Sir Christopher Meyer was reported in the Independent on Sunday 13 November 2005 saying:
“There is an imbalance between civil servants and politicians. People say that I breached a trust – well, leave aside the fact that this has gone through the Cabinet Office machine, there seems to be no bar whatsoever on politicians writing books that cover areas in which they are dealing with civil servants. Yet civil servants are supposed to take a vow of indefinite silence.”
Well, yes, there are differences between politicians and civil servants and it wouldn’t seem wrong to me if one of the differences was that politicians can publish their memoirs and civil servants can’t. Politicians are, after all, elected by the public and are accountable to the voters for their actions. The role of a civil servant is to advise but not, in the end, to take responsibility before the voters. Civil servants may be important, they should not get carried away with their own status.
Perhaps the rarefied air of high-level secret diplomacy, where accountability to the public hardly gets a look in, has blurred the distinctions between elected and unelected officials. If so, the public embarrassment now being heaped on Sir Christopher might help to concentrate minds in the future.