Treasury’s frustration with Prime Minister rises amid No 10 reshuffle calls | Boris Johnson

Frustration is growing within the Treasury at No.10’s handling of important policy decisions after a series of botched announcements, with sources calling for a reshuffle of the Downing Street operation.

After three tumultuous weeks marred by repeated uprisings in the backbench, Rishi Sunak’s department is said to be concerned about the prime minister’s tendency to make too many promises and the awkward schedule of decisions.

The announcement of the integrated rail plan, initially scheduled for early fall but postponed until last week, is part of the poorly executed announcements, according to Treasury sources. After a series of leaks, the final plan was met with fury, including by many Tory MPs, after falling short of what Boris Johnson had promised.

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Who’s who in # 10

Spectacle

Chief of Staff: Dan Rosenfield

The former Treasury official was recruited by the prime minister after losing his controversial “assistant” and de facto chief of staff Dominic Cummings. Initially welcomed by the deputies as an “adult”, they now criticize him for being insufficiently political and not good enough to spot potential problems on the horizon.

Co-chief of staff: Henry Newman

Newman was originally an aide to Michael Gove, but the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson trusts him and was brought into the inner circle around the same time as Rosenfield. He was accused by Cummings of being the prime suspect of being the “talkative rat” who leaked details of the second lockdown, but the allegation did not prevent his move from Cabinet Office to Johnson’s top team.

Deputy Chief of Staff: Simone Finn

Another close friend of Carrie Johnson, who threw her 30th birthday party, Finn is a former assistant to Francis Maude with many contacts and political experience. She is considered a steadfast diplomat, who helped negotiate with unions and civil servants during the coalition years.

Political leader n ° 10: Munira Mirza

Johnson’s former mayoral aide is one of the few who has been with him for a long time. Known as a culture warrior and critic of multiculturalism, she has been cited by him as one of the most inspiring women in her life.

Communications Director: Jack Doyle

A former political reporter for the Daily Mail, Doyle was lifted from his press secretary post following the departure of former communications chief Lee Cain along with Cummings.

Carrie Johnson

Johnson’s wife – a former Conservative Party communications director – has no official role and works as communications director for the Aspinall Foundation, a charity. However, according to advisers, MPs and officials, it influences the Prime Minister’s thinking and political choices.

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“In the end what happened was we blew up a £ 96bn announcement that really should have been a lot more positive,” a Treasury source told The Guardian. A # 10 source said: “I’m not sure how moving a date on the calendar would have made a substantial difference.”

With some MPs blaming Johnson’s die-hard boosterism of dashed expectations that led to a series of northern newspaper front pages condemning the plans, the source added that “more care” was needed before any promises were made.

Details of the social care cap were also delayed until last week, months after the broader package was announced, focusing anger on the disproportionate impact on low-income households. Dozens of Tory backbenchers voted against the plans or stayed on the sidelines on Monday, reducing Johnson’s majority to just 26.

Some have privately voiced growing concerns over Johnson’s competence ahead of the vote and after a rambling speech to business leaders. Johnson’s official spokesperson on Tuesday was forced to insist “the prime minister is fine” after the CBI speech in which he lost his place and digressed to praise from Peppa Pig World.

But many Tory MPs blame Sunak, who reportedly dined with the prime minister on Sunday, for forcing the government to cut back on investment plans to save money.

Some Tory MPs on Tuesday urged Johnson to bring in a political heavyweight to help rectify the situation and end what are seen as unforced errors by Downing Street. “He absolutely has to do something,” said a former minister. “We all have weaknesses; it is our responsibility to put the right people in place to correct these weaknesses.

An MP blaming Johnson’s assistants said part of the problem was the lack of seniority in the No10 team. “There’s no one in there who is his age or older than him. “, did he declare. Another said it would take “more big beasts than the cast of a Ben-Hur movie” to contain Johnson.

One suggestion on Whitehall – including the Treasury – is that Ben Gascoigne, Johnson’s former political secretary who was recently brought back as deputy chief of staff, could help take on more of a strategic oversight role.

Rumors have also resurfaced that Johnson’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield may be leaving – although he has been closely involved in many recent decisions, including the ruthless Prime Minister’s reshuffle in September. Rosenfield sees his role as building a machine for Johnson to govern effectively, although some of Johnson’s allies believe he lacks political sense.

A senior conservative who knows Johnson well said: “It’s easy to blame the team – the fact is [Johnson] is just not up to the task. His whole personality should change. He would need to trust someone and give them real power to fix the surgery – and him. He doesn’t trust anyone.

Another Tory observer said Johnson’s judgment seemed “hopelessly flawed” and this had led MPs to lose confidence in where the Prime Minister chose to spend his political capital. “If we hadn’t just done a reshuffle, the case for change would already be getting stronger,” they noted.

Despite tensions over the way political announcements are presented, Treasury sources insisted that no one at No 11 was responsible for an incendiary BBC briefing on Monday, attributed to a “senior source from Downing Street “, which underlined” a lot of concern inside the building on the PM “.

Johnson’s spokesperson dismissed the idea that ministers feel unable to tell the PM if they believe he is on the wrong track. “The prime minister has a whole cabinet to lean on, which provides advice, as you would expect, and the cabinet is used for that purpose,” he said.

“Of course, the Prime Minister wants people to be able to express themselves freely and give their opinion. That’s what cabinet meetings are for. It is part of the function of government to have open conversations.

Johnson’s recent woes began when he backed an ill-fated attempt to prevent Owen Paterson from being punished for repeatedly lobbying the government on behalf of two companies paying him over £ 100,000 a year. In rare apologies, the Prime Minister admitted last week that he had “run over the car in a ditch” by first supporting Paterson and then changing his mind.

He has since supported calls to ban MPs from paid political advice. Chris Bryant, chairman of the all-party standards committee, said he would release a review of the code of conduct for MPs next Monday. The committee was already considering whether rules on second-job MPs should be tightened, before the Paterson scandal shed new light on the issue.

Asked about Johnson’s CBI speech, his spokesperson said on Tuesday: “The Prime Minister briefly lost his place in the speech. He has given hundreds of speeches. I don’t think it’s unusual for people on rare occasions to lose their place in space.

Asked about a potential No 10 team reshuffle, a source insisted, “Downing Street is focused on delivering the public and the team is united around that goal.”


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Edward L. Robinett