Calling 'weirdos and misfits', UK govt wants you

Mr Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said he wants to recruit "super-talented weirdos" and "some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole".
Mr Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said he wants to recruit "super-talented weirdos" and "some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole".

Stressing need to diversify skills, PM Johnson's chief adviser says one such person will become his assistant

LONDON • This is certainly an out-of-the-box recruitment drive. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief adviser is calling for "weirdos and misfits" to apply for jobs in Downing Street, as part of a shake-up of how Britain's government does business.

The man who sparked the controversy, Mr Dominic Cummings, said he was seeking to hire data scientists, software developers, economists and policy experts - as well as "weirdos and misfits with odd skills".

Not mincing his words, Mr Cummings added that the British government needs to hire people with "true cognitive diversity", rather than "gender identity diversity blah blah". "True wild cards" are needed, he said, while the government must also "figure out how to use such people better without asking them to conform to the horrors of 'human resources' which also obviously need a bonfire".

He outlined the need to diversify the skills and backgrounds of policymakers and advisers in a nearly 3,000-word post on his blog on Thursday.

The special adviser, who headed the referendum campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, said the need to change was because of "profound problems at the core of how the British state makes decisions", such as not having civil servants with dedicated, long-term expertise.

It was also because Brexit required large policy and decision-making structure changes, he went on to say.

Mr Johnson, who won a comfortable majority in a general election last month, has reportedly promised "seismic changes" to the civil service. His adviser believes it needs to have fewer arts graduates educated, like him, at private schools and "Oxbridge" - the leading universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Instead he wants "super-talented weirdos" and "some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole".

"If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don't want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news," he wrote.

To walk the talk, one of these misfits would become his assistant, said Mr Cummings.

Reacting to the recruitment call, the head of a civil service union, Mr Dave Penman, said: "It would be ironic if, in an attempt to bring in radical new thinking, Cummings was to surround himself with like-minded individuals - recruited for what they believe, not what they can do."

He noted that current government pay rates could put off world-class experts from joining.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'Calling 'weirdos and misfits', UK govt wants you'. Print Edition | Subscribe