Boris Johnson Added Bullying to the Ministerial Code

by ukcivilservant

Newly appointed Prime Ministers update and re-issue the Ministerial Code during the first few weeks of their period in office. They then usually repeat this exercise on being re-elected.

All recent codes have included this general provision:

Ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the Civil Service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect.

All recent codes have also been accompanied by a short foreword. Theresa May’s first (2016) foreword made no reference to the way that ministers should treat officials in the workplace. But her second, January 2018, foreword contained this interesting paragraph (emphasis added):

Parliament and Whitehall are special places in our democracy, but they are also places of work too, and exactly the same standards and norms should govern them as govern any other workplace. We need to establish a new culture of respect at the centre of our public life: one in which everyone can feel confident that they are working in a safe and secure environment.

Boris Johnson went considerably further in 2019 when he included this paragraph in his foreword (emphasis added):

There must be no bullying and no harassment; no leaking; no breach of collective responsibility. No misuse of taxpayer money and no actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The precious principles of public life enshrined in this document – integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest – must be honoured at all times; as must the political impartiality of our much admired civil service.

All these documents may be seen in the Understanding the Civil Service online library.

Martin Stanley

Editor – Understanding Government