Sajid Javid has been tipped as a front-runner to take on the role of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief of staff after the departure of the director of communications, former Vote Leave campaign official Lee Cain and chief adviser Dominic Cummings, writes The Telegraph.
Rumours of tensions within Johnson's inner circle had surfaced earlier this month. After Lee Cain said in a statement that he would resign from his position, UK media outlets speculated over the future of the Prime Minister's top adviser, Dominic Cummings, who had faced widespread public criticism in spring for allegedly flouting the government’s COVID-19 social distancing and travel restrictions.
© REUTERS / HENRY NICHOLLSDominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, November 13, 2020.
Cummings left Downing Street on Friday night after being reportedly accused of briefing against the Prime Minister, writes the outlet.
The move came after Lee Cain was offered the role of chief of staff, yet ministers, advisers and the Prime Minister's fiancée Carrie Symonds displayed unease over the suggested appointment.
Sajid Javid a ‘Good Fit’
Sources are cited as believing that Sajid Javid, who resigned as Chancellor in February after refusing to accept the sharing his team of special advisers with Downing Street, has the skill set required for the job of chief of staff.
Sir Edward Lister has been given the role on an interim basis.
MPs are also reportedly hoping that Javid could help mend fences between the PM and increasingly restless backbenchers, who have deplored a perceived breakdown of communication channels with Johnson.
A source was quoted as saying that Sajid Javid would be a good fit as "someone who commands the respect of the Cabinet, who has been around Government".
It was also understood that the former Chancellor, who had been replaced by Rishi Sunak after his departure in February, had raised with Johnson the idea of being appointed chief of staff in the summer.
As British Chancellor, Sajid Javid was instrumental in developing the Conservative Party’s election landslide-winning manifesto in December 2019.
Ahead of the elections, in November, Javid had promised the governing Conservatives would deliver a “very detailed costings document”, promising to lower the country’s debt.
“We are also announcing the triple tax lock which is our commitment giving more financial security to working people... We will set out today, alongside our manifesto...a very detailed costings document,” Javid had been quoted by Sky News as saying.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sources claim there is understanding that the ex-Chancellor would be able to convince the party’s base of the need for tax rises to cover COVID-19 response.
Javid can also reportedly boast a formerly good working relationship with Carrie Symonds, Johnson's fiancée, who is credited as playing an increasingly influential role in decision-making at Number 10.
According to reports, Symonds helped veto Lee Cain's appointment to chief of staff, which resulted in the departure of the director of communications.
A former Conservative Party head of communications, Symonds spent several months working for Sajid Javid as a special adviser when he was housing secretary from 2016 to 2018.
As earlier this year Javid was said to have been one of the first people to congratulate Johnson and Symonds when they announced that they were engaged and expecting a baby, earlier reports had suggested that Symonds was hoping to act as an intermediary between Javid and the Prime Minister.
There has not been any official comment from Sajid Javid.
Other sources have suggested Nikki Da Costa, the Director of Legislative Affairs at No 10, could aspire to take on the position of the next chief of staff.
"She's a Brexiteer but not Vote Leave, of the party but not factional and divisive, is trusted and respected by all wings of the party and across Whitehall, and has experience of a world outside politics," said a source.
A Cabinet minister was cited as saying that Johnson needs someone who "gets everyone focused on delivering for him and the country – the big picture, people's priorities – rather than creating problems".
As a mid-February government reshuffle looms, Johnson's supporters were also credited with saying Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, would be a perfectly suited candidate to take over as secretary of the Department of Health, to help prepare for a potential third wave of coronavirus next winter.
Meanwhile, the current leader of the department, Matt Hancock, has been tipped to replace Gavin Williamson at the Department for Education.