World / Politics

Boris Johnson's top aide seeks 'weirdos and misfits' to change British government

by Alex Morales

Bloomberg

Boris Johnson’s top adviser wants to recruit “weirdos and misfits” as part of a drive to overhaul the way the U.K. government works.

In a 3,000-word blog post, Dominic Cummings said he’s seeking an “unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds” to work in Downing Street — and that he wants to be made “largely redundant” by the new intake. Hinting at a wider restructuring of the civil service, he said there are “profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions.”

“It is obvious that improving government requires vast improvements in project management,” Cummings said. “The first project will be improving the people and skills already here.”

Since Johnson stormed to the biggest Conservative majority in more than three decades in the Dec. 12 general election, the British press has been filled with speculation about which government departments might be scrapped, merged or overhauled. Cummings’s blog confirms that the prime minister’s top team is actively looking at how to do this.

“One of the problems with the civil service is the way in which people are shuffled such that they either do not acquire expertise or they are moved out of areas they really know to do something else,” Cummings wrote. “It is clear Whitehall does this too much while also not training general management skills properly. There are not enough people with deep expertise in specific fields.”

The U.K.’s departure from the European Union “requires many large changes in policy and in the structure of decision-making,” Cummings said, and there are people in government now prepared to take risks to “change things a lot.” Johnson’s large majority means there’s “little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems.”

In his esoteric posting, Cummings listed the qualifications he’s looking for and suggested videos and research papers candidates should be familiar with. He’s seeking to hire data scientists, software developers, economists, and policy experts, as well as “weirdos and misfits with odd skills.”

Elaborating on what he means, Cummings expressed his disdain for political correctness, saying the government needs to hire people with “true cognitive diversity,” rather than “gender identity diversity blah blah.”

“True wild cards” are needed, he said, while the government must also “figure out how to use such people better without asking them to conform to the horrors of ‘Human Resources’ (which also obviously need a bonfire).”

One new hire may serve as Cummings’s personal assistant.

“This will involve a mix of very interesting work and lots of uninteresting trivia that makes my life easier which you won’t enjoy,” he wrote. “You will not have weekday date nights, you will sacrifice many weekends — frankly it will hard having a boy/girlfriend at all. It will be exhausting but interesting.”

Cummings even hinted at his own departure, saying “we want to improve performance and make me much less important — and within a year largely redundant.” At the moment he’s required to make decisions “well outside” his “circle of competence,” he said.

“We do not have the sort of expertise supporting the PM and ministers that is needed,” he wrote. “This must change fast so we can properly serve the public.”

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