Only a week or so ago, Sir Ivan Rogers was the UK’s grand fromage in Brussels as the country’s ambassador to the European Union.
Today he is suddenly Mr Nobody.
His astonishing free-fall descent from the dizzying heights of top diplomacy to becoming no more than the man on the Clapham omnibus could have been largely a self-inflicted wound.
His acrimonious resignation from the EU ambassadorship, during which he’d accused the government of “muddled thinking” over Brexit, suggests, however, that he may well have been given an ultimatum by the Prime Minister: “You either resign or we will sack you.”
It has since emerged that before his resignation, he had dinner with David Cameron, during which he reportedly said he feared “a car crash” over Brexit and a “disorderly” departure from the EU.
If the Prime Minister had got wind of that meeting and those alleged comments – which she probably had – she would have been furious.
Civil servants at all levels are expected to try to implement government policies whatever their private views. But for Sir Ivan, believed to be a committed Remainer, it would have been ludicrous for an anti-Brexiteer to be a leading figure in negotiations with Brussels when he was diametrically opposed to the issue in question. So he had to go, whether he jumped or was pushed.
Subsequently he has resigned from the civil service altogether: a stellar career, suddenly lying in ruins.
It was unclear at the time of writing whether he was forced out or whether that was his own decision. Whichever it was, the government appears to have made no attempt to persuade him to stay in Whitehall.
What this unhappy episode reveals is that the government is approaching these negotiations with a hard-headed zeal, ensuring doubters and nay-sayers are kept well away from the action.
• It is little short of a marvel that Theresa May’s secret strategy for conducting the Brexit negotiations has not been leaked, certainly up to the time of writing this.
Unauthorised leaks have been the bane of governments for years, often committed by disloyal civil servants with an axe to grind, or through the diligence of investigative reporters. Probably the most spectacular of all was the leaking of Chancellor Kenneth Clarke’s entire budget speech to the Daily Mirror.
I was once involved in a leak that apparently baffled Margaret Thatcher until her dying day.
She was giving a private pep talk to Tory peers in a room in the House of Lords. To my shame, I had my ear to the keyhole to try to pick up a few nuggets from her speech.
The door suddenly opened outwards, and I was sent flying on to the floor. I was fearfully expecting a furious dressing down from the attendant who had opened the door from inside the room. But no! He helped me to my feet and said to my astonishment: “I am so sorry my lord”, adding “step this way”. Whereupon he led me into the room where I took copious notes of her remarks, keeping my head down to ensue no one recognised this interloper. Thatcher never did discover how this speech came to be splashed all over the papers the next day.
• Our so-called “snowflake” university students – or at least some of them – appear to have developed racist tendencies. At the School of Oriental and African Studies, they have apparently been demanding that they no longer want to be taught about philosophers who are white. I despair.