'We need focused learning, not woke folderol': Rees-Mogg slams 'nonsense' civil service training

Government efficiency minister also backs plans from Liz Truss to scrap diversity and inclusion officers
Jacob Rees-Mogg. PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

02 Aug 2022

Civil servants should be offered focused training that improves service delivery, not “woke” courses on witchcraft and privilege, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

The government efficiency minister is reviewing courses offered to civil servants and has previously threatened to ban "absurd" wellness and diversity courses.

Rees-Mogg told Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning that he is working with “some very impressive civil servants” on improving learning and development in the civil service “so that people learn practical skills that deliver better services”.

He hit out at “rubbish” training sessions such as one on witchcraft – which he admitted was for staff to look at on their own time – and another called "check yo’ privilege".

Rees-Mogg said the latter one was "something that takes up time of civil servants which I think can be better spent".

But he admitted: "The one on witchcraft I think was offered on the civil service intranet, fortunately out of hours so I don't think the cost to the taxpayer was huge."

“But we shouldn't be using civil service mechanisms to advertise nonsense,” he added.

“What we want people to do is to learn how to be good fraud investigators, which is an area I have some responsibility for, or how to be good commercial negotiators. We need focused learning and development that improve service delivery, not this woke folderol.”

"Folderol" is described in the Cambridge English Dictionary as “unnecessary actions or words that have little meaning and make something seem more important or complicated than it really is”.

Rees-Mogg does not have the power to cancel training run by individual departments but wrote to all secretaries of state "to urge the importance of close departmental oversight of any staff learning and development activity which does not count as formal training", the Cabinet Office said last month.

The Cabinet Office launched a new curriculum for learning and development in January 2021, which it said will provide courses with skills and knowledge "that will benefit civil servants and help improve public services". The development of this curriculum update is still in progress.

Rees-Mogg also hit out at diversity and inclusion roles, which Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss said yesterday she would scrap if she becomes prime minister.

In an interview this morning on Sky News, described D&I roles as a “job creation scheme created by the woke for the woke”.

"Woke" means "aware, especially of social problems such as racism and inequality", according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

Truss has claimed that eliminating these jobs would save £12m per year.

Rees-Mogg said he does not believe those in diversity and inclusion roles are “doing anything useful”.

“I don’t believe they’re adding to the diversity of the civil service,” he said.

He said he believes ensuring there is diversity "is the job of people making the employment decisions, not somebody who is employed as a diversity officer".

The Brexit opportunities minister, doing the interview rounds this morning, also said he was wrong to claim Brexit would not cause Dover delays but said he "got it wrong for the right reason".

“The point I was making was that the only delays would be caused by the French if they decided not to allow British people to pass through freely. They have decided to do that," he told Andrew Marr on LBC.

The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, which operates rail and car rail transportation across the Channel, have both said the delays are due to the extra checks needed on British passports resulting from Brexit.

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