With friends and colleagues, we celebrated the life and legacy of Jeremy Heywood in a Zoom webinar on Friday.
Jeremy – Baron Heywood of Whitehall – was Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service until retiring just a few days before his death from lung cancer in November 2018. He came up to Hertford to read Modern History & Economics in 1980 before embarking on a remarkable career which set him at the heart of government as a trusted and indispensable advisor to four prime ministers.
Suzanne Heywood – who has recently published a book started with her husband before his death, What Does Jeremy Think? – joined Principal Tom Fletcher and Jan Royall, Somerville College Principal, for the event on Friday. Also around the virtual table were Jeremy’s close friends Jeremy Clarke, who matriculated alongside him at Hertford, and Sir Suma Chakrabarti, who worked with Jeremy from his time in Washington, DC onwards. Completing the line up were Oxonian colleagues from across Jeremy’s time with the Civil Service – Dame Helen Ghosh, Ciaran Martin, Sir Jonathan Phillips and Sir Olly Robbins.
Tom and Jan started with what Jeremy was like during his time at Oxford, giving Jeremy Clarke and Suzanne Heywood the opportunity to share some photographs from the time. We learned that he didn’t hold any great political aspirations but successfully kept peers on their toes in tutorials and the college bar alike.
Jeremy Heywood at his graduation in 1983
Suzanne Heywood’s recently published book
Jeremy Heywood (centre top) and Jeremy Clarke (bottom left), post-finals dinner
Helen Ghosh and Jonathan Phillips chatted about the experience of working with Jeremy as a colleague during their time as Permanent Secretaries, as well as his ability to get to the crux of a problem and bring along people of all political persuasions. Ciaran Martin and Olly Robbins joined Tom Fletcher in remembering Jeremy as a boss – sometimes scary but always encouraging – and the event finished with Suma Chakrabarti and Suzanne considering Jeremy’s legacy. The pursuit of policy innovation and groundwork for a more diverse Civil Service were top of the list. Despite his myriad achievements, we also had time to look back on Jeremy’s less than polished skills in the car and kitchen.
Thank you to our guests and all who joined us on Zoom. If you missed it, catch up on the event on our YouTube channel. Special thanks to Jeremy Clarke and Suzanne Heywood for supplying the photographs used here.