Ex-top civil servant admits telling colleagues that he voted Remain

A former top civil servant at the Foreign Office has admitted revealing to ministers and colleagues that he voted Remain.

Lord Simon McDonald said he was attempting to comfort colleagues left “tearful” at the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum, despite the Civil Service code demanding “impartiality”.

Speaking in a documentary by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, the peer said the main feeling in the Foreign Office after the vote to leave Brussels was one of “mourning”.

He added: “People were in tears. People were in shock.

“On this occasion, this solitary occasion, I decided to tell my colleagues and therefore let ministers know that I voted to remain in the EU.”

Lord McDonald, who was the Foreign Office’s permanent secretary between 2015 and 2020, said he believed colleagues knew his position anyway.

He said: “I was trying to maintain credibility and trying to convey a message to a group of people, most of whom I felt had voted to remain in the EU, that their personal feelings were beside the professional point.”

He admitted that the Foreign Office board was “not entirely comfortable” with the move.

Former deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara responded: “Wow… I don’t know why that would be a good or helpful thing.”

The code for civil servants requires they act with impartiality by never allowing “personal political views to determine any advice you give or your actions”.

Lord McDonald is a controversial figure among some Tory Brexiteers and played a role in the downfall of Boris Johnson after leaving office.

He revealed Mr Johnson had been warned about a complaint against Chris Pincher before appointing him as a party whip.

Laura Kuenssberg: State Of Chaos is being broadcast on BBC2 at 9pm.

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