In its biggest victory to date, the Free Speech Union has helped a civil servant secure a £100,000 settlement after she was forced out of her department for raising the alarm about its embrace of Critical Race Theory and gender identity ideology. The SundayTelegraph has the story.
A civil servant was sacked after blowing the whistle on the infiltration of political activism in Whitehall, including the exclusion of white men from a jobseekers’ event.
Anna Thomas, 32, has spoken for the first time about how her career was ruined after she warned colleagues that the Civil Service’s duty to maintain political impartiality was breached by the dissemination of critical race theory in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Ms. Thomas has received a £100,000 settlement from the Government after a three-year ordeal. During that time, she repeatedly tried to raise the alarm about how political activists have infiltrated the Civil Service, including with resources asking employees to “assume” they are racist and the promotion of a jobseekers’ event for the Metropolitan Police that excluded white men.
The payout comes amid growing concerns about widespread political activism in the Civil Service after Baroness Falkner of Margravine, the head of the equalities watchdog, faced an attempted coup by trans-activist civil servants.
Ms Thomas, a softly spoken mother-of-one, first wrote down her concerns towards the end of the summer in 2020, when she was employed by the DWP as a work coach at a Jobcentre in Portsmouth.
DWP employees were directed to an “anti-racism hub” on the Department’s intranet, which she says encouraged civil servants to treat racism like Covid-19 and to “assume that you have it” in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the Black Lives Matter protests. The hub was prefaced with a statement by Peter Schofield, DWP’s permanent secretary, telling staff they were “responsible for being actively anti-racist” and asking them to “make DWP an anti-racist organisation”, she says.
Learning resources shared on the intranet advising staff “how to become race confident” included a diagram from the American activist Ibram X. Kendi asking staff to “admit that you deny racism is a problem” and to “promote and advocate for policies and leaders that are anti-racist”, she says.
Staff were also directed to the work of Robin DiAngelo, a critical race theorist who claims that white people, including children, are “inherently racist”.
“It listed a lot of resources that were very politically partial,” says Ms Thomas. “I did raise my concerns [that] we are only promoting one-sided very political stuff and not giving a broader overview from perhaps different authors.”
She says she believed that posts supporting Black Lives Matter and Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ charity, were expressions of those group’s political or social aims, such as defunding the police or enabling people to self-identify as a gender.
After posting her concerns on the intranet, she faced a backlash from some colleagues.
“It felt a lot like gaslighting,” she says. “Comments saying that ‘you’re taking things out of context…you’re being politically partial. That was quite disturbing to me because it’s just like, this isn’t fair, I didn’t bring this stuff in, I’m just telling you that this is not neutral at all.”
Ms Thomas says she complained to the team responsible for the resources, and to the whistleblowing team, that she believed the DWP was breaching its impartiality obligations under the Civil Service Code.
She then learned that she was being investigated for misconduct, including allegations that she had said discriminatory things and was causing offence. The investigation included “fact-finding” meetings, where she claims her concerns weren’t taken seriously and investigators were trying to draw out her own politics rather than understand her concerns about political impartiality.
However, Ms Thomas’s whistleblowing complaint was upheld, and the DWP’s own behavioural science expert advised that the anti-racism hub was political and that Mr Schofield should not have gone down the road of anti-racism, she says. The DWP subsequently removed certain content from its online resources.
“By this point, I was well aware of what’s now called ‘cancel culture,” Ms Thomas says. “And I was just like, OK, this isn’t going too well, but this is bigger than me. This is about…a very toxic culture of politics in a civil service and the problems that could come from that [are] not great.”
Soon afterwards, Ms Thomas appeared to be right to have concerns about how the Department’s politicised approach would eventually impact the service it provided to vulnerable members of the public.
In January 2021, she was asked to promote a job-seeking event to the unemployed interested in a career in the Metropolitan Police. The event was directed at female, BAME and LGBT candidates. She says that straight white men, who made up the majority of her customers in Portsmouth, were explicitly excluded.
Ms Thomas discussed her concerns with colleagues on a Teams chat that the event was discriminatory and unlawful. However, she says her worries were dismissed by her superior, who made a complaint about her comments.
Ms Thomas was prescribed antidepressants and went on long-term sick leave. “You just start falling apart,” she says. “You know, you see people who get cancelled and they’re like you know, it’s okay, just get another job. That’s not the case. And once you’re disgraced for something that you didn’t even do, the effect of that, I don’t know how to describe it.”
An investigation into her comments on a Teams chat began in March 2021 and she was dismissed in November 2021. She says her understanding of why she was dismissed is that she was found to have caused “upset”, “distress”, and “offence”.
Ms Thomas began a claim against the Department in 2022, with the support of the Free Speech Union. She claimed she was the victim of unfair dismissal, belief discrimination, victimisation as a whistleblower, and harassment.
After three preliminary hearings, the DWP agreed to settle and pay Ms Thomas £100,000, of which £27,500 was for injury to her feelings. It did not admit any liability.
Worth reading in full.
You can join the Free Speech Union her, with membership fees starting at just £2.49 a month for discount members.
Stop Press: Watch Anna talking about her ordeal here.