and live with a “pervasive fear” they will be victimised, the letter adds.

As a result, it says, the operation of government is being “distorted” and the authors plead for “urgent action to ensure that Civil Service impartiality is upheld, and freedom of belief is respected”.

The Civil Service’s head of human resources has met some of the signatories to discuss their concerns, but the letter – along with extensive evidence of the way highly contentious beliefs are promoted in numerous Whitehall departments – has been leaked to The Telegraph amid complaints that the response has been inadequate.

Gender-critical beliefs are protected by the Equality Act 2010, which also protects people against discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment. The authors of the letter argue that only one of those rights is given any weight by the Civil Service.

The letter states: “Many of us have experienced some form of professional disadvantage because we do not believe that the concept of gender identity is meaningful, or that it is more important than sex. Several of us have been through stressful and intrusive employment disputes.”

Disclosures ‘must spur action’

A signatory of the letter told The Telegraph: “There has been a widespread woke takeover of Whitehall that our most senior officials have swallowed hook, line and sinker”.

The letter states that the culture in the Civil Service “distorts the operation of government in many ways, and it is reasonable to be concerned that it could improperly influence government policy”.

Mr Case and Rishi Sunak now face questions over their alleged failure to tackle the problem.

Writing in The Telegraph, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former minister for government efficiency, says the disclosures: “Must spur action from [Mr] Case and ultimately the Prime Minister. It is completely unacceptable that the Civil Service has been politicised in this way.”

Cabinet ministers have long been concerned about bias in the Civil Service when it comes to gender politics. In 2021, the then equalities minister Liz Truss ordered Whitehall departments to withdraw from a controversial “diversity champions” scheme run by the charity Stonewall following accusations that it was promoting extreme ideologies.

In turn, the Civil Service has set a goal of becoming the most inclusive employer in the UK, in order to “attract, develop and retain the most diverse talent”.

It is highly unusual for civil servants to write directly to the Cabinet Secretary with their concerns, and even more unusual for such letters to become public knowledge.

Documents shared with The Telegraph show staff have been asked to undergo training that says biological men can use female-only facilities and to avoid gendered language such as the phrase “mum and dad” in some circumstances for fear of causing offence.

In departments struggling with inflationary pressures and backlogs caused by the pandemic, civil servants are being encouraged to spend their time attending courses or watching videos that promote LGBTQ+ “allyship”.

In one department, staff shared a “30 days of Pride” online calendar, with different videos and articles for each day, where it would take almost six hours to watch and read them all.

Sir Jacob, who drew up plans to rein in such behaviour when he was in government, says “woke culture has entered the soul of the Civil Service”.

Attempts to implement reform are blocked by senior civil servants, he says, adding: “This obstruction and wokery cannot continue: it is designed, quite simply, to stop democracy working.”

Mr Case, who has served three prime ministers since being appointed as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service in 2020, delegated the reply to the letter to the Government’s head of HR.

The letter, which was also sent to all permanent secretaries – the most senior civil servants in each ministry – warns that impartiality, one of the core values of the Civil Service Code, is being “ignored in respect of sex and gender issues”.

The signatories, who include senior managers, senior lawyers and policy advisers, say: “We are concerned that the widespread incorporation of the concept of ‘gender identity’ into the language and internal policies of the Civil Service constitutes a significant breach of impartiality.”

They add that Civil Service communications and HR policies routinely promote a belief system in which everyone has a gender identity which is more important than their sex.

“Not everyone shares this belief,” the letter says, “yet it is often treated as undisputed fact, and those who disagree are characterised as uninformed or hateful”.

Fear of being victimised

Eight of the 42 signatories are anonymous as they regard it as “too dangerous” to their careers to reveal their identities.

They say that the Civil Service is being “reordered” around an “ideologically motivated” belief system, that single-sex facilities are opened up to anyone on the basis of self-declared gender, and that many civil servants “have experienced some form of professional disadvantage” for suggesting that biological sex is more important than gender identity.

The letter says: “Some of us have suffered serious harassment in the workplace; others go to work with a pervasive fear that we will be victimised for what we believe.”

Mr Case is urged to take action “to ensure that Civil Service impartiality is upheld, and freedom of belief is respected” rather than allowing “departmental policies, training and communications [to] assume that there is only one valid perspective”.

The letter was sent to Mr Case on April 18, and it was more than two months before the signatories got a reply.

It came from Fiona Ryland, the Government’s chief people officer, who wrote back on June 30.

She said she was “concerned” and took the matter seriously, agreeing that gender-critical beliefs were protected under the Equality Act 2010 and should be respected.

She suggested that upcoming Civil Service impartiality guidance would “provide greater clarity” and ensure that diversity and inclusion training was not biased.

A government source said that Ms Ryland met with signatories of the letter after it was sent and the Government’s impartiality guidance focusing on the contentious training and policy for civil servants was being prepared and is expected to be published by the end of this year.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Cabinet Secretary and senior Civil Service leaders take the issues raised in the letter seriously.

“Our response outlines how the concerns that staff raised are being addressed, including through updated Impartiality Guidance.

“It also says that it is important that civil servants recognise the diversity of opinion on these issues.”

‘I’m in a silent majority bullied into acceptance’

By Anonymous

I work as a civil servant for a major government department and I am part of what I believe is a silent majority being bullied into accepting the wholesale adoption of gender identity ideology.

Freedom of speech does not exist for anyone whose personal or religious beliefs clash with the official version of reality, or for women who might have been victims of sexual assault and object to sharing women-only spaces with biological males.

Instead, those who exercise their legally protected right to gender-critical views – the belief you cannot change your biological sex – are: accused of bigotry and hate; compared to racists; and harassed or actively silenced, usually by having their views ignored.

Having started through staff networks, which are diversity groups set up by civil servants, and HR, gender ideology has become embedded right across the Civil Service with the connivance or cowardice of senior leaders who seem genuinely scared of this issue.

Even the Women’s Network has been replaced by the “Gender Equality Network” which promotes the notion that our biological sex is an “identity” rather than an immutable characteristic.

The result for the country at large is that impartiality and objectivity – both core Civil Service values – are being lost, and in their place is one side of a heavily contested social and political issue that is presented as fact.

Accusations of misgendering

If a complaint is made to articulate a concern about the inclusion of men in groups that relate specifically to female biology – such as the menopause – the complainant is dismissed as failing to understand diversity and inclusion, accused of misgendering, encouraged to educate themselves by reading approved policies or will even receive veiled threats that they will be reported to their manager.

Senior civil servants say nothing to challenge the bizarre and offensive ideas that are presented as fact. My guess is that they are as intimidated as everyone else from expressing a heretical viewpoint.

One document aimed at educating civil servants on how to support transgender staff says: “Part of gender transition is living in the gender with which a person identifies. This includes using the facilities they feel are right for them, such as toilets and changing rooms.”

There is no recognition, let alone organisational support, for any woman who may simply want privacy from the opposite sex, or who may as a requirement of her religion be required to use separate facilities from men, or who may have experienced sexual violence.

The Civil Service makes it plain there is a hierarchy of rights and that gender identity trumps both sex and faith and belief.