Civil service needs ‘weirdos’ and HR ‘a bonfire’, says PM’s senior adviser

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's senior aide.
ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Downing Street wants “weirdos and misfits with odd skills” to help tackle the challenges Boris Johnson’s new government faces, according to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief special adviser, who added that human resources “needs a bonfire”.

In a blog post, Cummings wrote that the government needed an “unusual set of people” with different skills and backgrounds to work in the civil service, to enable it to “do things differently and better”.

He said the civil service was in need of “super talented weirdos”, people who did not go to university and some “true wild cards”.

He added: “People in SW1 talk a lot about ‘diversity’ but they rarely mean ‘true cognitive diversity’. They are usually babbling about ‘gender identity diversity blah blah’. What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity.

“By definition I don’t really know what I’m looking for but I want people around No 10 to be on the lookout for such people.

“We need to figure out how to use such people better without asking them to conform to the horrors of ‘Human Resources’ (which also obviously need a bonfire).”

In particular, the government wants to hire data scientists; software developers; economists; policy experts; project managers; communication experts and junior researchers. One junior researcher will also become Cummings’ personal assistant.

What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity”

“There are many brilliant people in the civil service and politics. Over the past five months the No 10 political team has been lucky to work with some fantastic officials. But there are also some profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions,” he wrote.

Cummings’ blog was criticised by Dave Penman, general secretary of senior civil servants’ union the FDA, for failing to clarify how such candidates would be recruited.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The civil service is recruited on merit, it’s a really fundamental principle.

“You are employed in the civil service because of what you can do, not what you believe.

“If you surround yourself with people who are recruited simply because they believe the same as you believe, and whose employment is at your behest, is that the best way for the civil service or advisers to speak truth to power?

“I don’t think it is, and I think some of those approaches are quite dangerous as well.”

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3 Responses to Civil service needs ‘weirdos’ and HR ‘a bonfire’, says PM’s senior adviser

  1. Avatar
    Gail Puttock 12 Jan 2020 at 11:36 am #

    Quite right we should employ people for what they know not who they know, and those that are the best person for the job. We have moved to a rediculous situation where we ignore talent if it doesn’t have a degree attached to it, and where we feel the need to tick an equalities box. As a woman I want a job because I am the best for the job, not just because I’m a woman.

    • Avatar
      jn 10 Feb 2020 at 11:50 am #

      Yeah, because historically women have always been fairly and balanced considered and we did not have to fight decades for it.

      What he is actually saying is “we do not need people trained for their jobs, we want the kind of uncultured, weird people who will go along with anything we propose”.

  2. Avatar
    Danny Crossley 25 May 2020 at 3:25 pm #

    If I turned up for a job looking like that, I’d be shown the door.

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