It may have escaped your knowledge, but there’s been trouble at the mill recently: the ‘mill’ in question, being the Home Office. What’s the trouble been? Well, there’s been a bit of a spat between the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the head of the UK Border Force, Brodie Clark. In fact it turned out to be more than just a spat: it was a full-on argument that resulted in the Mr Clark’s resignation. The gist of the story is that she told him to relax immigration controls to reduce the queues at airports over the summer, and he did exactly that. Unfortunately he appears to have gone one stage too far. She blames him and he blames her, and we’re left with a bit of a Mexican stand off.
Obviously the news made the headlines, and all the major national broadcasters were all over the story. They reported from airports and from Whitehall, and tried their level best to apportion the blame, yet, no-one looks set to come out of this with any semblance of glory or credibility. Strangely though, the one thing that stands out in the fiasco is that the Home Office has very good taste when it comes to furnishing and decoration. It also seems to have a penchant for traditional chesterfield sofas and wing chairs too. Is it any wonder the mandarins don’t want to leave their offices and connect with the people, when they’re sitting so comfortably?
So, how do we know that the top civil servants in Whitehall are devotees of the chesterfield sofa? Well, we were privileged to get a peak behind the scenes at the Home Office, courtesy of the BBC and its Home Affairs correspondent, Danny Shaw. The reporter headed on down to Whitehall and gained access to the Home Office itself – well, into the foyer and entrance lobby at least. What viewers saw wasn’t a cavalcade of concerned civil servants rushing around trying to extinguish the fires fanned by the latest immigration faux pas. No, what they actually saw was a sumptuously and lavishly decorated interior packed full of leather chesterfield settees and chesterfield wing chairs. We’re sure many who saw the news piece probably had to do a double take, because there were so many items of chesterfield furniture that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were actually looking at a chesterfield sofa showroom. The news item was too brief to enable an exact count of the number of chesterfield pieces, but suffice it to say they were numerous. You were left wondering if that’s what happens in reception, then what are the senior civil servant’s offices like. Are they too as keen on chesterfield sofas?
What does this tell you about Whitehall and the mandarins who run the corridors of UK power? Well, not a lot really save that they’ve apparently got very good taste. The chesterfield sofas are exactly what you’d expect in such a traditional establishment: solid, dependable and thoroughly British, yet with more than a hint of the luxurious about them. The air may well have been blue for the last couple of weeks in Whitehall as the blame game continued to shift, but it’s nice to see there is something you can always rely on in a crisis: a reassuring presence in troubled times. There may be trouble ahead, but it’s good to know the civil servants will be sitting comfortably on their traditional leather chesterfield settees.