After a flurry of resignations by No 10 aides last week, Boris Johnson has made former GB News presenter, Guto Harri, his new Director of Communications, and cabinet minister Steve Barclay his new Chief of Staff.
On Thursday, Munira Mirza, long time Johnson ally and then policy adviser, resigned from her position. Later that day three more aides announced their resignations, with another aide resigning on Friday.
The new appointments were announced by Johnson late on Friday. The Prime Minister said of the appointments:
“I promised change, so that we can get on with the job the British public elected us to do. We need to continue our recovery from the pandemic, help hundreds of thousands more people into work, and deliver our ambitious agenda to level up the entire country, improving people’s opportunities regardless of where they’re from.”
“The changes I’m announcing to my senior team today will improve how No 10 operates, strengthen the role of my cabinet and backbench colleagues, and accelerate our defining mission to level up the country.”
Steve Barclay is currently a cabinet minister, holding the roles of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Minister for the Cabinet Office. While Johnson supporters argue the appointments show he is meeting his promises and getting on with the job, detractors say that assigning a serving MP and cabinet minister as Chief of Staff is an act of desperation.
Jonathan Powell, who held the position of Chief of Staff during Tony Blair’s administration, tweeted:
“I found being No 10 chief of staff a full time job. Not sure how it could be combined with representing a constituency. … Amazed that the cabinet secretary has agreed to this. It all seems a bit desperate.”
While Deputy Leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, said:
“Boris Johnson is panicking as he frantically rearranges deckchairs. The prime minister has clearly run out of serious people willing to serve under his chaotic and incompetent leadership so now expects a cabinet minister to be his chief of staff. … So much for Boris Johnson’s promise to get a grip. Instead this is just a further collapse into chaos.”
Guto Harri, former GB News presenter, has been named as Director of Communications. Harri has previously served as an aide to Boris Johnson, when he was Mayor of London; their reunion comes as a surprise to many, as Harri was critical of the prospect of a Johnson administration.
Before Johnson became PM, Harri accused Johnson of “digging his [own] political grave” and that he would be a “hugely divisive figure” if he were to become the leader of the country, and risk “dragging us into a place where we think that we can joke about suicide vests”.
In an interview with golwg360, when meeting Johnson at No 10 on Friday, Harri described asking Johnson if he was going to survive as Prime Minister, to which Johnson responded with the titular line from Gloria Gaynor’s famous song.
“I walked in and I made a salute and said ‘Prime Minister, Guy Harri reporting for duty’
“And we were both laughing. Then I asked ‘Are you going to survive Boris?’ And he said it in his deep voice, slowly and purposefully and started singing a little while finishing the sentence and saying ‘I Will Survive’.”
“In an inevitable way he invited me 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 of Gloria Gaynor!”
Harri went on to describe the PM as:
“He’s not all clown, but he’s a character who loves it.”
Leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, said of the interview:
“So many people still struggling with the impacts and trauma of Covid, or worrying about the spiralling costs of living… but for Boris & Co it’s all just a bit of a laugh.”
“This isn’t funny – in the current circumstances, it is offensive.”
A Labour Spokesperson stated:
“Britain faces a combination of spiralling bills, rising prices and Tory tax rises. But the PM’s new team have decided to kick off their much-vaunted ‘reset’ with yet more clown show nonsense.”