To be a civil servant

I’ve just been reading Peter Hennessy and Richard Wilson’s highly engaging evidence to the Parliamentary Committee that investigated political memoirs a while back. The full exchanges can be read here, and are worth reading, but my favourite passage was surely this (from Hennessy, addressing Wilson):

You have always tried to think the best of people. That is why you have been a civil servant. You have had to pretend that the twerps that you have been dealing with were in fact pillars of the constitution and bring some insight. You cannot help yourself. You are still charitable about them. You do not realise what rats most of them are. You never have done!