FDA members at this year’s Annual Delegate Conference (ADC) sent a clear message to those who seek to undermine the civil service for their own political agenda: stop attacking civil servants.
Delegates voted unanimously for a motion calling on the Government and party leaders to take action against those who attack the civil service from within their parties.
Following the vote, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman wrote to the leaders of all the main political parties, asking for their support in bringing an end to the relentless attacks on the impartiality and integrity of the civil service, and on individual civil servants.
Hilary Benn MP told delegates “attacks on civil servants are unacceptable”
Speaking at ADC, Penman condemned “the systematic undermining of the principles of a professional and impartial civil service”.
He explained: “These are not the ill-judged remarks of a minister in the cross hairs of the media. The attacks we are seeing now are deliberate, considered and coordinated attempts to undermine the trust in the civil service.
“It is the weapon of choice for many in the European Research Group (ERG), Leave Means Leave and assorted fellow travellers. Ideologically obsessed and willing to sacrifice public trust in government to advance their cause – to them no principle is sacrosanct, no individual civil servant is unexpendable. We have already seen individuals singled out and receive death threats.
“We even witnessed cries of 'shoot him' from the audience at the mention of the name Olly Robbins – the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser – during a speech by the ERG’s Mark Francois. Shame on Francois, shame on his enablers in the ERG and shame on all those politicians who have indulged in ‘traitor’ tropes to progress their narrow political agenda.”
The FDA General Secretary also stressed that this issue isn’t isolated to the right of politics, with influential figures on the left such as Lord Adonis accusing the civil service of “being the enablers of Brexit” and others painting civil servants as “establishment lackeys who’ll frustrate a future Labour government”.
“Left and right are coalescing around a narrative which suits their ideological objectives, but undermines the foundations of an impartial civil service,” he warned. “Attacking civil servants only serves to undermine democracy and trust in future governments – this is vital if we are to address the big public policy issues that face us over the next decades.
Guest speaker Hillary Benn MP, Chair of the Exiting the European Union Commons Select Committee, echoed these thoughts, telling delegates: “Attacks on civil servants are unacceptable. For MPs to criticise civil servants rather than politicians of their own party - that is completely unacceptable. Abuse, threats and intimidation are unacceptable. Our democracy is damaged by such behaviour.”
Throughout ADC delegates also reinforced this message on social media, sharing pictures of themselves with our “Stop attacking the civil service” placards using #FDAADC19.