As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories
This article was written before it was announced that DExEU would close on 31 January
What was your highlight of 2019?
Singing as part of the Civil Service Choir at the memorial service for Sir Jeremy Heywood in Westminster Abbey. It might sound odd for a memorial service to be a highlight, but it was an amazing celebration of the civil service as well as of the former cabinet secretary’s life. Forty of us from the Civil Service Choir sang as the congregation gathered. Standing in that wonderful historic building, singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, was a very emotional moment.
What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?
I started the year in Defra and ended it in DExEU, so that was a big change for me and probably for both organisations too! Change is in DExEU’s DNA and it really never stops. Policy-wise, the most significant change came with the arrival of the new government in July, and DExEU stepped up brilliantly to support renegotiation of the deal and the increased pace on no-deal preparation. We also saw lots of change in our people too, as several of the architects of DExEU moved on to pastures new and we were joined by new colleagues.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The inevitable answer to this is “whatever the general election brings”. The common feature in all parties’ plans is a desire to move at pace, while their proposed approaches are very different. So we’ll need to remain adaptable. We’ve launched an internal campaign – “Recharge, Reset, Reflect” – to ensure that we make the most of the pre-election period not just to think through advice and work programmes, but also to ensure that we’re working sustainably and restoring our energy levels.
Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...
I’m back to singing here – it’s always been a big part of Christmas for me, from “highly flavoured gravy” at infant school to freezing our way throug carols around the Christmas tree at Golders Green tube station with the Brownies. In my teens, when the family got together we had enough singers across three generations to tackle pretty much anything in all four volumes of Carols for Choirs.