8 Mar 2016

EU referendum and Whitehall slumbers

You might have thought that today’s Cabinet would see fireworks, not least as it was preceded by a meeting of Political Cabinet with Boris Johnson turning up. But Mr Johnson had nothing to say. The earlier political session was dominated by party restructuring and the state of the economy. After the Mayor left, the Cabinet itself was no less exciting with a presentation by the Culture Secretary on BBC Charter Renewal and some discussion on anti-corruption measures. One round the table didn’t think the European Union was mentioned once in two hours of chat. 


And this, one Cabinet minister said, could be a bad omen of how government will go for the next few months, everyone “skirting around” issues that are too controversial.  

There’s a growing list of issues that have been pushed back to the other side of the referendum for fear they might just have unintended consequences boosting the Leave vote. One Whitehall source has even suggested that the Chilcot Report could be swept up in that damage limitation exercise. The same source points out that the report itself may have doubled in size by word count in the last six months as the Inquiry team incorporated new lines of inquiry thrown up by individuals notified of criticism in the Maxwellisation process and reflected rebuttals that came back from individuals politicians, officials or service people and their legal teams.

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