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Public servants are an easy target for politicians whenever they feel like being popular.Few voters are going to worry too much when Gordon Brown proposes cutting the Civil Service by 100,000 jobs.For sheer pig-headed nuttiness, it took some beating, and I wish I'd taken a copy of the correspondence before leaving.

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The nature of the work encouraged, though, a certain kind of recklessness.

Most of the work is spent directing the inquiries of select committees, acting as watchdogs over individual government departments.

Before I arrived, one clerk had been involved in a cause célèbre when it emerged that, in the course of his scholarly investigations, he'd illicitly purloined hundreds of volumes from the library of a major London museum for his own benefit. One colleague of mine used to arrive in the office at 6am every day, and shut himself in his office until home-time, undertaking completely mysterious tasks that no one ever found out about; occasionally, he would emerge to talk about a new hi-fi system he had acquired, though never about music, which he didn't seem to care for much.

Another did literally nothing all day, until 4pm, when he would pick up the telephone and call his butcher to discuss the day's stock.

It was never remotely surprising to enter a colleague's office and find him practising a golf swing or conducting an imaginary orchestra.