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Monday, 16 November 2020

Boris Johnson’s Director Of Communications Resigns

UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s director of communications, Lee Cain, has resigned, despite this week being offered a promotion to chief of staff.

Cain said to be a close ally of the PM’s controversial unelected advisor and Brexit architect Dominic Cummings – has worked for Johnson for several years, initially on the Leave campaign in the run-up to the EU referendum and then as his comms chief when Johnson was elected as leader of the Conservative Party in 2019. He was previously a political reporter for the Mirror newspaper.

The vacant chief of staff role is part of a reorganisation of senior advisors at No.10, to allow Cummings to focus on policy objectives. This also includes the recent appointment of Allegra Stratton as press spokesperson.

Stratton was previously director of strategic communications for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and has worked as an editor on the BBC’s flagship Newsnight show and for ITV news, as well as writing for the Guardian, the Independent and the New Statesman.

It is thought – though not yet confirmed – that Cain will be succeeded as director of communications by the PM's chief spokesman, James Slack, a former home affairs and political editor at the Daily Mail who has worked in the Downing Street communications team since 2017.

Confirming his resignation, Cain said: “After careful consideration I have this evening resigned as No10 director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year. It has been a privilege to work as an adviser for Mr Johnson for the last three years – being part of a team that helped him win the Tory leadership contest, secure the largest Conservative majority for three decades – and it was an honour to be asked to serve as the prime minister's chief of staff.”

In response, Johnson said in a statement: “I want to thank Lee for his extraordinary service to the government over the last four years. He has been a true ally and friend and I am very glad that he will remain director of communications until the new year and to help restructure the operation. He will be much missed.”

Cain had come under criticism for his handling of a number of recent PR disasters for the Government, including the row over footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals to be continued for families in need over the school holidays, and leaked plans for the UK’s second national lockdown this month.

He is also said to have been opposed to Stratton’s appointment and had raised the hackles of political journalists by insisting on a ministerial boycott of key broadcast news outlets.

Among those mooted as contenders for the chief of staff role are Gabriel Milland, former deputy director of the Government Communications Service within the Cabinet Office, and head of communications at the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Education. He has been a partner at public affairs firm Public First since 2017.

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