View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
24 October 2018

Jeremy Heywood’s resignation gives Theresa May’s government an unexpected legacy

The departure of one of Whitehall’s pre-eminent officials has a surprise implication for Theresa May. 

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Heywood, who for close to three decades has been close to the epicentre of British government, has resigned his post as Head of the Civil Service on medical grounds: Heywood had to take a temporary leave of absence due to a cancer diagnosis, and while he will receive the customary life peerage for a departing Civil Service chief, his main focus, at least in the short term, will be on his health.

So although his resignation message includes a sideswipe at the “anonymous commentators” (read: Brexit ultras in the Conservative party and the right-wing press) criticising civil servants, this isn’t, unlike the exit of Ivan Rogers from the Civil Service, a departure driven by politics and personality clashes. Indeed Heywood was one of the civil servants who was able to work with Theresa May, whose working style has not always been easy for civil servants to adapt to anymore than it has been for ministers or special advisors.

But his departure means that May’s premiership will have a more lasting impact on the structure of Whitehall than expected. Almost no-one now privately defends May’s 2016 Whitehall re-organisation, which cleaved Brexit off into the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and created a free-standing Department for International Trade (DIT). (The one exception are officials at the Foreign Office, who while initially bruised to be cut out of the biggest foreign and domestic policy challenge since the Second World War, are now quite cheerful about having escaped the paralysis and acrimony of Brexit while still being able to focus on other things.) It’s widely expected that sooner or later, DIT and Dexeu will be folded in other departments, with a trade minister who has full Cabinet rank but sits in the Foreign Office in the manner of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Treasury’s second Cabinet minister.

There will, however, be a lasting May legacy, but it will have a face rather than a department: Heywood’s replacement Mark Sedwill, who is widely respected on Whitehall but who colleagues concede also had the good fortune to be both qualified and able to work with May and her combative former chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.

Now Sedwill is Head of the Civil Service where he will have an understated but vital role at the heart of the British state: ironically a more lasting legacy than anything else Theresa May has done will have.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU