Boris’s staffing dilemma

4 February 2022

7:38 PM

4 February 2022

7:38 PM

How much trouble is Boris Johnson now in? The Prime Minister suffered one of his most tumultuous days in office on Thursday after his longstanding policy chief Munira Mirza resigned over his Jimmy Savile attack on Keir Starmer. This led Downing Street to bring forward changes to Johnson’s top team – announcing the resignations of chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, director of communications Jack Doyle and Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary (who sent the now notorious BYOB email).

While the departure of four key members of Johnson’s top team has led many to suggest this is the end for the PM, it’s worth pointing out that the exit of three of these figures was actually viewed as something that would calm Tory nerves. When Boris Johnson addressed MPs on Monday night, he told them he would shake up 10 Downing Street after partygate – something MPs have been pushing for. It follows that when the departure of Rosenfield and Reynolds was announced last night, Johnson allies urged loyal MPs to share their support for the moves on social media. Some obliged:

No. 10 changes in full swing.

As promised by @BorisJohnson earlier this week.

— Mark Jenkinson MP (@markjenkinsonmp) February 3, 2022

However, the problem for the Prime Minister is that there now appears to be a vacuum in 10 Downing Street. Mirza was swiftly replaced with Andrew Griffith MP as policy chief to suggest the Prime Minister was still in control, before he rushed forward the departure of other figures to make it seem like part of a wider No. 10 reset.

Johnson is now under pressure to announce who will fill these roles – at a time when the PM has been struggling to attract people to his team. Australian election guru Lynton Crosby this week played down talk from Johnson that he would be offering key advice while senior civil servants have turned down the opportunity to join as the new No. 10 permanent secretary.

There’s talk that Simone Finn – currently deputy chief of staff – could be promoted to chief of staff. While Finn is well liked by colleagues, any shake-up will be contentious. There are MPs on the right of the party who want to see aides they view as close friends of Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie moved or lose influence. Yet all of these people currently remain in position in 10 Downing Street. Then there’s the pressure Johnson is under to bring in someone on the right – such as Crosby ally David Canzini – to keep his priorities on track.

As Johnson plots his next move, what’s clear is that a week which was meant to see him turn a corner on partygate, with announcements on Levelling Up and Brexit, has once again been dominated by Downing Street turmoil.

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