Civil servant ‘sacked’ after calling on Simon Case to quit on phone-in show

Former comms staffer says radio-show plea for officials to push back against Boris Johnson-era spin cost him his job
LBC's James O'Brien takes the call from “Stuart”, which the former civil servant says got him sacked

By Jim Dunton

24 Jan 2023

A civil service communications specialist has been sacked after going on national radio and calling on cabinet secretary Simon Case to quit in response to Boris Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher scandal. He also urged No.10 press officers to walk out during the impassioned call. 

The staffer – identified only as “Stuart in Finchley” – said this week he had been dismissed from his post after 16 years of working for the civil service in the wake of his call to LBC last July.

In his call last summer, the official – who openly admitted he should have been working at the time – said Case and the Downing Street press team needed to draw a line under the spin they were being asked to facilitate in relation to the then-PM’s knowledge of Pincher’s behaviour.

Stuart was speaking on the day in July that former Foreign and Commonwealth Office perm sec Lord Simon McDonald publicly disputed Johnson’s claims to have been unaware of ex-minister Pincher’s track record of sexual harassment. That intervention prompted the tidal wave of ministerial resignations that led to Johnson’s decision to set out a timetable for his own departure.

Yesterday, in the midst of the questions surrounding the tax affairs of former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, Stuart called back LBC’s James O’Brien with an update on his fate.

Stuart said that on the day he made the call – 5 July – he felt the UK had reached an “extremely dangerous point for democracy”. He said he believed he was conducting a “true public service” and attempting to encourage senior civil servants with influence to “stop facilitating corrupt practices”.

“Following that phone call, I was suspended from duties as a civil servant. I was suspended for three months while an investigation was ongoing,” Stuart told O’Brien yesterday.

“Throughout that investigation, I was made to feel like a traitor or an enemy of the state. That’s how I felt. Ultimately, I was sacked following a three-month investigation.”

Stuart admitted that after his July call to LBC he had contacted the cabinet secretary, urging him to listen to what was said. He said the language he used in that email  was “unprofessional” and not something he was proud of.

“But, primarily, the reason I was fundamentally sacked, was for the phone call that I made. Which was judged to be a breach of the civil service code,” he said.

“I stand by my phone call on that day and what I did. I don’t regret it in the slightest. What I did on that day was an act of what I still believe was true public service of attempting to get through to senior civil servants who had influence over the government to stop facilitating corruption.”

In his 5 July call, Stuart said: “Simon Case, come out today, make a public statement saying you have lost all confidence in the political leadership of 10 Downing Street and you can no longer fulfil your role as cabinet secretary in the civil service.

“How can you possibly continue in your role as cabinet secretary and head of the civil service?”

To his comms colleagues, he said: “Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that what you're being asked to say on behalf of the government is true. You are better than this. You know you are. It has to stop today.”

He added: "I'm speaking directly to the No.10 press office now. Guys come on, it's over. Stop it now, get up from your desks, walk away. No more.”

Stuart said he had worked in communications for a number of departments over his career, including the FCO.

CSW offered the Cabinet Office the opportunity to respond to Stuart’s comments on LBC. It had not done so at the time of publication.

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