Tensions between some ministers and the civil service are at boiling point, with vicious briefings taking place on both sides. Seemingly keen to keep the pen-pushers sweet, former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell lashed out last week at colleagues who have been winding up Sir Humphrey: ‘This behind-the-hand rubbishing of public servants is extremely unattractive.’ Spoken like a man who has certainly never been rude himself.

A ‘former minister’ also told Sue Cameron in the Telegraph: ‘This is not good management and it’s not good politics, either. If it’s a choice between politicians and civil servants, there’s no doubt that the public will side with the civil servants.’ One wonders if Mr Mitchell and this ‘former minister’ are well acquainted.

On the battleground of column inches, a Whitehall source hits back at Mitchell:

‘If you worked in International Development of course everything looks hunky-dory. Civil servants love spending money, so he had it easy in government. He would see it very differently if he had ever had to actually engage.’

It is well documented that Mitchell wants to become a mandarin himself, as our next EU Commissioner; a job that would have to be signed off by the the men in grey suits. One wonders if Mr Mitchell is playing a smart game here.

Tags: Andrew Mitchell, EU, International development, Whitehall