After Conservative Co-Chair, and former Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden said civil servants should get “off their Pelotons and back to their desks”, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman accused him of pandering to the party faithful, pointing out that "what you deliver is far more important than where it’s delivered from”.
Penman told BBC News
that the "hypocrisy of ministers" was "frankly insulting to the dedication, professionalism and commitment of hundreds of thousands of public servants." Writing for the Times
, he also pointed out that discussions around hybrid working were not a "binary argument", despite ministers' attempts to paint them as such, "all for a quick headline":
"Not only do you single out a civil servant for public derision who loyally served you, safe in the knowledge she cannot answer back, but you also insult the hundreds of thousands of public servants who continue to serve you and the government. I hope it was worth it."
Reflecting further on Dowden's comments and the attitude of some ministers in his latest column for Civil Service World
, Penman argued that "if the civil service wasn’t delivering the government’s priorities, they’d have a point. But of course, they don’t. It’s an artificial battle of binary choices conjured up to demonstrate how tough they are, to an audience that knows no better and pundits who couldn’t care less."
Dowden's comments came only a day after former minister Jake Berry referred to civil servants "woke-ing from home". As reported by both the Telegraph
and the Mirror
, Penman remarked that "you can just smell the desperation in their argument when they need to invent a culture war to justify their point".