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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Fighting like ferrets in a sack

We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with some of the highest death rates in the world, the economy is tanking and we are about to jump off a cliff on 1 January when we leave the European Union without a deal, and yet the only news coming out of Number Ten Downing Street is a major domestic bust-up with Boris Johnson's Communications chief storming off in a huff, and others poised to follow him.

The Guardian reports that Lee Cain announced he would step down as director of communications on Wednesday night after ministers and advisers including Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, are said to have protested over his planned promotion to chief of staff.

They say that Cain’s resignation also threw into doubt the future of Cummings, Johnson’s most senior and high-profile adviser, with one insider telling the Guardian that he could depart No 10 alongside Cain:

Cummings was said to be furious that Cain, a fellow Vote Leave campaigner who was partly credited with bringing him into No 10, had in effect been forced out. There was also speculation about other potential departures from Johnson’s inner circle. Meanwhile some Tory MPs were buoyed by the turmoil, with one claiming it was a chance for Johnson to get “out of the grip of these people”.

The row appears to reflect internal turmoil and dysfunction in No 10 at a time when the UK surpassed 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus, according to official figures.

Critics of the government have repeatedly cited how tensions between senior members of Johnson’s team – and his refusal to sack Cummings earlier this year – have hindered the country’s efforts to get on top of the pandemic.

What is interesting (and also disturbing) about this is the supposed influence of Carrie Symonds. As far as I am aware she has no status in Downing Street or anywhere else in the government and yet she is being cited as influential in the choice of key personnel for the Prime Minister, almost as if it were a royal court. 

I am currently reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, and the similarities are striking (though obviously without the executions, torture etc.)

This turmoil at the heart of government is unnecessary and unwelcome, they all need to grow up and get on with the job they were elected (appointed) to do.

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