Publication:

London Evening Standard - 2021-11-25

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Time to overhaul No 10 operation, says senior Tory

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David Bond and Rachael Burford

BORIS JOHNSON should consider overhauling his No10 operation after the Owen Paterson sleaze affair exposed tensions between the Prime Minister and his backbench MPs, a senior Conservative said today. Amid reports of growing strains between Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the way Downing Street has handled a series of damaging Tory rebellions, chairman of Parliament’s Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood said many Conservative MPs were calling for a mid-term shake-up. “The spotlight on the No 10 operation, following the Paterson episode, has certainly invigorated many to ask if we can use this as an opportunity, mid-Parliament, to re-group and upgrade how we do business and rally behind a clear mission,” Mr Ellwood told the Standard. Mr Sunak is said to be increasingly exacerbated with Mr Johnson’s “chaotic” operation at Downing Street, according to a report in the Times. It comes as Cabinet ministers were reportedly calling for the Chancellor’s chief of staff, Liam Booth-Smith, to be sacked over claims he has been briefing against the PM. He has been accused of telling the BBC that there was “a lot of concern in the building about the PM”. The claim has been fiercely denied by the Treasury and Mr Sunak is said to be standing by his aide. Allies have pointed out that Sajid Javid quit as chancellor last year after No 10 attempted to remove his advisers. Mr Johnson has been forced to defend his record in office over the last week as he faced questions about his leadership style and political future in the wake of the Tory sleaze sandal. A bizarre speech to business leaders on Monday, in which he rambled about Peppa Pig, triggered a fresh wave of criticism. It was reported some Tory MPs were submitting letters calling for a leadership contest. During Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer highlighted divisions in the Conservative party and the rumours of a rift with Mr Sunak. He told the Commons: “His Chancellor is worried people are getting wise, his backbenchers say it’s embarrassing... senior people in Downing Street tell the BBC ‘it’s just not working’.”

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