Boris Johnson Facing Backlash Over Plan To Make Dominic Cummings Ally Chief Of Staff

No.10 refuses to deny PM’s partner Carrie Symonds is unhappy about the job offer.
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Downing Street has refused to deny that Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds has objected to plans to appoint a key ally of Dominic Cummings as his new chief of staff.

Lee Cain, a former member of the Vote Leave campaign and former tabloid journalist, has been offered the powerful post in recent days, the Times reported.

Cain, currently the director of communications in Downing Street, is a longtime aide of Johnson having served with him when he was foreign secretary and when he was a backbencher.

But his potential appointment has sparked concerns among some Conservative MPs that yet another member of the Vote Leave inner circle would lead the day-to-day running of the No.10 operation once Cummings steps back to focus on individual projects.

Some backbenchers said that the shake-up would represent a missed opportunity to “re-set” his administration in the wake of a string of damaging U-turns on coronavirus and other issues.

If Cain gets the job, he would join a small clutch of aides with the highest level of access to the PM, including Cummings, Lord Udny-Lister, and Simon Case, who took over as cabinet secretary in September.

When asked about BBC reports that Symonds was “deeply unhappy” about the appointment of Cain to the chief of staff role, the PM’s press secretary refused to deny the claim.

“I’m certainly not going to comment on speculation about either personnel matters in No.10 and I’ve always made it a practice not to speak about the PM’s fiancee either,” he said.

Symonds has previously served as the Conservative Party’s head of communications.

Some Tory insiders had hoped that an outsider or a former senior MP could be brought in to No.10 to take up the chief of staff role.

One former minister told HuffPost UK they were not surprised by the proposed Cain appointment.

“Lee Cain is at the centre now anyway. It is a bit like Tony Soprano – Cummings – appointing one of his underbosses, as consiglieri. Tony still the ‘boss boss’,” the MP said.

“What is much more important is that they appoint someone, ideally an MP, to properly manage relations with the parliamentary party and sort that out because it is pretty poor.”

One backbencher said that Cain had the PM’s confidence and “that’s what matters most” for a chief of staff.

Cain’s move could also pave the way for incoming televised media briefing spokeswoman Allegra Stratton to lead Downing Street communications after she starts her job this winter.

One Tory MP told the Telegraph on Wednesday that the change would hasten moves to line up chancellor Rishi Sunak as Johnson’s replacement.

“The lunatic will have literally taken over the asylum.... he is Dom Cummings’ puppet and Dom Cummings is an advocate for lockdowns,” they said

“If this is true and comes to pass it will be the final nail for the PM. I don’t think he realises how concerned the parliamentary party is about the Number 10 operation and at the heart of that is Cummings and Cain. Lee Cain’s appointment makes Rishi’s trajectory even quicker.”

Another senior Tory told the Times that appointing Cain would be “dangerous” for Johnson.

“It’s clearly the Vote Leave team continuing their complete control of the Downing Street operation,” he said

“This is an entryist crowd that has taken control of the Conservative party. They are the equivalent of Momentum under Corbyn. Their interests may temporarily align with the interests of the Conservative party, but not permanently.”

Claiming the appointment was a case of “fail and promote”, the Tory added: “One of the huge failures of the government so far has been strategic communications, so promoting the guy in charge of that would seem an odd move.”

Others who have been tipped for the chief of staff role include Isaac Levido, who ran the 2019 election campaign, Johnson’s foreign policy adviser John Bew, former Vote Leave comms chief Paul Stephenson and former Whitehall communications chief Gabriel Milland.


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