The strange curse of No 11 Downing Street

As Sajid Javid has just discovered, “chancellors come and go… the Treasury endures forever”.

by Paul Simpson

There is only one man who has ever made the Treasury do what it didn’t want to do. That was Lloyd George. There will never be another.” That is what James Grigg, Winston Churchill’s private secretary, told Bob Boothby, then a junior Treasury minister, back in 1926.

Some would say that observation still rings true today. British economist Douglas McWilliams has blogged: “The top Treasury civil servants are extremely bright, though not quite as bright as they think they are, but they have a sense of being a sort of high priesthood and are suspicious of outsiders.”

In his view, senior mandarins act in pursuit of a vague, institutionalised and historic notion of national interest, regardless of the government of the day’s specific objectives.

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