Questions about how new No 10 chief of staff will tackle three jobs at once



Questions have been asked about how the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff will balance the “24/7” role with also being a Cabinet minister and an MP as Boris Johnson brought new faces into Downing Street following a swathe of resignations.

The Prime Minister announced on Saturday that Steve Barclay the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, would become his chief of staff and take forward reforms to No 10.

But former holders of the job lined up to say they were unsure how Mr Barclay would be able to undertake all his roles.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay (Ben Stansall/PA)

(PA Wire)

Gavin Barwell who was chief of staff to Theresa May, praised Mr Barclay as “diligent, smart, insists on high standards and a nice guy to boot”.

But the Tory peer said it “won’t be easy to combine being chief of staff with a Minister and MP”.

Nick Timothy, who was also chief of staff to Mrs May alongside Fiona Hill, tweeted: “Barclay is very talented, but not sure having a chief of staff who’s also a minister elsewhere can work.”

Jonathan Powell, who held the role under Tony Blair, tweeted: “Does he resign as an MP? Or is he answerable to Parliament? I can think of no democracy where the chief of staff can also be in the legislature.

“I found being No 10 chief of staff a full-time job. Not sure how it could be combined with representing a constituency. And having to go to answer parliamentary questions about the PM would be tricky.”

Mr Johnson previously insisted he was “making changes” to Downing Street and the Cabinet Office in the wake of the handling of the partygate saga. This included creating an Office of the Prime Minister with a permanent secretary to lead No 10.

The Sunday Telegraph reported strategists Sir Lynton Crosby and David Canzini had also been providing Mr Johnson with advice.

Mr Barclay, who is seen as a steady pair of hands, has been tasked with “integrating the new Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office”, Downing Street said.

Mr Johnson also announced long-term ally Guto Harri, who worked with the Prime Minister at City Hall when he was Mayor of London, would become his director of communications.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, who also shadows Mr Barclay, said: “The Prime Minister has clearly run out of serious people willing to serve under his chaotic and incompetent leadership, so now expects a Cabinet minister to be his chief of staff.

“This is a farce. Being No 10 chief of staff is a 24/7 job so if Steve Barclay is taking it on as his third job then Tory MPs and the public can have no confidence that the dysfunction in Downing Street will come to an end.”

The Institute for Government’s Dr Catherine Haddon suggested that if Mr Barclay was staying in his Cabinet Office role, “this is not a chief of staff”.

She said: “Either he’s a chief of staff and CDL (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) responsibilities will be neglected. Or he’s de facto deputy PM (despite Raab’s title) and you’re lacking a chief of staff.”

Labor MP Chris Bryant, who is also chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, tweeted: “I don’t understand how an MP can be a chief of staff at Drowning Street, either democratically, legally or logically.”

However Mr Johnson said: “The changes I’m announcing to my senior team today will improve how No 10 operates, strengthen the role of my Cabinet and backbench colleagues, and accelerate our defining mission to level up the country.”

The PM will hope the changes are enough to win around wavering backbench Tory MPs who are considering over the weekend whether to submit letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson to Sir Graham Brady.

If the chairman of the 1922 Committee receives 54 letters a vote of no confidence will be called.

So far, 15 Conservatives have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, but not all have sent letters to Sir Graham.

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers (Victoria Jones/PA)

(PA Archive)

Privately, the numbers are expected to be higher.

Sir Charles Walker, a former vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee, told The Observer Mr Johnson’s departure was an “inevitable tragedy”.

He said he wanted the PM to go of his own accord, but added: “He is a student of Greek and Roman tragedy. It is going to end in him going, so I just want him to have some agency in that.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries launched a passionate defense of the Prime Minister, claiming that 97% of Tory MPs supported Mr Johnson.

She also insisted Mr Johnson told the truth “to the best of his knowledge” based on what he was told by his aides.

The new roles in No 10 come after Mr Johnson lost five aides within 24 hours, including long-term head of policy Munira Mirza, director of communications Jack Doyle, chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, and principal private secretary Martin Reynolds.

Munira Mirza, then director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, arrives in Downing Street (Yui Mok/PA)

(PA Archive)

Reports suggested the resignations of the latter three had been planned as they had been to some extent implicated in the partygate saga that still hangs over Mr Johnson.

However Ms Mirza’s departure was understood to have come as a surprise after Mr Johnson refused to apologize for allegations he made in the Commons regarding Sir Keir Starmer failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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