After The Telegraph published an anonymous account from an insider accusing the department of frustrating government plans to tackle immigration, Home Office officials reacted by calling for the whistleblower to be found and dismissed.
In an all-staff online meeting hosted by senior officials on Nov 23, Home Office civil servants submitted questions anonymously to their bosses.
One question, which received 27 “likes” from officials, read: “The vitriolic leak to The Telegraph, which does not speak for us all, has broken several rules that should result in a finding of multiple acts of gross misconduct. Will the person be dismissed and will we know that without disclosing the name of the person?”
The question was followed up by a series of supportive statements from fellow officials calling for the whistleblower to be removed from the Home Office.
‘Puts us all in a poor light’
One civil servant wrote: “A Braverman plant!” Another stated: “Puts us all in such a poor light.”
A department source said: “The internal witch hunt against the Home Office whistleblower has been extraordinary.
“Instead of dealing with the points raised head on, civil servants have been determined to exact revenge and have spent endless time discussing the leak.
“The attitude that the whistleblower was a ‘Braverman plant’ is widespread and speaks to civil servants’ attitudes towards their former boss: suspicion, derision and spite.
“Although [Suella] Braverman was ineffective, the furious reaction to criticism with no self-reflection at any level shows the department’s hyper-sensitivity about its dismal record.”
In November, The Telegraph published a piece by a Home Office immigration official that accused civil servants of “viewing their role as being part of the resistance to what they see as a radical Right-wing Government determined to ignore the rules to punish innocent migrants”.
The piece received widespread reaction from politicians on the Right. Richard Tice, leader of the Reform Party, posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Shocking…. Why [sic] Home Office is not fit for purpose. We need a whole new dept of immigration to control our borders.”
Baroness Fox of Buckley also reacted on X: “This needs to be read by everyone, regardless of views on Rwanda/immigration… What do these people think happens when voters’ wishes are ignored/treated with contempt? What do they think happens if the public concludes democracy doesn’t work?”
‘Had their own agenda’
Christopher Howarth, who worked as a special advisor to former home secretary Priti Patel from May to October 2022, said: “In my experience, senior Home Office officials had a variety of views on immigration policy. Some were highly professional and did their best to carry out the wishes of ministers in an efficient manner, while others had their own agenda and let their personal views get in the way of their duty to help cut immigration.
“One must be careful not to generalise about an entire department, however, there are clearly some who have forgotten their duty to political impartiality and it is beholden on senior officials and ministers to keep them in check.”
Following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledges to stop illegal channel crossings and reduce record levels of legal migration into Britain, Home Office civil servants have been tasked with drafting legislation and creating policy options for ministers to meet these targets.
Despite consistent promises from Conservative politicians to reduce migration levels, last year’s net migration was estimated to have been a record 745,000, according to official figures.
Migration Watch, a think tank, estimates that since 2018 more than 113,000 people entered the UK illegally via small boats.
A government spokesperson said: “The role of the Home Office is to protect the UK from harm and support economic prosperity, and our staff are focused on that endeavour.”