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Eccentric Sir Alex Allan, who quit over Priti Patel bullying inquiry

It is not the first time that Sir Alex Allan, one of Whitehall’s more colourful characters, has found himself in the news.

He made a splash – literally – when he windsurfed down the River Thames to Parliament dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, carrying a briefcase and brolly, in order to get around a train strike in the Eighties.

The stunt ended with him falling into the water. Sir Alex, then working at the Treasury, dreamt up the unusual way of commuting from his home in Putney, south-west London, with a neighbour who was a news photographer.

The photos appeared in the Evening Standard under the headline ‘Making it to work… a Treasury wet’. 

Sir Alex Allan made a splash when he windsurfed down the River Thames to Parliament dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, carrying a briefcase and brolly, in order to get around a train strike in the Eighties

Sir Alex Allan made a splash when he windsurfed down the River Thames to Parliament dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, carrying a briefcase and brolly, in order to get around a train strike in the Eighties 

At the time, there was controversy within Margaret Thatcher’s government about the direction of economic policy, with those urging more reflation tagged ‘wets’. 

The incident also gave a clue to another of Harrow and Cambridge-educated Sir Alex’s great passions: American rock band the Grateful Dead.

Their skull and lightning logo was emblazoned on the sail of his board.

Sir Alex, now 69 and latterly Boris Johnson’s standards tsar, began his Whitehall career in 1973, working in Customs and Excise and the Treasury. 

But by 1992, he was principal private secretary to then prime minister John Major. 

Sir Alex, pictured in cycling gear, also helped mastermind the handover of power to Tony Blair after Labour’s 1997 election victory, then was appointed British High Commissioner to Australia for two years. 

The photos appeared in the Evening Standard under the headline ‘Making it to work... a Treasury wet’

The photos appeared in the Evening Standard under the headline ‘Making it to work… a Treasury wet’

He next became Mr Blair’s ‘e-envoy’ with a brief to drive through the IT revolution across government.

But the Mail revealed in 2000 that he was using a Whitehall website to promote his artist wife Katie Clemson’s work. 

He met her while sailing, and they married in 1978. Tragically, she died of cancer aged 58 in 2007.

Sir Alex Allan met his wife Katie Clemson, an artist, while sailing and the couple married in 1978 untul she died of cancer aged 58 in 2007

Sir Alex Allan met his wife Katie Clemson, an artist, while sailing and the couple married in 1978 untul she died of cancer aged 58 in 2007

Sir Alex went on to become Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and, as chairman of the Cabinet Office’s joint intelligence committee, the Government’s top intelligence adviser. But he still had his address listed on a website. 

Later there was speculation that he may have been a target for foreign agents when he collapsed at his home and was in a coma for ten days in 2008. 

But Scotland Yard said the drama was ‘non-suspicious’ and Sir Alex was back at work the next year.

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