Coffee House

Tim Loughton vs the Department for Education

17 January 2013

2:39 PM

17 January 2013

2:39 PM

In a week where the inner workings of Whitehall have rarely been out of the news, Tim Loughton’s evidence to the Education Select Committee has made a particular splash. As Isabel reported yesterday, Loughton criticised the way the department was run and claimed that the children and families agenda ‘was a declining priority’ in his time there and had been ‘greatly downgraded since the reshuffle.’

Inside the Department of Education, there’s real irritation at Loughton’s comments. One senior Department for Education source launched the following broadside:

‘Tim Loughton opposed transparency on child protection and sided with those all over the country who want to maintain a culture of secrecy. He thought publishing full Serious Case Reviews was a big mistake and opposed a proper investigation of the Edlington case. He had no interest in the details of what had gone wrong or redaction of the SCR. He strongly opposed Gove, special advisers, and officials in their insistence on trying to get to the bottom of the Edlington case, which he thought was a paranoid waste of time for no political gain because there was little publicity. His approach to child protection as a political issue was disgraceful.

‘Loughton spent his time pandering to pressure groups so they would praise him on Twitter. Loughton wouldn’t focus on child sex abuse unless it was all over TV and the DfE now has to pick up the pieces.

‘Loughton was a lazy incompetent narcissist obsessed only with self-promotion. Journalists should consider his actual behaviour when he calls for inquiries and attacks us for not taking issues seriously that he refused to handle professionally.’

Even by the standards of Whitehall, this is a brutal critique. But it appears to reflect the frustration felt in Great Smith Street at what some of those in the department see as posturing by Loughton has since he lost his job.


When the Spectator put this to Tim Loughton, he defended himself robustly:

On the Edlington case:

‘I was the one most committed to the publication of full serious case reviews and proper transparency in terms of what went wrong in tragedies like the Edlington case. Having spent a lot of time visiting Doncaster children’s services and telling senior people in the case that publication was going to happen, I was frustrated that it took so long for the department to publish the final report which could have been done and dusted over a year before it was published.’

On ‘lazy, incompetent narcissist’:

‘I was always the first one in and the last one out. I notched up more time travelling and visiting local authorities and vulnerable families than anyone else.’

On ‘obsessed with self-promotion’:

‘If raising the profile of child exploitation which has been neglected for so long is self-promotion then I plead guilty. I’m really pleased that working with a whole variety of agencies we have got a detailed action plan which put the whole issue of child exploitation on the nation’s radar. I am really proud of that and I had hoped my boss was too.’

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • PlayVic1

    PlayVic is a free iPhone/iPad/iPod Quiz game played by answering general knowledge questions.

  • Mike Payne

    Tim Loughton was a very good Minister and as mentioned below, dedicated, knowledgeable and very hard working. His record of visits is a testament to how hard working and caring he was. Pity that the record of “visits” by those who unfairly criticise him come nowhere near. The character assassination from the un-named “senior source” is scandalous!

    • Simon Smith

      If this was one of my colleagues in the Civil Service making these outrageous comments about a former Minister they should be disciplined. I suspect it comes from the odd cabal of SpAds surrounding the SoS, who spend much of their time interfereing in matters of state and trying not to answer PQ’s. I am not by any means a Tory supporter but I worked for him when he was a Minister and he had a real commitment to his brief, dedicated to children’s rights, ensuring young people’s voices were heard and a self-deprecating sense of humour. All Politicians need a strong sense of self-belief, This does not make them a narcissist.

  • Martin Narey

    I don’t know who the senior source from DfE responsible for this cowardly and politically inept attack is. But he or she is pretty inept at politics. This will guarantee that the story of Tim’s criticisms of the Education department will run for some time yet.

    I disagreed with Tim’s criticisms made at the select Committee yesterday. I thought they were inaccurate and unwise and said so. But nothing that he said deserved this astonishing and deeply unthruthful attack which, I know will not have been approved by Michael Gove. Over the years Tim Loughton and I have had a number of disagreements but he was a very good Minister, dedicated, knowledgeable and hard working. The suggestion that he pandered to outside groups is ludicrous. In my area (adoption) he was willing to take on significant opposition and scepticism about the reform programme from local authorities and many parts of the voluntary sector.

  • Paddy Briggs

    So a nameless Sir Humphrey makes sloppy and cowardly anonymous remarks about Mr Loughton and you think fit to publish them and then challenge Mr Loughton who defends himself honourably. The Tories obsession with the venal Michael Gove is clearly desperation. When will you stop your hero worship, realise he’s not the solutiuon and accpet that actually he’s part of the problem ?

    • Fergus Pickering

      You say Mr Gove has been bribed. Bribed by whom? Tell us do. Or perhaps you do not know the meaning of the words you use..

      • telemachus

        The hated doctrinaire Gove has probably not been bribed
        He can destroy education all on his own

  • John_Page

    At last. As I keep saying, I bet Booker has no time for him. (Have you invited Booker to do a piece? If not, why not?)

    Our own experience of him was that either he deliberately misunderstood the points we were making to him, or he was lazy and/or stupid.

    You on the other hand have just kept saying he was well regarded. What was your source for that?

    Tim Loughton?