A former special adviser to Kemi Badenoch has slammed her former boss and the government’s wider business strategy, saying the Secretary of State and her department “do not know, nor really care” about business issues.
In an extraordinary essay for Finito World, Joanna Thomas – who worked for Kemi Badenoch for a year until recently at the Department for Business and Trade – describes ministers “populating a personal address book as a hedge against election defeat” rather than engaging with serious issues.
And in what appears to be a further barb at her former boss, Thomas slams the business department’s “basic etiquette” as lacking “standards.”
It should be a basic that “there would be respect for CEO diaries, events would not be cancelled last minute after months of planning, and, if unavoidable, then followed up,” Thomas writes.
Thomas, who singles out Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt as “genuinely diligent, intelligent leaders,” also criticises a lack of “emotional intelligence” in the business department’s senior ranks.
Of her former boss and the business department, Thomas further writes: “It is not enough to keep admitting “we do not know what business is about” and “we want to hear from you”.
“It is novel, even charming at first, but the act wears thin if the fact is we really do not know, nor really care,” she adds.
A source at the business and trade department said “Joanna was relieved from her duties in the Secretary of State’s office earlier this year.
“She was hired as a parliamentary advisor based on her previous role in an MP’s office but lacked business or trade experience. It is not clear on what basis she is making these comments but we wish her well in her future endeavours.”
There is further implied criticism of Badenoch’s treatment of civil servants.
“I found hard working, impartial, bright and diligent people (at the business department) who care deeply about our country; people who need leadership and to be encouraged and allowed to think big, but also who need to be heard and valued for the expertise they bring,” the former advisor writes.
The allegations are the latest criticisms of senior ministers in government, following accusations of bullying targeted at Dominic Raab last year which ultimately cost the long-term cabinet minister his job.
While the business and trade department refused to comment on the criticisms, officials pointed to recent announcements of major investment in the automotive and manufacturing sector – such as this week’s announcement by BMW that it would remain in Oxfordshire with government support – as well as moves to protect jobs in the steel industry.