Tuesday, September 27, 2022
HomeHealthTherese Coffey tells civil servants to stop using Oxford commas

Therese Coffey tells civil servants to stop using Oxford commas


Newly appointed Health Secretary Therese Coffey orders civil servants to ‘be positive’, ditch jargon, and stop using OXFORD COMMAS

  • Email was sent within her first few days in charge of Department of Health
  • Her office emailed staff instructions on Miss Coffey’s ‘working preferences’
  • As well as asking workers to stay positive, it included a ban on technical jargon
  • Recipients of the list – in the UKHSA and DHSC – called it ‘extremely patronising’

Civil servants were told to ‘be positive’ by newly-appointed Health Secretary Therese Coffey, it was revealed today.

Embarking on her new role in charge of the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, her office emailed staff a list of instructions on the karaoke-loving MP’s ‘working preferences’.

As well as asking workers to stay positive, it included a ban on using technical jargon and the Oxford comma.

Recipients of the email called it ‘extremely patronising’, arguing it suggested that Miss Coffey ‘doesn’t want to deal with problems’.

Embarking on her new role in charge of the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, Therese Coffey’s office emailed staff a list of instructions on the karaoke-loving MP’s ‘working preferences’

Although, others defended the style guide, claiming current communication tactics deployed throughout the health corridors of Whitehall would have wound the boss up ‘through the ceiling’. 

The guide was circulated to staff within DHSC, which Miss Coffey took over last week when new Prime Minister Liz Truss unveiled her cabinet.

It was also sent to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a DHSC off-shoot which replaced the now-disbanded Public Health England and is responsible for tackling infectious diseases.

Both agencies face the prospect of job cuts, amid a drive to stamp out bureaucracy and save millions of taxpayer cash.

The UKHSA, the flagship public health quango launched by Matt Hancock during the Covid pandemic, was told to axe 40 per cent of its 2,000 workforce earlier this year. Staff in local health protection teams on temporary contacts were on the chopping block.

At the same time, civil servants are said to have been ‘demoralised’ by formal offers of below-inflation salary hikes. 

Some permanent staff have been offered a 2.5 per cent pay increase to help manage the rising cost of living.

MailOnline asked DHSC for a copy of the email sent on behalf of Miss Coffey, but did not receive it.

The Financial Times, which saw the letter, claimed one line said: ‘Be positive — if we have done something good, let us say so and avoid double negatives.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg sent out a similar style guide when given the role of Leader of the House of Commons in Boris Johnson’s Government.

Staff were urged not to use the Oxford comma, deployed to separate the final two items on a list of three or more items.

Meanwhile, banned words and phrases included: very, due to, unacceptable, equal, yourself, lot, got, speculate, meet with, ascertain and disappointment.

Miss Coffey has previously discussed her dislike of Oxford commas on social media, saying in 2015 it was one of her ‘pet hates’. 

Cigar-smoking MP who opposes abortions: Everything you need to know about Therese Coffey 

The ex-Work and Pensions Secretary is a fellow member of the 2010 parliamentary intake whose Suffolk Coastal constituency neighbours Miss Truss’s South West Norfolk seat, and they have long been allies.

She has earned a reputation in Westminster as a ‘workhorse’ thanks to her scientific attention to detail and willingness to work long hours.

Miss Coffey was Ms Truss’s campaign manager in the parliamentary stage of the leadership election.

The pair became friends while campaigning as young Tories in the late nineties and early noughties.

Miss Coffey secured a PhD in chemistry at University College London and worked in finance at Mars Drinks UK and the BBC before being elected as an MP.

She attended her first Cabinet meeting in 2019 after being appointed to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), where she earned praise for having a relatively quiet tenure at what is seen as something of a poisoned chalice in government.

Colleagues have described Ms Truss and Miss Coffey as ‘yin and yang’, with Ms Truss viewed as a big picture politician and Miss Coffey a forensic operator who knows her brief inside out.

But despite her work ethic, the new Health Secretary holds several opinions that could ruffle the feathers of senior NHS leaders.

In an interview in June following the Roe vs Wade ruling in the US, she said she would prefer that women ‘didn’t have abortions’, but added she would not ‘condemn people that do’.

She has also defended her decision to vote against same-sex marriage in Britain in 2013 and in Northern Ireland in 2019, citing her faith as a catholic.

She got in hot water a year ago when she was filmed belting out The Time of My Life at a boozy Conservative karaoke party Conference bash hours before cutting benefit payments to six million people.

Her alcohol-fuelled karaoke parties in Whitehall, of which Ms Truss is a regular attendee, have become famous in Westminster.

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