💥 Inside No10: Conservative MPs blame drift and division at the heart of Johnson's operation for the government's recent failings.

A year on from Dominic Cummings departure, four camps have emerged inside Downing Street.

Analysis with @PickardJE ft.com/content/48eaa0…
One longstanding Johnson ally admitted “this is the first major turbulence we’ve experienced.”

Senior Tories are divided on whether this is typical for a govt two years into office, or is a sign of deeper issues regarding Johnson, and how he operates.

Most Cabinet ministers see the current issues as "midterm blues".

One cabinet minister said: “Every government goes through a phase where something happens and the prime minister probably needs a bit of rest.”

Another added: “It’s just a bump.”

But some in government argue there are structural problems.

One Whitehall official described the recent weeks as “a series of unforced errors, crossing the road for a fight with your own people, which you wouldn’t get with a properly functioning team”.

Officials close to the PM say atmosphere has improved in the last year:

"Last year there seemed to be U-turns every week, because Dominic Cummings would make decisions and then Boris Johnson would see what was happening and say, no, I don’t want this."

But the U-turns have not stopped. Another senior government figure decried the lack of “strategic direction”:

“Everything does feel quite scrabbly and scratch. The Peppa Pig incident was a vector to pick up on a wider unhappiness about the operation.”

Faction one inside Johnson's No10: the Gove gang. These advisors have close ties to the levelling up secretary Michael Gove. The dominant and most powerful group, they hold most of the top positions and have the most access to the PM.

Faction two: the civil servants. Led by cabinet secretary Simon Case and chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, this gang occupies two of the most senior roles and have many others allied to them. But some think they lack political instincts to cope.

Faction three: the Joint Economic Unit. Formed to avoid the typical clashes between No10 and No11, these aides work for both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson. Initially relations across Downing Street were good, but officials say friction has increased.

Faction four: the City Hall long marchers. These are Johnson's longest serving aides and the people he trusts the most. Weakened by the departure of Eddie Lister, but strengthened by the recent return Ben Gascoigne as deputy chief of staff.

The chief complaint about all these No10 factions is that they contain too many 'yes men' who won't challenge Johnson.

"Even in Henry VIII’s court he had people who would have said to him, ‘that’s bad strategy’ or ‘that’s tone deaf."

Cabinet ministers agree with @PaulGoodmanCH that Johnson's style won't change:

"Everyone talks about the Number 10 team, but fundamentally this is all about the boss. He’s a celebrity, not a conventional Tory, and people need to let Boris be Boris."

One official said efforts to save Paterson spoke to Johnson’s personality:

“The problem is that we have a prime minister who makes decisions because MPs have whispered in his ear, that’s one of his weaknesses. But every PM has a weakness of some kind.”


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More from @SebastianEPayne

23 Nov
🌲 Middle England, not Nigel Farage, is now Boris Johnson’s biggest political challenge.

Thanks to the economy and the PM's governing style, the Tories should be worried about losing voters they won back in 2005.

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/787726…
Johnson’s allies are convinced Farage and a new right wing force could pose a huge danger in splitting the vote. “The old enemy is rearing his head,” one says.

But if Farage doesn’t come back, Richard Tice and Reform have shown scant campaigning success

Tory strategists reckon the next big battleground is a set of middle-class, middle-income, middle of the road, middle England seats which voted Tory because they were fed up with Labour. After 11 years in power, the cycle could be about to go into reverse

Read 8 tweets
22 Nov
NEW: Senior Tories are calling on Boris Johnson to shake up No10 team after policy missteps and souring relations with MPs.

“Bojo has lost his mojo. There’s a mixture of anger and despair but the real frustration is with the operation, it’s amateurish”

Another close Johnson ally said fears over his standing in the Tory party were growing.

“I’m starting to get concerned. Supporters who were hitherto reliable are getting jittery.”

The MP added two upcoming by-elections “better be OK”.

One prominent Tory MP: “The PM isn’t surrounded by people — be that cabinet ministers or advisers — able to challenge him effectively and point out when he is heading in the wrong direction.”

Read 8 tweets
20 Nov
Exclusive: George Osborne predicts Boris Johnson will U-turn on scaling back HS2:

“I don’t think high speed rail in the east of England up to Yorkshire is dead yet. You had a Labour party commit very quickly to build it. I think the pressure will grow”

Osborne said on this week’s episode of Payne’s Politics the decision to curtail HS2E and Northern Powerhouse rail was “pretty disappointing.”

“It’s not often you can say this about Boris Johnson but he lacks ambition”

Osborne said that “levelling up, at the moment, feels more like a slogan than a plan” and said Johnson needs to focus on delivery.

“You can talk about big infrastructure, but unless you actually deliver it, it’s going to sound a bit hollow.”

Read 5 tweets
19 Nov
A "shambles", surrounded by "nodding dogs", potentially taking the Tory party into "sudden decline into defeat" - Tory MPs are deeply unhappy with Boris Johnson after a very difficult week.

Weekend analysis with @GeorgeWParker
Tories are concerned about two growing concerns in the Johnson government. First is the Cabinet, with ministers often left out of major policy decisions.

“You need cabinet ministers who are up to the job. Are they serious or are they nodding dogs?”

Second is the No10 operation. Johnson "thrives on chaos” but MPs feel grip is missing.

Dan Rosenfield and Simon Case are cited as having failed to avert recent political pile-ups. MPs worry Downing Street's political strategy is hard to discern.

Read 6 tweets
18 Nov
👧👴 The MPs' second jobs debate has shown the remarkable rise of the 2019 Tory intake.

The age split in the Conservative parliamentary party has become "the red wall versus red corduroy", with big implications for policy.

Latest @FinancialTimes analysis ft.com/content/63fb5f…
@FinancialTimes The 2019 intake is more diverse in sex, ethnicity and political outlook than older Conservative MPs, and represents the first generation of millennial Tories.

Alicia Kearns was not even born when Christopher Chope first entered the Commons in 1983.

The rise of the younger intake is likely to gradually push the Tories in a different policy direction - with a focus on more interventionist economics, a liberal approach to planning reform plus a more pugnacious style of online campaigning.

Read 8 tweets
16 Nov
As reported in @FinancialTimes this morning, Boris Johnson is set to ban paid consultancy work for MPs ft.com/content/ec3b88…
NB: these proposals do not ban MPs holding directorships or paid consultancy roles that are not deemed "political" or "parliamentary".

How is that going to be defined? i.e. if an MP is a strategic consultant to, say, a food processing firm, when does the work tip into politics?
The CSPL recommended a definition in 2018:

"MPs should not accept any paid work
to provide services as a Parliamentary
strategist, adviser or consultant, for
example, advising on Parliamentary
affairs or on how to influence Parliament and its members."

Read 5 tweets

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