Downing Street’s ‘Operation Dead Cat’ is in full swing - and its latest target is working from home

Downing Street and Whitehall are at odds over working from home (Photo: Adobe)Downing Street and Whitehall are at odds over working from home (Photo: Adobe)
Downing Street and Whitehall are at odds over working from home (Photo: Adobe) | Adobe

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

A desperate government is firing out ‘dead cat’ stories left, right and centre as it tries to distract attention from Partygate

It’s been variously called ‘Operation Red Meat’ and ‘Operation Save Big Dog’, but perhaps ‘Operation Dead Cat’ is a better moniker for Downing Street’s attempts to distract from its own scandals.

Today’s Mail on Sunday front page is the latest example: ‘Whitehall blob vows: we’ll work from home forever’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

(It was Dominic Cummings who coined the term ‘The Blob’ for the establishment that covered, in his mind, the civil service, media, academics, judges - you name it.)

The MoS report claims that civil service bosses are acting in defiance of the Government’s will that they return to the office following the end of Plan B restrictions, and are instead planning on a 60:40 split between home and office, with most time spent in the “nice houses in the country” they’ve reportedly all snapped up during lockdown.

But let’s interpret this story as it so transparently is: a careful piece of Thick of It-style briefing to distract from the omnishambles currently engulfing a severely wounded prime minister.

There’s also the monumental hypocrisy of this government daring to lecture anyone on workplace culture.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They want us to ignore the fridges full of champagne, the cheese and wine parties and the suitcases of booze that have come to characterise Downing Street during lockdown, and instead direct our anger at civil servants who dare to stay away from the office.

Working from home is still work

For the umpteenth time, let it also be said that the majority of office workers who have been working from home during the pandemic have been putting in longer hours than ever.

The idea that WFH means lying on the sofa with Netflix on, while occasionally checking emails to look like you’re online, is a myth that only exists in the minds of certain politicians and newspaper editors.

This false narrative is so seductive for the tabloids, because it plays to the image of middle-class, white collar workers not doing “proper work”, as opposed to the posties and lorry drivers who have kept the country running during lockdown.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The notion that many modern jobs can’t be done from home perfectly well is outdated hokum. The services sector accounts for more than three-quarters of the UK’s annual GDP, and while that does include consumer-focused jobs like shop assistants and bartenders, it also includes the likes of financial and business services, marketing, IT and - yes - many civil service jobs.

(Interestingly, one of the few professional careers that can’t really be done from home is being an MP - and perhaps that’s the real explanation for this obsession with returning to the workplace.)

Working from home certainly isn’t for everyone, and there are real issues around social isolation and staff development that have yet to be fully resolved.

However, other potential benefits include boosting the economy of smaller towns around the UK (granted, at the expense of cities), the environmental impact of cutting down on needless car journeys, and people having more hours in their day to spend with family and friends.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In reality of course, WFH isn’t the issue here, it’s just a PR tactic.

Instead, keep your eyes peeled for more ‘deadcatting’ like this throughout another tortuous week ahead for Boris Johnson.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.