Published:

Government Communications Director to quit Downing Street in blow-up over personnel and politics…

“Boris Johnson’s director of communications announced his resignation last night after the prime minister’s fiancée and senior No 10 advisers opposed plans to appoint him as chief of staff. Lee Cain said that after “careful consideration” he would leave at the end of the year. Mr Johnson thanked him for being a “true ally and friend” and praised his “extraordinary service”. His departure will add to speculation that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, could also leave. He was said to be “very unhappy” about Mr Cain’s departure. Mr Cain will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, a civil servant who has served as the prime minister’s official spokesman under Theresa May and Mr Johnson.” – The Times

  • What does the PM’s Chief of Staff do, and who might get the job now? – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Caino-ho-ho

 …will Cummings walk too?

“Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser and a close friend of Mr Cain, was in talks with the prime minister about his future, amid signs that the influence of the “Vote Leave” group in Downing Street is waning. Allies of the adviser said they expected him to stay. David Frost, Britain’s chief EU negotiator and another ally of Mr Cain, was also said to be considering his position, but government sources revealed just before midnight that he had decided to stay in post. Mr Cain said in a resignation statement that “it was an honour to be asked to serve as the prime minister’s chief of staff”. Mr Johnson’s apparent decision to rescind the offer could have far-reaching consequences… Mr Johnson’s bust-up with Vote Leave officials comes at a critical moment in the EU trade talks, as he considers making concessions to try to secure a deal next week.” – FT

  • Departure exposed the tensions at the heart of Johnson’s administration – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Will Cummings quit? It’s Carrie Symonds v Vote Leave as tensions over the Government’s future explode

It’s Team Symons v Vote Leave as a struggle begins for the soul of the Government

“Boris Johnson was trying to prevent an exodus of Downing Street staff on Wednesday night after a key aide resigned following a public power struggle with the Prime Minister’s fiancée Carrie Symonds… Mr Cain and Mr Cummings, two of the four most senior aides in the Prime Minister’s office, emerged as the losers in a high-stakes gamble against Ms Symonds and Allegra Stratton, who will become the face of Downing Street when it begins daily televised press conferences, who had also objected to Mr Cain’s appointment. Tory MPs expressed “despair” about Downing Street in-fighting at a time of national crisis, with Mr Johnson facing having to pick sides between two of No 10’s most important women and his most senior aides.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Move appeared to have been blocked by opposition from the Prime Minister’s fiancée – Daily Mail

Stratton’s appointment sparked Cain’s resignation

“Mr Cain’s potential promotion was always a bit tenuous. Last week he is understood to have tendered his resignation amid suggestions that he risked being marginalised by Allegra Stratton, who was chosen by the prime minister to front daily press briefings. Ms Stratton has extensive broadcasting experience and previously worked for Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, as his director of communications. Mr Cain is said to have objected to her appointment. “She was not his first choice, it was very much the prime minister’s call,” a Downing Street source said. “It has not gone well.” According to Downing Street sources, the pair had not spoken since Ms Stratton moved to No 10 a fortnight ago. “Allegra has made no secret of the fact she wants to do things differently,” one No 10 staffer said.” – The Times

Who leaked the lockdown plan?

“Senior Tory aides were embroiled in a briefing war after it was revealed that the Prime Minister plans to promote communications chief Lee Cain to the powerful role of chief-of-staff. The unauthorised disclosure comes after Mr Johnson was enraged by the leak of his lockdown plans on Halloween. Mr Cain has been with Mr Johnson for four years and is a close ally of controversial adviser Dominic Cummings. His appointment would be seen as a boost to the influence of Mr Cummings’s circle at No 10. One aide claimed Mr Cain — a former tabloid journalist who once dressed in a chicken suit to taunt David Cameron — would be “tantamount to giving the job to Cummings”. Mr Cain did not comment. Some Tory sources thought the move was prompted by concerns that Allegra Stratton, the new No 10 spokeswoman, would be too influential.” – Evening Standard

Iain Martin: Blundering Johnson can’t see danger he’s in

“Minister after minister has a story to tell about being monstered by the No 10 spin operation. Johnson feigns ignorance or treats it as a joke. The risk of it backfiring on the prime minister should be obvious but he seems oblivious. This is not the Roman empire. Loyalty is a two-way street and he is running out of friends. Many MPs have been humiliated by defending the government on issues such as the Marcus Rashford campaign for free school meals only to be left looking foolish by the subsequent U-turn. They will be less inclined to help No 10 the next time they’re asked. Johnson himself is not entirely without loyalty. He attempted to appoint his friend Cain and lost. Whatever the psychological roots of this mess, it is not a sensible way to run a country.” – The Times

  • How the Carrie Symonds Crew beat the Boris bruiser in their game of chicken – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Dissatisfied Tory MPs flock to ERG-inspired pressure groups

“The latest of the groups, the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), was announced on Tuesday and appears to pose the most direct threat of rebellion over the government’s policies on lockdown. It is led by the ERG veteran Steve Baker, who one member said was “the best whip in Westminster”. It launched with 50 members and at least 10 more have joined its ranks in the last 24 hours, the Guardian understands. Henry Hill, news editor at the Conservative Home website, said that the groups had formed because “whereas with Thatcher or Cameron you had a coherent ‘-ism’, with Johnson you don’t really have one of those. There are just whole areas of policy where Johnsonism isn’t a thing.” The CRG has been modelled on the ERG, which was tightly organised, commissioned in-depth reports, had official briefings for journalists and MPs, and employed a staff researcher who handled communications.” – The Guardian

  • Seventy MPs join group determined to block any extension of Covid lockdown – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Liam Fox in Comment: How MPs can better hold Ministers to account over their handling of the Coronavirus

New £5 Covid tests could see crowds returning to footie matches and live gigs ‘within two months’

“New £5 Covid tests could mean crowds returning to footie matches and live gigs by early next year. The pregnancy-style tests which produce results in minutes would allow millions of Brits with a negative result to socialise. Trials show they picked up more than three in four positive cases — the majority of which are currently being missed. And accuracy reached 95 per cent in the most infectious individuals. Experts also reckon widespread use of the DIY tests could slash Covid transmission by 90 per cent. Government scientists say the findings pave the way for daily “freedom passes”. Those testing negative in the morning would be allowed to safely return to football matches, concerts, cinemas and busy pubs. One expert said they would personally be “confident” spending time in a crowd if everyone had taken the checks and been given the all-clear.” – The Sun

  • Anyone testing negative to get a ‘freedom pass’ – Daily Mail

Spin doctors ‘rake in £130 million’ during Covid pandemic

“The government has spent £130 million on spin doctors and PR campaigns during the pandemic. Figures compiled by Labour from Cabinet Office records show that the government is spending tens of millions of pounds a month on communication consultants. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, criticised the spending during prime minister’s questions, asking whether Boris Johnson believed it was a “reasonable use of taxpayers’ money”. The majority of the money — more than £113 million — has gone to a single agency, Manning Gottlieb OMD, which is responsible for buying print and television advertising for the government’s coronavirus campaigns. A Cabinet Office spokesman said the money covered “TV, radio and print adverts so that the public can be made aware of key public health information”.” – The Times

  • Johnson challenged over spiralling cost of Covid contracts – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccine hope will give Britain ‘two big boxing gloves’ to defeat coronavirus, Prime Minister vows – The Sun
  • Britain is first in Europe to hit 50,000 Covid deaths – The Times

Comment:

  • The Covid-19 blunders drive home a harsh truth: the state has failed us – Larry Elliott, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Middle class ‘facing £14bn capital gains tax raid on investments’

“Second-home owners, investors and pensioners face paying tens of thousands of pounds more in tax under a review ordered by the chancellor that could raise £14 billion a year. Rishi Sunak’s advisers on tax reform have suggested increasing capital gains tax (CGT) in a move that would particularly affect high and middle-income earners. He is looking for ways to repair the public finances amid the coronavirus crisis. However, any move on CGT would meet fierce resistance from Tory backbenchers who have warned Mr Sunak that it would be politically disastrous by punishing the party’s base. At present anyone selling shares, a second home or other assets is liable to pay capital gains tax on the profits they have made from the sale. Those earning less than £50,000 are charged 18 per cent on residential property and 10 per cent on profits from other assets. For those whose income is more than £50,000 the tax is 28 per cent on residential property and 20 per cent on other assets.” – The Times

  • UK takes aim at China with revamp of takeover rules – FT

More:

  • The remarkable rise of Rishi Sunak – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Please join Lord Ashcroft this week for the launch of his biography of Rishi Sunak

‘No time to waste’ on climate change says Prime Minister as he prepares UK plan of action

“There is “no time to waste” on climate action, the Prime Minister has warned, as he prepared to unveil a ten-point plan setting out the government’s priorities for the environment. Boris Johnson called on other governments to disclose their own plans for action, calling climate change “the most enduring threat to the futures of our children and grandchildren”. “There is no greater duty for any nation than protecting our people and our planet,” he said. His comments marked a year to the international Cop26 UN climate summit, which was supposed to take place in Glasgow this week, but was delayed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Johnson is shortly due to lay out the government’s own priorities, an announcement due within the next week. The Government has a previously-announced target to reach net zero by 2050, and priorities including investment in wind energy, the protection of biodiversity, planting trees and the restoration of peat bogs.” – Daily Telegraph

Migrant surge could have been prevented, borders chief claims

“The surge in Channel migrants could have been prevented if the Home Office had taken tougher action earlier, claimed the chief inspector of borders. David Bolt also warned that the Home Office had neither “the capacity nor the capabilities” to combat the “serious, persistent and adept” threat of illegal entry into the UK, whether by sea, land or air. In a report on “clandestine entry” into the UK, Mr Bolt said the surge in small boats in late 2018, which culminated in the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid declaring a “major incident,” was not foreseen. If it had been, and more “decisive action” had been taken to demonstrate the route would not succeed, it “may not have become established in the minds of many migrants and facilitators as an effective method of illegal entry, as the evidence would suggest is now the case”, he said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Detaining refugees offshore is an expensive failure, MPs are warned – The Times
  • Deportation of 28 migrants is stopped after lawyers launch last-minute human rights claim – Daily Mail

‘No Brexit breakthrough’ on horizon as talks with EU go to the wire

“There will be no breakthrough in Brexit negotiations this week, senior government figures have admitted, as the talks go down to the wire. European leaders are due to meet remotely next Thursday, a date seen by some in Brussels as a deadline to resolve areas of dispute including fishing, how to ensure fair competition rules including state aid and mechanisms for resolving future disputes. Yesterday Downing Street declined to set a deadline for the talks, saying previous deadlines had been raised by the EU and not the government. However, it said any deal would have to be reached in time to be ratified by both the UK and European parliaments before the end of the transition period. “Time is in short supply and for our part we continue to work very hard to seek to bridge the gaps which remain between our two positions,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.” – The Times

  • Talks could ‘fall apart’, warns Irish foreign minister – Daily Telegraph
  • Biden warns Johnson not to let Brexit upend Northern Ireland peace process – FT
  • Government’s own adverts to boost global trade would be banned under new junk food crackdown – The Sun

More:

  • Cameron takes swipe at John Major’s blast at Britain – The Sun

Comment:

  • Deal or no deal on Brexit, Boris Johnson’s only care is that no one blames him – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: Brexit-related concerns about a Biden presidency are overblown. The reality is more nuanced.

>Yesterday: Alistair Burt in Comment: Global Britain can also be European Britain

Johnson and Sturgeon tensions ‘soar’ as Union review set to be released

“Tensions are rising between Westminster and Edinburgh over a second independence vote as a controversial review into UK unionism is set to be published. Officials in Downing Street are considering what to do to deal with what they brand the “increasingly difficult” messages from Edinburgh on the issue. The long-awaited Dunlop Review into UK Government Union capability is set to be published later this month and Express.co.uk understands some officials are concerned about tensions rising on the topic upon its release. Lord Dunlop, who made 40 recommendations in an unpublished Theresa May commissioned review of how devolution is working, warned the Union may face “choppy waters” next year. Lord Dunlop’s review has been lying on the prime minister’s desk for at least 10 months, this website understands. The review was tasked with investigating how the Union could be strengthened after MPs concluded relations broke down between the UK and Scottish Government.” – Daily Express

Labour-run local authority blames Covid as it is on brink of bankruptcy

“Croydon Council declared itself practically bankrupt yesterday and blamed its financial crisis on the havoc caused by coronavirus. The Labour-run south London borough imposed emergency spending restrictions under a Section 114 notice – only the second authority in two decades to face such measures. As well as the coronavirus crisis, local officials also pinned blame on ‘a decade of austerity’. But the Government last night accused the council of being ‘dysfunctional’. The authority announced yesterday it would fail to meet its legal obligation to balance its books. It came as a survey revealed that only one in five councils in England are ‘confident’ of delivering a balanced budget unless drastic action on spending is taken.” – Daily Mail

  • Tory council leaders warn of severe cuts in England – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Pfizer vaccine: what an ‘efficacy rate above 90 per cent’ really means – Zania Stamataki, CapX
  • Will ‘Coronnials’ be scarred for life? – Eliza Filby, UnHerd
  • Public spending and public health – Theodore Dalrymple, The Critic
  • Boris won’t be forgiven if his Number 10 chaos makes him cave on Brexit – The Spectator

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