26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Concern at Brexit leader’s PS appointment

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The likely appointment of a prominent campaigner for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) to lead the Civil Service Commission has sparked protests from Opposition Parties in Parliament.

Former Labour MP and Chair of the Vote Leave Campaign during the 2016 referendum, Gisela Stuart has been selected as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s preferred choice as First Civil Service Commissioner.

If confirmed, she would be the first politician to hold the role in more than 100 years.

As well as appearing alongside Mr Johnson during the referendum, Ms Stuart (pictured) urged voters to back the Prime Minister at the last General Election.

As head of the Civil Service Commission, Ms Stuart would be tasked with regulating appointments for top jobs in Whitehall, overseeing the application of the Civil Service Code and hearing complaints from bureaucrats made under the Code.

Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer has written to the Cabinet Office raising “questions over whether she is in a position to provide advice and oversight that is independent, impartial and objective”.

Sir Keir said that while Ms Stuart had enjoyed an admirable career, “she is a former elected politician and chaired a national political campaign”.

“She is closely politically connected to the current Government and has campaigned with many of its members on important political matters that are still relevant to the challenges faced by Departments,” Sir Keir said.

“This means that there are questions over whether she is in a position to provide advice and oversight that is independent, impartial and objective.

“Her appointment as the First Civil Service Commissioner raises these questions,” he said.

Program Director of the think tank, the Institute for Government, Alex Thomas said the position required the holder to be seen to be impartial.

“Being an ally or ideological fellow-traveller of the Prime Minister is not,” Mr Thomas said.

“For this reason, Gisela Stuart looks like the wrong appointment,” he said.

London, 18 February 2022

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