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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

PM starts new week with fresh staff in hopes of turning around fortunes

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B

oris Johnson is heading into a new week hoping changes to his top Downing Street team will ease the concerns of backbenchers who were wavering about his future.

The Prime Minister made key changes over the weekend, appointing Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay as his new chief of staff and journalist and long-time ally Guto Harri as his head of communications.

The Times reported No 10 was hoping to announce the return of Dame Emily Lawson as the new permanent secretary this week.

Number 10 Downing Street, London. (James Manning/PA) / PA Wire

Dame Emily, who currently runs NHS England’s vaccination programme, was seconded to Downing Street’s delivery unit – a team in charge of ensuring the Government delivers on its policies – in April last year before returning to the health service in October.

But the changes come after a swathe of resignations from among the Prime Minister’s aides.

The beleaguered leader was left wounded by the partygate saga – with the police investigation still hanging over his head – and his refusal to apologise for a slur made against Sir Keir Starmer over the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

The acute issues built on longer-term concerns from MPs over the rising cost of living, a looming hike in National Insurance, a series of sleaze allegations and the general running of the No 10 operation.

But Mr Johnson promised change, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Sunday: “I think the Prime Minister has been very clear that he wants a reset in No 10.

“He was very clear speaking to Conservative MPs on Monday and what we saw last week was him following through with that commitment.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, with host Sophie Raworth, appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, Sunday Morning. (Jeff Overs/BBC) / PA Media

The Times reported Mr Barclay and Mr Harri joined the PM at Chequers over the weekend to start work on building a more “grown-up” Government.

Mr Kwarteng urged those still unsure about Mr Johnson’s future to give him the “time and space” to lead.

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