Bedales hosts head of DEFRA

By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government & Politics

On 22 November, the Politics Society was lucky enough to host Clare Moriarty. Clare is the Permanent Secretary (head) of DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) a department that employs thousands of people. She comes then, from a very senior position at the heart of government and it is not often that after a lecture students and staff ask if that lecturer could be persuaded to return, yet this was what happened.

Clare’s hallmark was a wonderful clarity as she spoke about the Civil Service, DEFRA and Brexit. Not normally a fan of power points, this was an exception – for the slides were brilliant. I recall, for instance, a triangular representation of the Civil Service and government. Virtually the whole triangle was coloured green to represent the Civil Service (enormous) and the top was red to represent the Government (tiny). In an instant the size and importance of the Civil Service was brought home.

Clare spoke with real authority and you could see why she had been promoted to head of DEFRA. She was also very modest and there was no sense of self-importance, just the sense of complete competence and confidence. She used an interrogative style, frequently asking questions of the audience. It kept the students’ attention. For the final question session, after 20 minutes I had to draw the session to a close. It was a sure sign of the interest that had been awakened. Clare, should you read this – please regard it as an invitation to return.