Country should appreciate civil servants, says former Osborne and Davis advisor James Chapman

Chapman, who has called for the creation of a new centrist party, says Treasury staff “could be running any multinational company they wanted”

James Chapman with Brexit secretary David Davis. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

16 Aug 2017

A former senior advisor in both the Treasury and the Department for Exiting the European Union has said that working in government convinced him that British people should be “falling over ourselves in gratitude” at the work of civil servants.

James Chapman, who worked as George Osborne’s director of communications at the Treasury from May 2015 to August 2016, and then as David Davis’ chief of staff at the Department for Exiting the European Union until June, said in an interview that he worked with “some of the cleverest people” when in government.


Since leaving Whitehall Chapman, who is also a former political editor of the Daily Mail, has criticised the government’s work on Brexit and campaigned for the creation of a new centrist party, called The Democrats, that could challenge the EU exit plan.

Asked in an interview with GQ what he thinks needs to change in politics and government, Chapman said that there was a need to pay people more and change the public discourse around politics, including fostering a greater appreciation for what civil servants do.

“The people I encountered - Clare Lombardelli who ran the budget; Conrad Smewing who was Osborne’s private secretary; Joanna Harstan who worked in Osborne's private office; Emma Simmons who was Osborne's speech writer - any of these people could be running any multinational company they wanted. And people would snap them up if they put themselves on LinkedIn. This country should be really thankful.”

He said he entered government “with the view that it’s like The Thick Of It – they’re all incompetent and what they need is for me to show them how it’s done”.

However, he added: “Actually, we should be falling over ourselves in gratitude that there are people like that who are prepared to work in public service.”

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