In February, Andrew Sabisky, who described himself as a “super prognosticator,” resigned his post at Downing Street after it emerged that in some of his previous writings on genetics he had suggested that black people had it. average IQ lower than whites.
After Sabisky resigned, suggesting he had been selectively cited, No.10 declined to answer questions about how he was recruited and whether he had been properly vetted.
Will O’Shea, 57, posted the commentary on the Black Lives Matters protests on July 5, as marches were staged across Britain following the murder of George Floyd by police in the United States.
Responding to a tweet from one person suggesting Metropolitan Police had been driven out of a London housing estate by protesters, and to another calling the police cowards, O’Shea replied: ‘Time to get out of the tours live.”
At the time, the Government Digital Service (GDS), the Cabinet Office department where O’Shea worked, had already been beset by complaints from some black, Asian and ethnic minority staff that they had been victimized. systemic racism and workplace bullying. .
Contacted by an undercover Guardian reporter posing as a recruiting agent, O’Shea confirmed he had applied for a government job via Cummings’ recruiting ad, which was posted on his personal blog on January 2. O’Shea said he was interviewed in person by Ben Warner, another aide to the Prime Minister who works closely with Cummings.
In subsequent emails, O’Shea first said, “I was fired because of my tweet,” but then said he was never given a reason for the abrupt termination of his Cabinet job. Office.
He admitted that former colleagues found his tweet to be racist, inflammatory and offensive, and interpreted it to mean that police should shoot black protesters in London.
“I can see how it was taken that way, and I’m sorry for it,” O’Shea said. While he regretted sending the tweet, which he said was “wrong,” O’Shea stressed that he didn’t seriously mean it. He added, “I didn’t say ‘shoot blacks’ and that wasn’t what I meant or wanted.
O’Shea later deleted his personal Twitter account, which he said should “get rid of everything I said.”
Cummings’ blog post in January calling for the “bizarre and misfit” focused on some of his key obsessions: the government’s exploitation of digital data, forecasting and accusations of “deep issues” in decision-making. public service. It was titled: “Two hands is a lot – we recruit data scientists, project managers, policy experts, various weirdos…”
The areas of work of the “unusual group of people” the PM adviser said he wanted to recruit included “the frontiers of prediction science,” “data science, alternative intelligence and cognitive technologies” and ” decision-making institutions at the top of the government ”.
In a process apparently parallel to the normal recruitment of the civil service, recruit candidates were invited to apply by sending a CV and a letter of up to one page to a dedicated email address.
O’Shea did not meet with Cummings, but said he was interviewed in Downing Street by Warner, a data scientist known to be close to the Prime Minister’s chief adviser. He worked closely with Cummings on the Vote Leave Brexit campaign. After working on the 2019 Tory election campaign, Warner was recruited by Cummings in December of last year to work alongside him in No.10.
O’Shea said Warner had interviewed him in the Great Hall in Downing Street where the daily Covid-19 TV press conferences then took place. He said he was later approved to work on a No.10 project to reshape the government’s use of data, which would involve breaking free from the controls of each department.
“So basically they wanted to see how they could break the rules of governance,” he said.
The project was put on hold when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, O’Shea said, and Warner then told him he could find him a job in the government’s digital service.
He told the undercover reporter, “Ben Warner said… ‘we can’t hire you right now, but I have friends in the Cabinet Office. They’re looking for a similar set of skills, but it’s not that long. ”
In April, O’Shea joined GDS, the Cabinet Office department responsible for digital release, working on policy documents setting standards for how other government departments can operate digitally.
He is said to have initially raised concerns among his black, Asian and ethnic minority colleagues with his contributions to internal discussions about race, notably following an article published by the Daily Mirror on July 5 on racial discrimination alleged in Whitehall, which was headlined: “Whites are 15 times more likely than black applicants to get public service jobs.”
O’Shea told the Guardian that he had not been racist in these discussions and asked white staff members not to criticize too harshly another white colleague for their intervention. But he admitted his contributions prompted some of his colleagues to check out his social media accounts.
On his Twitter account, they were shocked and anxious to see his July 5 tweet about police and BLM protesters: “Time to get out of the live tours.”
In a statement to the Guardian, a government spokesperson said: “Will O’Shea was… employed by the Cabinet Office as an external contractor for the government’s digital service on coronavirus. All standard verification processes were performed for a contractor role in a commercial setting. “