A row has damaged out on the coronary heart of Downing Road as one among Boris Johnson’s most senior aides – and a detailed ally of Dominic Cummings – resigned amid bitter infighting.
Lee Cain introduced he would step down as director of communications on Wednesday evening after ministers and advisers together with Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, are mentioned to have protested over his deliberate promotion to chief of employees.
Cain’s resignation additionally threw into doubt the way forward for Cummings, Johnson’s most senior and high-profile adviser, with one insider telling the Guardian that he may depart No 10 alongside Cain.
Cummings was mentioned to be livid that Cain, a fellow Vote Go away campaigner who was partly credited with bringing him into No 10, had in impact been compelled out. There was additionally hypothesis about different potential departures from Johnson’s inside circle. In the meantime some Tory MPs have been buoyed by the turmoil, with one claiming it was an opportunity for Johnson to get “out of the grip of those individuals”.
The row seems to mirror inside turmoil and dysfunction in No 10 at a time when the UK surpassed 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus, in response to official figures.
Critics of the federal government have repeatedly cited how tensions between senior members of Johnson’s workforce – and his refusal to sack Cummings earlier this 12 months – have hindered the nation’s efforts to get on prime of the pandemic.
As the inner rows have been thrown into the general public highlight on Wednesday, the extent of division and disagreement inside Johnson’s senior workforce emerged.
A couple of week in the past Johnson provided the brand new chief of employees place to Cain, 39, who was thought to be one among his most loyal and low-key longstanding staffers, and the adviser had been contemplating whether or not he ought to settle for.
Buddies indicated that Cain had been eager about leaving Downing Road “as soon as the federal government had bought over the hump of Covid” – partly due to the relentless nature of the job and in addition due to clashes with the incoming Downing Road spokeswoman Allegra Stratton – till Johnson made his sudden supply.
Cain is thought to have been uneasy with the selection of Stratton, additionally 39, for press secretary and he has beforehand clashed with Symonds.
His pugnacious model with MPs and particular advisers meant a quantity expressed outrage to No 10 at his potential promotion, which might have made him one among three key individuals within the prime minister’s inside circle, together with Cummings and cupboard secretary Simon Case.
Allies of Cain mentioned he had been performing as an efficient chief of employees for a while, participating in main strategic choices together with a Chequers summit in April about easing lockdown.
Particular advisers’ WhatsApp teams have been “nuclear” on Wednesday evening, one Whitehall supply mentioned, with a quantity speculating about what Cain’s departure may imply for the deliberate communications shake-up throughout Westminster.
A variety of Conservative MPs expressed delight on the row. One MP mentioned it was “an opportunity to get the outdated Boris again and out of the grip of those individuals”. One other mentioned MPs could be “over the moon” if Cummings additionally departed.
One senior MP mentioned they believed it was an indication that the battle for affect with the prime minister was being slowly received by Symonds and her allies, slightly than Cummings. “Boris should take this opportunity to pivot again to being the liberal unifier, sack a bit of those cupboard no-hopers and begin a brand new workforce, but it surely does appear like tonight that Carrie and people urging a extra inclusive Boris are successful.”
Cain will depart No 10 on the finish of the 12 months, saying he had made the choice “after cautious consideration”. It’s understood he met Johnson in Downing Road on Wednesday night however in the end determined to go.
“It has been a privilege to work as an adviser for Mr Johnson for the final three years – being a part of a workforce that helped him win the Tory management contest, safe the most important Conservative majority for 3 a long time – and it was an honour to be requested to function the prime minister’s chief of employees,” he mentioned.
“I want to thank all of the workforce at No 10 – together with the numerous unsung and extremely gifted civil servants – for his or her onerous work and help over the last 18 months.
“And most of all I want to thank the prime minister for his loyalty and management. I’ve little doubt that beneath his premiership the nation will ship on the guarantees made within the 2019 election marketing campaign and construct again higher from the coronavirus pandemic.”
James Slack, the prime minister’s official spokesman and the previous political editor of the Each day Mail, is ready to take over as director of communications.
Allies of Cain mentioned he had taken day without work over the previous few days to contemplate his place, described by one good friend as a “circuit breaker”. The remark was meant jokingly however was additionally a nod to the pressures Cain had been beneath.
Cain is a longtime adviser to Johnson, together with throughout his time as overseas secretary and whereas on the backbenches after his resignation. The pair are notably shut, with Cain staying loyal to Johnson even when the previous mayor of London’s star gave the impression to be fading amongst Tories.
A former Each day Mirror journalist who as soon as dressed as a rooster to taunt Tory prime minister David Cameron, Cain is near Cummings from their time engaged on the Vote Go away marketing campaign, and is partly credited with bringing him into Downing Road.
A brand new chief of employees is ready to take over the day-to-day working of the Downing Road operation, presently overseen by Cummings, to permit him to step again and concentrate on key coverage aims, akin to Whitehall reform.
Cummings’ journey to Durham from London on the top of lockdown within the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic – and Johnson’s refusal to sack him consequently – turned one of many greatest authorities crises of the 12 months. It was revealed following an investigation by the Guardian and Each day Mirror.
Critics mentioned the prime minister was so depending on Cummings, who has vowed to overtake the civil service and rent “weirdos and misfits” to affix the No 10 workforce, that he risked the wrath of the general public and Tory MPs slightly than lose his most senior aide.
One former Whitehall colleague of Cain’s mentioned: ““The backbenches will likely be heartened to see a broader group of individuals influencing the prime minister and Quantity 10. Lee Cain was divisive determine though I don’t suppose anybody will cheer that there’s this upheaval in the course of a pandemic. James Slack is effectively preferred and, with Allegra Stratton’s appointment too, individuals will likely be reassured by this transformation in path.”
Johnson paid tribute to Cain and mentioned he could be a lot missed. “‘I wish to thank Lee for his extraordinary service to the federal government over the past 4 years,” he mentioned. “He has been a real ally and good friend and I’m very glad that he’ll stay director of communications till the brand new 12 months and to assist restructure the operation. He will likely be a lot missed.”
A Labour spokesperson mentioned: “On the day the UK turned the primary nation in Europe to report 50,000 coronavirus deaths and the general public endure one other lockdown, Boris Johnson’s authorities is combating like rats in a sack over who will get what job.
“It’s exactly this lack of focus and rank incompetence that has held Britain again. The general public deserve higher than this incompetent and divided Conservative authorities.”