Boris Johnson aide Lee Cain QUITS amid Downing Street power struggle

Boris Johnson‘s director of communications Lee Cain last night dramatically announced he is quitting amid a blazing power struggle inside Number 10.   

The longstanding Johnson aide and Dominic Cummings loyalist was only hours before being touted for promotion to the role of Prime Minister’s chief of staff. 

In his resignation statement, Mr Cain confirmed he had been offered the powerful post but after ‘careful consideration’ would be leaving at the end of the year.   

Mr Cummings had pushed for his ally to be promoted in the face of opposition from the PM’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, who warned his appointment would be ‘a mistake’.   

After losing the latest tug-of-war for Mr Johnson’s ear, there was speculation that the PM’s maverick chief adviser, whose faction of Vote Leave campaign veterans has lost a key lieutenant, could follow Mr Cain out of the door.  

Boris Johnson 's top aide Lee Cain  (pictured yesterday) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 's chief of staff

Boris Johnson 's top aide Lee Cain  (pictured yesterday) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 's chief of staff

Boris Johnson ‘s top aide Lee Cain  (pictured yesterday) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 ‘s chief of staff

Mr Cain, a Vote Leave campaign veteran who has served Mr Johnson since his stint at the Foreign Office, will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, the prime minister's official spokesperson

Mr Cain, a Vote Leave campaign veteran who has served Mr Johnson since his stint at the Foreign Office, will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, the prime minister's official spokesperson

Mr Cain, a Vote Leave campaign veteran who has served Mr Johnson since his stint at the Foreign Office, will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, the prime minister’s official spokesperson 

Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings

Carrie Symonds

Carrie Symonds

Mr Cummings (left) had pushed for his ally to be promoted in the face of opposition from the PM’s fiancée Carrie Symonds (right), who warned his appointment would be ‘a mistake’

In a statement last night, Mr Cain said: ‘After careful consideration I have this evening resigned as No 10 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.’

He also paid a glowing tribute to Mr Johnson’s ‘loyalty and leadership’ and thanked his colleagues at Number 10.

In response to the resignation, Mr Johnson said: ‘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.’ 

The former journalist will serve until the end of the year when he will be replaced by the PM’s official spokesman, James Slack. 

That Lee Cain's promotion was backed by Mr Cummings, whose close relationship with Mr Cain is one reason it caused such hostility among MP

That Lee Cain's promotion was backed by Mr Cummings, whose close relationship with Mr Cain is one reason it caused such hostility among MP

That Lee Cain’s promotion was backed by Mr Cummings, whose close relationship with Mr Cain is one reason it caused such hostility among MP

Cain is a former journalist who used to dress up as the Daily Mirror's election chicken, pursuing David Cameron and other leading Tories during the 2010 campaign

Cain is a former journalist who used to dress up as the Daily Mirror's election chicken, pursuing David Cameron and other leading Tories during the 2010 campaign

Cain is a former journalist who used to dress up as the Daily Mirror’s election chicken, pursuing David Cameron and other leading Tories during the 2010 campaign

Carrie Symonds - a former media chief at CCHQ who has previously had a fractious relationship with Mr Cain

Carrie Symonds - a former media chief at CCHQ who has previously had a fractious relationship with Mr Cain

Carrie Symonds – a former media chief at CCHQ who has previously had a fractious relationship with Mr Cain

The former Mirror chicken who became one of Downing Street’s biggest beasts 

Lee Cain is one of Mr Johnson’s most trusted advisers, having been by his side since 2017 when he left Theresa May’s Downing Street operation to work with him at the Foreign Office. When Mr Johnson quit Mrs May’s Cabinet over Brexit in 2018, Mr Cain continued working with him.

He then helped run his leadership campaign before joining his Government as director of communications. The two men also worked together during the Brexit referendum in 2016, when Mr Cain was a press officer at the Vote Leave campaign masterminded by Mr Cummings and led by Mr Johnson and Michael Gove.

His promotion to chief of staff would raise concerns among some Tory MPs that the Vote Leave operation is tightening its grip on the heart of Government.

It would also be controversial with some elements of the media who have been bruised by Mr Cain’s uncompromising style.

Last year he ordered ministers to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today programme because of perceived bias. The ban was only lifted when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Mr Cain has also imposed a boycott of ITV’s Good Morning Britain that has lasted for more than six months. 

Mr Cain, who grew up on the fringes of Liverpool, has developed a reputation as an ardent Brexiteer and helped forge Mr Johnson’s tough stance last year which saw him controversially prorogue parliament in an attempt to prevent pro-Remain MPs blocking a no-deal departure. 

Advertisement

The cordial statements are believed to mask disarray at the heart of government, with warring factions competing for influence in Downing Street.

Mr Cummings, who has stuffed the corridors of Number 10 with old Vote Leave allies, was last night believed to be considering his position. 

That Mr Cain’s promotion was backed by Mr Cummings is one reason it caused such hostility among MPs. 

Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer was said to have been ‘inundated’ with messages from MPs urging him to intervene with the PM to try to block Mr Cain’s appointment.     

One former minister had warned that allowing No 10’s Vote Leave faction to tighten its grip would be a ‘nail in the coffin’ of Mr Johnson’s Government. 

Multiple sources said Ms Symonds, 32, had intervened to try to block the appointment.

One said: ‘Carrie has had her own run-ins with Lee, but she’s also been pressured by MPs to stop this.

‘You have to remember she is a former director of communications for the party and has good relations with a lot of senior MPs.

‘She has told the PM giving Lee the job would be a mistake – she’s just been trying to stop him doing something stupid that would damage the Government.’

The appointment was also said to be opposed by other senior women in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson’s policy chief Munira Mirza and incoming press secretary Allegra Stratton.

Election guru Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded Mr Johnson’s mayoral victories in London, was also said to have told the Prime Minister to think again.

The crisis had been brewing for weeks with Mr Cain fearing his role could be undermined by the arrival of Miss Stratton, who is due to start daily televised briefings on No10’s behalf in the new year.

Responding to the news of power struggles within No 10, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: ‘Pathetic and childish. In the middle of a pandemic, when a few hours ago we reached the tragic milestone of 50,000 deaths.

‘This absolute shower wouldn’t know governing in the national interest if it slapped them in the face.’ 

Mr Cain is one of Mr Johnson’s most trusted advisers, having been by his side since 2017 when he left Theresa May’s Downing Street operation to work with him at the Foreign Office. 

The appointment was also said to be opposed by other senior women in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson's policy chief Munira Mirza and incoming press secretary Allegra Stratton (pictured with Mr Cain)

The appointment was also said to be opposed by other senior women in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson's policy chief Munira Mirza and incoming press secretary Allegra Stratton (pictured with Mr Cain)

The appointment was also said to be opposed by other senior women in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson’s policy chief Munira Mirza and incoming press secretary Allegra Stratton (pictured with Mr Cain)

When Mr Johnson quit Mrs May’s Cabinet over Brexit in 2018, Mr Cain continued working with him.

He then helped run his leadership campaign before joining his Government as director of communications. 

The two men also worked together during the Brexit referendum in 2016, when Mr Cain was a press officer at the Vote Leave campaign masterminded by Mr Cummings and led by Mr Johnson and Michael Gove. 

Last year he ordered ministers to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today programme because of perceived bias. The ban was only lifted when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Mr Cain has also imposed a boycott of ITV’s Good Morning Britain that has lasted for more than six months.

This year he sparked a walkout by political journalists after he banned reporters from news outlets deemed unfriendly from attending a No10 briefing with officials.

Mr Cain has developed a reputation as an ardent Brexiteer and helped forge Mr Johnson’s tough stance last year which saw him controversially prorogue parliament in an attempt to prevent pro-Remain MPs blocking a no-deal departure.

But this year it emerged he saw the Vote Leave job as a route into politics rather than a vocation.

A former colleague from his time as a journalist told PR Week: ‘He told me: ‘I just want to get into politics. I’ve applied for two jobs and I’ve got one of them.

‘I’ve applied for head of broadcast for Remain and head of broadcast for Leave. If this ever comes out I’ll be in a lot of trouble’.’

link

(Visited 263 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply