PM draws up mandarin 'hit list': Tories plan purge of civil servants

PM draws up mandarin ‘hit list’: Tories plan purge of senior civil servants amid concerns at heated clashes with ministers

  • Three Whitehall permanent secretaries are now in the firing line of Number 10
  • Treasury’s Sir Tom Scholar is one of the mandarins at risk for frustrating Brexit 
  • Sir Philip Rutnam, who locked horns with Home Secretary Priti Patel is at threat
  • Sir Simon McDonald of the Foreign Office is also said to be facing the chop

Boris Johnson has drawn up a ‘hit list’ of senior civil servants he wants turfed out of Whitehall so they cannot hamstring his Brexit agenda.

A major shake-up of government departments puts three permanent secretaries in the firing line of Number 10, which feels emboldened to make swingeing defenestrations with the PM’s huge mandate.

The Treasury’s Sir Tom Scholar is one of the mandarins at risk because he is judged in Downing Street to have frustrated Brexit, a Tory source told the Sunday Telegraph.

He is joined on the list by Sir Philip Rutnam, who has repeatedly locked horns with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Boris Johnson has drawn up a ‘hit list’ of senior civil servants he wants turfed out of Whitehall so they cannot hamstring his Brexit agenda

The Treasury’s Sir Tom Scholar (right) is one of the mandarins at risk because he is judged in Downing Street have frustrated Brexit

Simmering tensions at the top of the Home Office boiled over last week when it emerged Ms Patel tried to oust Sir Philip from his post, with her allies claiming he had long been ‘obstructing’ home secretaries.

Sir Simon McDonald of the Foreign Office, who worked with the PM during his stint in the department, is also said to be facing the chopping block.

Sir Tom, who assumed his role at the Treasury in 2016, is blamed for trying to trip up the Brexit process during his three-year tenure.

A source said: ‘Scholar is offside completely on Brexit. The Treasury has done nothing but dig their heels in.’ 

The anticipated overhaul of top civil servants comes after the PM moved to consolidate power in Downing Street via a power-grabbing cabinet reshuffle.

Sajid Javid quit as chancellor after refusing to sack his entire team of advisers, which would have been replaced by a joint economic unit working across Numbers 10 and 11.

Sir Tom is joined on the list by Sir Philip Rutnam (pictured), who has repeatedly locked horns with Home Secretary Priti Patel

Sir Simon McDonald of the Foreign Office, who worked with the PM during his stint in the department, is also said to be facing the chopping block

This attempt to muscle in on economic policy-making suggests the Treasury will be forced to fall into line with Downing Street’s legislative programme – and Sir Tom is viewed as an obstacle to this blueprint.

But he is understood to get along with new Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which buoys his prospects of keeping his job, a source said.

An insider responded to reports of Sir Tom’s mooted sacking by lashing out at Mr Johnson for trying to impose ‘ideological purity’.

Sir Simon could be sacked as payback for embarrassing Mr Johnson in the wake of US ambassador Sir Kim Darroch’s resignation, it is understood.

Mr Johnson had declined to publicly support Sir Kim, but Sir Simon wrote a letter saying: ‘The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and whole of the public service have stood with you: you were the target of a malicious leak; you were simply doing your job.’

The third name on the list, Sir Philip, is reportedly hanging by a thread because of repeated clashes with Ms Patel.

Ms Patel is said to have tried to move permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam out of the department.

Sir Philip previously faced calls for him to resign in 2018 over the Home Office’s handling of the Windrush scandal.

Now former Home Office insiders have accused the mandarin of being ‘nowhere to be seen’ during the crisis despite being ‘paid more than the prime minister’.

Downing Street last night declined to comment. 

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