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Cruise boos

As the kerfuffle over Labour cronies taking over the civil service reaches a crescendo in the wake of Jo-Moore-gate, the Diary has heard whispers of an early example of political meddling in everyday administration at the then Department of Education and Employment.

Cast your mind back, if you can, to the balmy summer of 1999. A group of 40 mandarins in (political appointee) Professor Michael Barber's standards unit are quietly getting on with good government, planning what one former insider calls a "long overdue" booze-cruise to France courtesy of the taxpayer.

Everything was booked and much of it paid for when the Prof found out. "He went mental and demanded the trip be cancelled, even though much of the cost was lost!

"He said our hard work would be undermined by 'Civil servants on a piss-up jolly' headlines."

The puritanical Prof did arrange a consolation sporting trip to a hotel in, er, Croydon, but staff are still bitter about what they see as the most outrageous political meddling. Our source recalls: "They let us fire guns in the grounds in Croydon, but it was still dead rubbish!"

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