Europe

Boris Johnson's top spin doctor quits amid power struggle in No 10

One of Boris Johnson’s closest aides has dramatically quite Downing Street amid internal fighting and tension at Number 10.

Lee Cain, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, announced his resignation late last night.

He had been offered a promotion to a key position of the PM’s chief of staff but turned it down following conflict over the role.

In his resignation statement, former tabloid journalist Mr Cain said he had decided to resign after ‘careful consideration’.

He said it had been an ‘honour’ to have been offered the promotion and thanked Mr Johnson for his ‘loyalty and leadership’.

In response, the PM paid tribute to Mr Cain’s ‘extraordinary service’ to the Government over the past four years.

‘He has been a true ally and friend and I am very glad that he will remain director of communications until the new year and to help restructure the operation,’ he said.

‘He will be much missed.’

It is thought Mr Cain’s role offer had created immediate resistance in Government, with MPs, ministers and reportedly even the PM’s partner Carrie Symonds opposed to the appointment.

The move, which would have meant he was one of just a few people with direct one-to-one access to Mr Johnson, was seen as ‘entrenching’ the grip of Vote Leave on Downing Street.

The chief of staff position is being filled as part of an internal restructure, which will also see former TV journalist Allegra Stratton host televised Number 10 news conferences from next year.

Will Dominic Cummings resign?

Mr Cain’s departure sparked speculation last night he could also be followed by Dominic Cummings, who is the PM’s top advisor.


Mr Cummings and Mr Cain are considered close political allies, and had worked together on the 2016 EU referendum campaign under Mr Johnson.

But it was reported that despite Mr Cummings’ unhappiness about the situation, he has decided to stay for now to help the Government’s response to coronavirus.

Mr Cummings has been an important yet controversial figure since becoming Mr Johnson’s top aide when he was elected last year.

His abrasive manner and open contempt for MPs has earned him many enemies in Whitehall.

It is thought Mr Cain will be succeeded by James Slack, the PM’s official spokesperson who also held the post under Theresa May.

But Mr Slack, a former Daily Mail journalist, is a member of the permanent Civil Service rather than a political advisor like Mr Cain was.

Mr Cain originally joined Mr Johnson when he was made foreign secretary by Mrs May following the 2016 Brexit referendum.

He stayed with Mr Johnson when he quit two years later over her proposed Brexit deal, and worked on his campaign to succeed her as Tory leader.

The news comes amid growing rebellion among increasing numbers of Conservative MPs against No 10’s handling of the pandemic.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a senior member of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said Mr Johnson needed someone who could act as a link with the party in Parliament.

‘I think it is essential for the Prime Minister to have a chief of staff. Somebody we can get hold of if we really need to,’ he said.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: ‘On the day the UK became the first country in Europe to report 50,000 coronavirus deaths and the public endured another day of lockdown, Boris Johnson’s Government is fighting like rats in a sack over who gets what job.

‘It is precisely this lack of focus and rank incompetence that has held Britain back.

‘The public deserve better than this incompetence and divided Conservative Government.’

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