From Daniel Finkelstein in The Times, a sad tale:
“They needed a room with proper ventilation so that the security guards could make bacon sandwiches without the whole place smelling of bacon. I was in the only one they had, so I had to move.”
My friend, not long appointed a special adviser to one of John Major’s Cabinet ministers, looked sheepish. He was explaining to me why his office next door to the Secretary of State had become one that was up two flights of stairs and along a corridor. As he told me the tale, he slowly realised that he’d been had. The Civil Service had found his “special advice” inconvenient. In future, they decided, there would be no more bumping into the minister. My friend would have to call up and arrange a meeting.
I felt sympathetic. But really all I could do was laugh. The inventiveness of the Civil Service, as they dreamt up ways to hobble special advisers, was always so impressive. The lightness of touch was what I enjoyed most. These people knew how to beat someone up without leaving a mark on their body that they could show to Amnesty International.
Ah yes, they certainly do. When I became a special adviser at DFID in 2003 and was first shown my office, I realised that it was a looong corridor length away from the Secretary of State’s private office.
A year later, I returned from leave to discover that my office had halved in size: the wall had been moved six feet. To create a new meeting room for the Permanent Secretary on the other side.
As Finkelstein rightly observes, all you could do was laugh…