Coronavirus will dominate British politics for a decade, says senior official

The arrivals terminal at Birmingham airport | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Coronavirus will dominate British politics for a decade, says senior official

Mark Sedwill backs calls for government ministers to be based in the north of England.


7/27/20, 8:59 PM CET

Updated 7/27/20, 9:00 PM CET

LONDON — British politics and society will be “dominated” by coronavirus and the response to the pandemic “probably for the next decade,” the government’s top official said in a valedictory lecture.

Mark Sedwill, the U.K.’s cabinet secretary — who will stand down in September following reports of clashes with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top team — said the government should “reflect and learn” on how it handled the crisis and that a future inquiry should ask “whether the government took the right decisions at the right time.”

Speaking at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government on Monday, Sedwill also said that some government ministers should move their offices from London to new regional “hubs” as part of major Whitehall reforms.

He backed reforms to the British state planned by Johnson, saying they could be “the most ambitious” since World War II, and urged that plans for parts of government to be moved out of London be done “properly.”

“In this case that means moving core — including ministerial — functions out to the new hubs, not just the back office and operational activities,” Sedwill said.

Johnson has raised the prospect of setting up a government hub in York in the north of England, while Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said he wants to place “government decision-making centers”

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