Philip Rutnam deserves zero sympathy over the Priti Patel scandal

Philip Rutnam and Priti Patel
Steve Topple

The Home Office’s “top civil servant” Philip Rutnam quit on Saturday 29 February. His decision was centred around a scandal with home secretary Priti Patel. But people on social media are saying he doesn’t deserve any sympathy. Because his career has been marred by systematic failure. Not least of that, the Windrush scandal.

As BBC News tweeted:

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Rutnam seemed to want to take Patel down with him. As The Canary reported:

Rutnam has alleged Patel belittled colleagues and led a ‘vicious and orchestrated’ briefing campaign against him. In the wake of his resignation, the Westminster storm surrounding Patel has intensified. And Patel is said to be ‘absolutely livid’ about allegations that she bullied staff and is distrusted by spymasters.

Rutnam’s reportedly planning on taking the government to court. And over on Twitter, people were leaping on his decision to quit:

But Rutnam probably deserves little sympathy, because his own career is one that’s been dogged by controversy.

In charge of the Windrush scandal

As Mic Wright pointed out:

Quite. Because as BBC News previously reported, Rutnam was at the heart of the Windrush scandal. An internal report showed civil servants had “not supported” the then home secretary Amber Rudd as they should have done. Rutnam commissioned a report into the scandal. It pinned the blame on two civil servants. But the report laid no responsibility at Rutnam’s door. This is despite him saying to a select committee he felt “personal responsibility” for the civil servants’ actions.

An omnishambles career

But it wasn’t just the Home Office where Rutnam failed. Because before this, he was permanent secretary at the Department for Transport (DfT). While he was there, there were numerous DfT omnishambles. Not least:

  • The re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline; a contract which collapsed after Rutnam left the department.
  • HS2, which on his watch was forecast to cost £56bn. That’s now gone up to £106bn.
  • Virgin Trains taking the government to court over the West Coast rail franchise.
  • Overseeing the Southern Rail calamity, including an extra £20m subsidy for the company.

There was also an irony in Rutnam being, at one point, the civil service disability champion. After nearly a year of him being in the post, the Institute for Government said that 28% of disabled civil servants reported discrimination. Also, in his last year at the DfT in 2016, 17 people in the department said they faced disability discrimination.

If this is how they treat each other…

But Rutnam’s role in disability perhaps raises a better point in this whole, sorry mess. Because if Patel’s treatment of him is an example of how ministers treat the civil service, then it’s little wonder that they treat the public even worse. For example, countless disabled people have died on the Department for Work and Pensions’ watch.

We probably shouldn’t feel much sympathy for Rutnam. But we should look to the story as an example of an ever growing authoritarianism from this Tory government.

Featured image via BBC iPlayer and the Telegraph – YouTube

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    1. Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

      I Feel Priti

      A Parody by Caleb Boone.

      (To be sung to the tune of “I Feel Pretty” from Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “West Side Story.”)

      She is Priti,
      Rain-drop drippy,
      Toast crust crispy and lispy and gay,
      And we pity,
      Any girl who isn’t she today!

      She feels harming,
      Staff so harming,
      It’s alarming how harming she feels,
      She’s our Priti,
      And our death-knell on the bells will peal!

      See that staffer hiding behind the chair?
      Apoplectic girl, not so free!
      Priti slapped her face,
      Such a bloody mess,
      Toothless frightened smile,
      Subluxated knee!

      Priti’s stunning,
      Her staff running,
      She’s not funning,
      The rack to deploy!
      For she’s gloved,
      But she’s surely no Claire Foy!

      GIRLS

      Have you met my good friend Patella,
      The craziest girl on the block?
      You’ll know her the minute you see her
      She’s the Minister in an advanced state of shock!

      She’s in hate, not in love,
      She will inflict pain,
      Upon her employees,
      Again and again!

      It must be the heat
      Or Corona disease
      Or a virus to eat,
      Black Death borne by fleas!

      Keep away from her,
      Send for China,
      This is not the Patella we know,
      Not one bit demure,
      Filled with fight so ill-timed,
      Naan Bread alá beurre,
      A slab, bacon-rind!

      Ministerial speech, she’s got a long reach!
      Miss Westminster bravo, speech!
      A bloated sea-lion up-turned on the beach!

      PRITI

      Yes, I’m Priti,
      Dirt-grime-gritty,
      London city can’t hide now from me!
      And a ditty,
      Should be sung in Church to honour me!

      I’ll make money,
      Milk and honey,
      Drinks so fizzy and funny and fine,
      Yes, I’m Priti,
      And Sir Philip Rutnam can resign!

      See that angry girl in that mirror there?
      (What mirror, where?)
      Who can that knee-cracking girl be?
      (Which, what, where, whom?)
      Slap you in the face,
      Make an awful mess,
      Knock you for a mile,
      At no charge, for free!

      PRITI AND STAFF

      I’ll be stomping,
      And head-bonking,
      I’ll be chasing the frightened tea-boy!
      For he brought
      Me hot water, flavoured with soy!

      Have a Dovely.

      Sincerely yours,
      Caleb Boone.

    2. Well, I can’t top Caleb!

      Has anyone else got the feeling BloJo has copied the Trump/Nuttyahoo playbook? Selecting the WORST possible people for positions as a deliberate policy – their inevitable outrages, terrible decisions, bloviating, media shit-storms, failed policies, etc etc etc, are intended to distract attention from the spider at the centre of the web. Patel got the position in no small amount to repay his dark-money international backers – but also knowing that someone who wanted to use UK taxpayer money to pay for the medical treatment of Al Qa’ida terrorists supported by Israel was going to create ‘problems’ at some point. No doubt she will be held onto no matter the cost; unless she threatens to take BloJo down as well.

    3. Home Office, Treasury and Civil Service as a whole have for too long been operated, to all intents and purposes, as fiefdoms to those that run said departments. They’re there to serve and facilitate and ‘make smooth’ the agendas of sitting governments. What’s to object about Mr Rutnam? Was your self-importance horribly undermined by a feisty Home Secretary that told you what to do? Dear O’ Dear! Poor you Mr Putnam. And, what would you have done, conservative (with a small ‘c’ mind you) as you and your other civil servants are acknowledged to be, had Mr Corbyn been prime minister? Would you have progressed quietly and dutifully smoothing through and implementing stark socialist policies and commands against your presumed intrenched old-school conservative judgements?

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