Senior civil servants warn Whitehall is facing a 'woke takeover'

Senior civil servants warn Whitehall is facing a ‘woke takeover’ amid claims staff who dare to air gender-critical view now face ‘serious harassment’

  • Senior civil servants leaked their letter after complaining little had been done
  • They warned that perceived political bias at Whitehall risked influencing policy 

Senior civil servants have warned the Cabinet Secretary that Whitehall faces a ‘woke takeover’, which they suggest presents a ‘significant breach of impartiality’ that could ‘improperly’ influence policy.

Simon Case CVO received a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments urging that ‘gender ideology’ had permeated the civil service, and that the operation of government was becoming ‘distorted’ by political beliefs.

The letter claimed those with contrary views faced ‘serious harassment’ at work, and pleaded for ‘urgent action to ensure that the Civil Service impartiality is upheld, and freedom of belief is respected’.

The Civil Service’s head of HR met with signatories to share their concerns, but the letter was leaked to The Telegraph after complaints mounted the response had been ‘inadequate’.

One signatory told the newspaper: ‘There has been a widespread woke takeover that our most senior officials have swallowed hook, line and sinker’.

Simon Case (pictured speaking, at Downing St on July 5, 2022) received a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments urging that ‘ gender ideology’ had permeated the civil service

According to the Commons Library, ‘gender-critical beliefs include the belief that sex is biological and immutable, people cannot change their sex and sex is distinct from gender-identity’.

The letter claimed, as reported by The Telegraph, some civil servants now feel that the idea that ‘everyone has a gender identity which is more important than their sex’ is ‘treated as undisputed fact’.

READ MORE: Whitehall staff are told by bosses to get back to the office, as culture of remote working continues to grip the civil service

They spoke of a ‘pervasive fear’ that they would be victimised for their beliefs.

By law, those with ‘gender-critical’ beliefs are protected by the Equality Act 2010 from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Sex Matters, a group ‘lobbying for clarity on sex in law and institutions’, notes that ‘these protections also apply to lack of belief, so for example your employer should not treat you less favourably because you do not believe in gender identity, and decline to “state your pronouns” or call yourself “cis”.’

The civil service has made considered efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce – while also trying to ensure those with strong views on biological sex are not ‘victimised’ for their beliefs. 

In July, The Times reported official Cabinet Office guidance would be published this autumn stating that people are entitled to say that ‘biological sex is immutable’. 

The guidance would also warn that people who are in the process of transitioning but who have not legally changed their gender cannot use toilets of the opposite sex.

The guidance states: ‘The department acknowledges that some employees believe that a person’s biological sex is immutable. 

‘Employees that hold this belief must be treated with respect and dignity and protected from bullying, harassment and discrimination, in the same way that they are expected to treat intersex, non-binary and transgender colleagues.

Crucially, it caveated: ‘This does not, however, mean that it is acceptable indiscriminately and gratuitously to refer to a trans person in terms other than they would wish.’

Some civil servants were reportedly ‘terrified’ by the plans.

One told Vice News at the time: ‘My existence is not a belief. How can my safety be just as important as someone’s belief that I shouldn’t be safe? 

‘This feels like it was written by someone gender critical, just to give transphobes more clout.’

One signatory told The Telegraph: ‘There has been a widespread woke takeover that our most senior officials have swallowed hook, line and sinker’.

In October 2017, the Civil Service launched ‘A Brilliant Civil Service: becoming the UK’s most inclusive employer’, an initiative seeking to ‘attract, develop and retain the most diverse talent’ with a strong commitment to ED&I.

Whitehall has since issued clear guidelines aiming to ‘support employees, and those managing employees, who are transgender, non-binary and/or intersex’. 

The ‘Gender Identity and Intersex Policy’ document shares guidance aimed at ‘all civil servants employed by the Insolvency Service’ and applies ‘to anyone who works alongside civil servants but is not an employee… such as contractors, consultants and agency workers’.

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