Artillery Row

Who will be the next No.10 Chief?

The runners and riders for the Downing St. Chief of Staff job

Boris Johnson’s director of communications Lee Cain has resigned, effective at the end of the year.

Tory MPs have been meeting, speaking to and messaging the Prime Minister in recent weeks, confident that they’ve been doing so out of sight of his political staff.

A common theme from those I’ve heard from has been how they’ve urged Boris Johnson to, as they see it, release the stranglehold the Cummings faction has over Downing Street. Whether by appointing a formal Chief of Staff, who would be personally loyal to, and dependent upon, the actual leader. Or by the Prime Minister bringing in an MP or peer in some undefined political role. The key message from these MPs to the PM is that they want him to have advice from someone who hasn’t been previously managed by Dominic Cummings or employed by Michael Gove.

According to The Times the former Mirror Chicken had been offered the role of chief of staff to the Prime Minister, but it now looks as if this could have been a creative anticipation of the facts briefed out in order to try and bounce the PM into a decision, following the success of bouncing him into announcing a second Lockdown. The story created fury in Downing Street and among Tory MPs which ultimately led to Cain’s resignation rather than claimed promotion.

‘Downing Street sources’, who now have to be carefully disaggregated, have made it clear that Downing Street resident Carrie Symonds is seen as being an enemy too. Which may also explain the stories put about to the effect that she’s supposedly only a sometime resident.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman, James Slack, will take on the – now civil service badged – director of communications job, but it looks as if Boris Johnson is still looking to create a Chief of Staff role. Tipped runners and riders include:

David Canzini
Ex-Scottish Central Office staffer Canzini helped run (and fund) Mr Johnson’s successful Tory leadership campaign and has the support of some Brexiteer MPs, though is also vehemently opposed by others. Canzini’s appointment would help to mend relations between Johnson and Australian Election guru Lynton Crosby. Whose firm, CTF Partners, have bided their time since being cut out of Borisworld by the ascendancy of Team Dom. Those who have dealt with him say he is competent and “treats you like a human being” – not a bar everyone in politics has managed to reach. Not a Cummings acolyte.

Daniel Moylan
A former City Hall advisor to Boris Johnson, Daniel Moylan was tipped to take a significant role in No.10 when Johnson took office last year but, like so many pre-Cummings Friends of Boris’s, it was not to be. Moylan was made a peer by the PM in his 2020 political honours list though. Could Baron Moylan inject some City Hall discipline into No.10?

Zac Goldsmith
Goldsmith would be a win for Team Carrie. Zac, the failed Tory leadership candidate for London, is suspected of working with the first fiancée to ban the retail fur trade in Britain. He’s currently doing important work as Minister of State for Pacific and the Environment but the former Richmond MP could potentially be persuaded to take up the role.

Andrew Feldman 
A former Tory co-Chairman, Feldman was David Cameron’s closest ally in the Tory machine and was in charge of fundraising for his successful 2005 leadership campaign. Reports suggest the Prime Minister has asked him if he’ll take on the role but Lord Feldman turned down the offer, which would cost him rather more money to accept than most runners and riders. Appointing Feldman would show Boris Johnson’s ongoing willingness to look past Brexiteers for key roles (as well as peerages).

Peter Lilley
A former deputy leader of the party, Lilley worked under Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. A keen Brexiteer and one of the Peers who was invited into ERG leadership meetings during the long Brexit wars (indeed, his office was where they happened), Lord Lilley is well liked by members of the Tory right and knows his way around Whitehall. Boris could expect and would get honest, disinterested advice here.

Sajid Javid
Picking a current MP would certainly create a better link with backbenchers and seething ministers, each class feeling trampled upon by Cummings’s No 10. But it’s hard to see how Javid could accept the role if Cummings was still there. Nor are Tory MPs convinced that him returning to Downing Street for a much reduced role would suggest a willingness to stand up to overbearing advisors.

Everyone else left who has ever worked for Michael Gove
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