18:43 GMT01 December 2020
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    As one the UK prime minister’s closest pro-Brexit strategists, Dominic Cummings, who served as chief adviser to Boris Johnson, was sacked hot on the heels of communications director Lee Cain's resignation, the man set to fill his shoes is MP for Harborough in Leicestershire Neil O'Brien, who has been tasked with leading a new policy board in No 10.

    UK Ministers have so far stopped short of publicly expressing their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 elections, which every major US media outlet has already projected as won by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, writes The Times.

    However, the outlet reports that as the Trump legal campaign has filed lawsuits in the wake of the current White House incumbent’s claims of widespread election fraud, the man appointed to take the place vacated by Boris Johnson’s first adviser Dominic Cummings is prepared to be more forthright.

    “I was extremely glad that Biden won,” said Neil O’Brien, Downing Street’s new choice for adviser to the Prime Minister, adding, when asked if Trump should concede:

    “Yes... he just can’t hang on for ever can he? Biden has won the election.”

    One of the UK prime minister’s closest pro-Brexit strategists, Cummings, who served as chief adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from 24 July 2019 until 13 November 2020, was sacked hot on the heels of communications director Lee Cain's resignation.

    Donald Trump one famously referred to Boris Johnson as “Britain Trump”, as he congratulated the latter on winning the race to be the next UK prime minister in December 2019.

    “We have a really good man. He’s going to be the prime minister of the U.K. now, Boris Johnson. He’s tough and he’s smart. They’re saying ‘Britain Trump.’ [sic] They call him ‘Britain Trump,’ and there’s people saying that’s a good thing,” Trump said at the time.

    However, O’Brien disagrees with everything he believes the current POTUS represents.

    “Where shall we start? The unbelievable misogyny and the ‘grab women by the pussy’ stuff, the distortion of the truth, the chipping away at the fabric of properly functioning liberal democracy, which has continued even after he’s lost the election, the fact that he ultimately has let down and disappointed the people who placed their hopes in him. I see the case for a real social conservatism but that is a fake version of it . . . I believe in things like the family, having a sense of national identity, controlling borders but it was a horrible, mutated version that has nothing to do with all those things,” says O’Brian.

    On the other hand, according to the incoming No 10 adviser, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden represents the “renormalisation of politics and truth-based, reality-based conversation”.

    Majority of US media outlets have already projected Joe Biden as the winner, even though the states are yet to certify results by 8 December, after which chosen electors meet on 14 December to formally cast votes.

    Donald Trump's campaign team has been accusing the Democrats of massive election fraud, intensifying legal efforts to challenge the results of the election and prevent vote certifications in states where it believes "illegal votes" were counted. Trump's campaign lawyers have accused leaders in Democrat Party-run cities in key battleground states of carrying out a coordinated, “centralised” campaign of voter fraud, claiming to have "hundreds of witnesses".

    Meanwhile, Biden has said that his team doesn't rule out the possibility of taking legal action against the Trump administration over the delays in the transition and has called the incumbent president's refusal to concede "embarassing". 

    Challenges Ahead

    Speaking on the most challenging issues facing Downing Street, Neil O’Brien succinctly said:

    “Next year is roll out the coronavirus vaccine, recover the economy, save the country from separatism, sort out the next mega global world order… Other than that the prime minister has got nothing to do.”

    In the coming weeks Boris Johnson is to determine the path that the UK follows post-Brexit, as the year-end deadline looms for the current transition period, with the European Union and Britain still struggling to hammer out an agreement that would shape their future relations.

    Britain's chief negotiator David Frost (L) and EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrive for a working breakfast after a seventh round of talks, in Brussels on August 21, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / YVES HERMAN
    Britain's chief negotiator David Frost (L) and EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrive for a working breakfast after a seventh round of talks, in Brussels on August 21, 2020.

    Amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, issues of public spending have also taken precedence.

    On the international arena, Johnson is facing the necessity of forging workable ties with the US President, whether a reelected Trump or the Democrat Joe Biden, depending on the final outcome of the 2020 elections.

    The outlet states other challenges, such as a stance regarding China, and tackling climate change, with O’Brien set to help Johnson navigate the possible roadblocks ahead.

    Amid internal tensions that took shape ahead of the ouster of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, O’Brien will need to restore a climate of trust between the PM and reportedly some irate Tory MPs.

    Lee Cain, director of communication at the prime Ministers' office, arrives at Downing Street in London, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. An aide to Boris Johnson, director of communications Lee Cain has resigned amid reports of internal tensions in Downing Street.
    © AFP 2020 / Frank Augstein
    Lee Cain, director of communication at the prime Ministers' office, arrives at Downing Street in London, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. An aide to Boris Johnson, director of communications Lee Cain has resigned amid reports of internal tensions in Downing Street.
    “We have all these new colleagues from diverse backgrounds and careers and they are coming from seats that are quite different from traditional seats. We want to suck out the good ideas,” O’Brien was quoted as saying.

    The new adviser, who worked for George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister David Cameron, on the Northern Powerhouse initiative, aimed at boosting the local economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture, O’Brien insists that the Tories do not have to ‘choose between Workington and Notting Hill’.

     “You have to do better among the places that feel left behind and working-class voters and at the same time appeal to younger voters and fight in the urban areas too,” said O’Brien, adding that there is no clash between the ‘green agenda and the red wall’.

     “It’s amazingly snobby to say everyone in the north hates doing anything environmentally friendly. Some things may be more salient than others but everyone has similar top priorities — wages, cost of living, fighting crime and no one dislikes green issues.”

    O’Brien, 42, grew up in Huddersfield with Scottish parents, and represents the Leicestershire constituency of Harborough.

    One of the issues he is believed to care about particularly is addressing regional inequality, opting to wield the phrase “levelling up” rather than “Northern Powerhouse” because he believes that problems are ‘spread around the country’.

    “It sounds more positive… The turn in the economy over the last 40 years from manufacturing to services... has been very good for cities and so has the growth of higher education. Cities are no longer seen as RoboCop urban desolation. It’s cool to live in the city.”

    O’Brien, writes the outlet, has campaigned to amend the government’s planning algorithm to create more new homes in cities, while slashing the number allocated to the suburbs and rural constituencies.

    “The problem of affordability in housing is worse in the cities. It could be a double win if we save the countryside and regenerate urban areas.”

    O’Brien has gone on record as being determined to ensure the state continues to modernise, hailing “digital reform.” When Johnson ruffled some feathers north of the border earlier, when he told a group of Tory MPs that devolution had been a “disaster”, O’Brien was quoted as not agreeing with the PM’s statement.

    “I am a devolution fan and have spent a lot of my career trying to get devolution in England. He was quoted by the publication as saying that with the SNP expected to do well in the Scottish parliament elections in May “the Union will be a big issue next year”.

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    Tags:
    post-Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, US Election 2020, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump
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