Dominic Cummings has warned that a ‘hard rain’ is about to fall over Whitehall. Perhaps that’s why Simon Case wears a Barbour. Or maybe it’s all part of his pragmatic, old school, down-to-earth image. Those traits will certainly come in useful. The mild-mannered and savvy 41-year-old has just been appointed the new top dog in the Civil Service — and he comes at a time of both national and institutional crisis, and as Whitehall itself is being labelled a backward and constipated old dinosaur. But, by all accounts, the incoming Case is far more of a bridge-builder than a slash-and-grabber. And his poise, can-do spirit and avowed discretion have gained him some friends in very high places indeed. He is, in short, the most powerful political figure you’ve never heard of. So here’s what you need to know about him.
Born in Bristol in 1978, Simon Case attended the independent Bristol Grammar School before hopping up to Trinity College Cambridge for a BA in history. Here he was a keen and competent sportsman, a president of the Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club, and won election to the prestigious Hawks’ Club.
Cambridge was followed by a PhD in political history at Queen Mary University, London — where Case’s thesis was titled ‘The Joint Intelligence Committee and the German Question, 1947-61’. It was all about how government decision making was shaped and guided in a time of crisis and international unrest, with particular emphasis on Russian wranglings in the Cold War. Aha.
By 2006, young Case was a policy wonk over at the Ministry of Defence, before rising swiftly up the slippery rungs of government influence. A spot in Cabinet Office here; a stint in Northern Ireland there. In 2012 he was head of the Olympic Secretariat (the taskforce sent to ensure the games went smoothly), which won him the respect of David Cameron, who quickly made him a private secretary. Next he was Director of Strategy at GCHQ. (If there are skeletons in any closets, surely old Case has glimpsed them — one imagines a post-retirement memoir would be a spicy read indeed — not that the measured Case would countenance such a thing.)
Case was soon made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in recognition for his service as Cameron’s Principal Private Secretary. In fact, Cameron liked him so much that he was eager to give him a Knighthood in 2014 — when Case would have been just 35. The late cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood soon took the young advisor aside and told him it would be unseemly to accept any such bauble at such a young age.
Later on, in 2017, Case was part of the team that hoped to smooth the UK’s exit from the EU — but soon left for the far shinier role of Prince William’s Private Secretary. His time here coincided with a tumultuous period in modern Royal history, thanks largely to the fraying relationship between the Princes as ‘Megxit’ began to unfold. While the Sussexes set about courting Hollywood, Case quietly transformed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge into a potent PR force. (A telling example: under Case’s tenure, William and Kate were seen to fly by budget airline to Balmoral — just after Harry and Meghan had snubbed the Queen and flown by PJ to Elton John’s palace in Nice.)
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