New No. 10 press chief: Boris is 'not a complete clown'

7 February 2022

11:14 PM

7 February 2022

11:14 PM

If Boris Johnson thought his new No. 10 hires would be less high-profile than their predecessors, he might want to think again. Not content with taking a side-swipe at Dominic Cummings on Twitter, it appears that Guto Harri decided to do an interview with the Welsh media prior to taking up his post as Downing Street director of communications. Ignoring the convention that advisers stay out of the limelight, Harri regaled Golwg 360 with anecdotes about his appointment. He told the outlet that he was hired by Johnson on Friday, walking into Downing Street via the Cabinet Office to avoid being seen:

I walked in and did a salute and said “Prime Minister, Guto Harri reporting for duty” and he stood up from behind his desk and started taking the salute but then he said “What am I doing, I should take the knee for you.” And we both laughed. Then I asked “Are you going to survive Boris?” And he said in his deep, slow and purposeful voice and started to sing a little while finishing the sentence and saying “I Will Survive”. I inevitably invited him to say “You’ve got all your life to live” and he replied, “I’ve got all my love to give”, so we had a little blast from Gloria Gaynor!

Harri also found time on his first weekend in the job to dismiss those who previously served in Johnson’s team, explaining his intent to bring in ‘pragmatic, more experienced and perhaps less ideological professionals’ and tell his new boss that he must ‘persuade his party and people on the ground that he is holding the man who got a comfortable majority.’ The former City Hall-spinner also psycho-analysed his chief, explaining Johnson is ‘not all that clownish, but he’s a very likeable character’ adding ’90 per cent of our discussion was very serious but it shows that he is a character and has fun.’ Talk about a return to serious government, eh?

For someone who has been content to dish it out enough advice in recent years, is there any sign that Guto will be taking it? Harri, who criticised the ‘attention-seeking’ Cummings, was happy to march up Downing Street this morning, swinging a Tesco shopping bag and dispensing quips to the assembled press pack. Responding to a shout of ‘What’s the first thing you’re going to do today?’ he responded ‘Give healthy snacks and mineral waters to staff.’ This from the aide who approvingly quoted Alastair Campbell’s criticisms of Cummings over his ‘studied scruffiness, which screams out “please photograph me” every time he walks up Downing Street.’

Looks like Harri will be enjoying the limelight as much as his predecessors.

UPDATE: In a pretty worrying sign, Hari is already being given advice by Torsten Bell, a former Ed Miliband staffer now running the left-leaning Resolution Foundation. Bell’s last act in high-level political advice was the infamous ‘Ed Stone‘, an idea so bad that it’s credited with losing Labour the 2015 election…


Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments