Sedwill salutes 'dignified and selfless' Darroch in morale-boosting memo

Written by Beckie Smith on 11 July 2019 in News
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Respect in civil service is ‘earned and deserved’, cabinet secretary tells officials after ambassador’s resignation

Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has sent a message of encouragement to civil servants telling them to “stay focused on the citizens we serve” in the wake of the row over leaked diplomatic emails that led to the resignation of the UK’s ambassador to the United States.

This morning’s memo came a day after Sir Kim Darroch said it had become “impossible” to stay in his position after confidential diplomatic communications containing his assessments of the Trump administration were leaked to the press.

“You will be aware of the news that one of our finest public servants, the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, has resigned. Kim is not just a colleague but a friend and a mentor, and his dignified and selfless conduct over the past few days is characteristic not only of his entire career but also of the values of the service in which he has operated with such distinction,” Sedwill wrote.


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In the internal memo, seen by CSW, Sedwill said he had been encouraged to see politicians lending their public support to Darroch since the emails were leaked.

“It is heartening that, with public trust in civil servants at an all-time high, we continue to hear so many expressions of support for both Kim and the wider civil service from public figures on all sides, and for our duties of candour and impartiality, as we deliver the programmes of the governments our fellow citizens elect,” he said.

But Sedwill told officials that public trust in the civil service “must be constantly renewed”.

“It is not given lightly out of reflexive respect for the civil service as an institution. It is earned and deserved by how we exemplify our timeless values in the service of our fellow citizens,” he said.

“So, in an unsettling period for all public servants, my message is simple: stay focused on the citizens we serve. As head of the service, but more importantly as one of those citizens, I’m proud of the brilliant civil service, which remains the envy of the world.”

Sedwill’s message came after politicians and top civil servants lined up to lend their support to Darroch.

Before his resignation yesterday, former prime minister Sir John Major said Darroch should not be “thrown to the wolves” for doing his job. Appearing on the BBC Today programme, Major said Darroch was “sent to Washington as a very senior – and I may say – respected diplomat, to report his unvarnished views in private to the British government… He has behaved exactly as he was expected to behave – indeed, probably instructed to behave. And he deserves the support of the British government,” he said.

But prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson came under fire for failing to back the ambassador in a television debate earlier in the week. Foreign minister Alan Duncan told the BBC Johnson had “basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under the bus to serve his own personal interests”.

Without naming Johnson, Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of MPs: “Leaders stand up for their men. They encourage them to try and defend them when they fail.”

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Louise Haywood-Schiefer
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