Exclusive: Liz Truss urged Dominic Cummings to scrap hundreds of ‘woke’ Civil Service posts

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Liz Truss urged Dominic Cummings to scrap hundreds of “woke” Civil Service posts as she vowed to stand up to Whitehall “groupthink”, it has emerged.

A leaked document reveals that, when Ms Truss was international trade secretary in 2020, her office called for the abolition of diversity and inclusion roles in the Civil Service, alongside strategic communications teams.

She signed off the document to Mr Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser criticising “risk-averse” Whitehall for its “liberal groupthink” and bemoaning the difficulty of firing poorly-performing officials.

On Monday night, allies said the document accurately represented how she would seek to govern if she won the Tory leadership contest and became prime minister.

The allies said she was still concerned about huge “waste” in government and the “ineffectiveness” of much of the Civil Service.

A source close to Miss Truss said: “As prime minister, Liz will not be captured by the Whitehall and Treasury orthodoxy.

“She’ll push ahead with tough reforms and get things through the labyrinthine Whitehall system. She’s absolutely the person who will get things done and challenge Civil Service groupthink.”

The source added that she was “sceptical” of diversity and inclusion teams. She was involved in the scrapping of unconscious bias training, and instructed all departments to review their partnerships with Stonewall.

The document was written in 2020, after Mr Cummings asked special advisers for ideas on how to save money. The response was written by Ms Truss’s special adviser, but reflected the minister’s views.

It called for a greater politicisation of the Civil Service to make it more like the US and Australia, where a much greater proportion of officials are political appointees. In the UK, the vast majority of officials are career civil servants who work for whichever government is elected.

The document said: “The upper ranks of the Civil Service (eg SCS3) lack political understanding and a tendency towards liberal groupthink results in significant delays in delivering ministerial priorities.”

It called for an “increased number of political appointees in ministerial offices” and a “greater role for the Secretary of State in appointing SCS roles”.

The report demanded the “abolition or reduction” in the size of diversity and inclusion teams, strategic communications, marketing and HR.

On diversity and inclusion, it said: “This team should be scrapped. We have four people in this team for a comparatively small department.”

If the plan had been implemented across Whitehall and the public sector, it would have meant the loss of hundreds of jobs

Discussing strategic communications and marketing officials, the report said: “Since joining it has been unclear what these people do or how they deliver against SoS/No 10’s objective.”

And of the human resources team, it said: “This team is currently over 100 people. Given the size of the department, this could be significantly reduced.”

The document called for a review by the Cabinet Secretary into the introduction of HR practices, such as “putting people on warnings and actually firing”.

It said: “Ultimately, poor-performing personnel are a major blockage to effective and timely decision-making. The department will move people rather than deal with persistently poor performance.”

The submission also called for the appointment of legal expertise from private practice to challenge the Civil Service’s internal lawyers.

“The legal team are highly risk averse and tend to look at reasons not to undertake an activity, rather than how to deliver it while minimising legal risk,” it said. “This is contrary to the work of lawyers in private practice focusing on delivery for clients.”

It criticised the way the permanent secretary has to sign too much paperwork himself, which “significantly slows things down” and exposes a “risk-based culture”.