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Top civil servant stands down ‘after No.10 plot’

Shown the door? Mr Johnson is
welcomed by Sir Mark on his first
day in No.10, with Mr Cummings
(right) in the background PICTURE: REUTERS

BRITAIN’S top civil servant announced his resignation last night, hours after reports the prime minister’s closest adviser was plotting to remove him.

Sir Mark Sedwill, who holds the roles of cabinet secretary and national security adviser, said he would leave both posts in September.

His departure came after reports suggested that Dominic Cummings, with Boris Johnson’s backing, wants a ‘shake up’ of the civil service.

Mr Cummings had reportedly told political aides last week that ‘a hard rain is coming’ in Whitehall.

In his resignation letter to Mr Johnson, Sir Mark said: ‘You asked me to continue to support you through Brexit and the election period. It was obviously right to stay on for the acute phase of the Covid-19 crisis.

‘As you are setting out this week, the government’s focus is now shifting to domestic and global recovery and renewal.’

The PM praised the civil servant for his ‘outstanding’ work, adding: ‘I have particularly appreciated your calm and shrewd advice.’ Sir Mark’s resignation follows the departure of former Home Office chief Philip Rutnam. He left in February and is suing the department and home secretary Priti Patel for unfair dismissal. Sir Simon McDonald is leaving the Foreign Office this autumn.

Brexit negotiator David Frost will take over as national security adviser. Dave Penman, of the FDA union that represents civil servants, accused No.10, or ‘those around it’, of seeking to ‘undermine Sir Mark and the leadership of the civil service’.

Labour’s Helen Hayes said it was ‘very concerning’ that Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson were ‘preoccupied with reshuffling Whitehall’.