Amber Won’t Be the Last Adviser to Quit

For months rumours have been emerging from within Downing Street of continual strains and personality clashes within Sunak’s operation. Amber De Botton’s departure was sudden but not entirely unexpected – the press office are usually the first to be blamed even when it’s the message, not the messenger. Insiders point to questions being raised about the extent of De Botton’s willingness to support key government policies of a more robust conservative flavour. Her defenders – of whom it must be said there are many – say that she has been unfairly sidelined for months, with her now-promoted deputy Nerissa Chesterfield enjoying a better relationship with the PM. Amber’s detractors say she was too much drama – allegedly calling for issues to be escalated to COBRA three times in one week –  “‘Three Cobras’ is an order in Millbank Spice, not a media strategy” says one source. Either way, it’s not 100% amicable when your Director of Communications quits after less than a year.

At 20 to 25 points behind, there is an existential question facing Sunak’s SpAds – essentially, whether ‘to do an Amber’ – as Sunak’s Chief of Staff invited on Thursday night. Many have never worked in a field other than politics. If they don’t quit now, they have a diminishing chance of securing an advisory job in the private sector – perhaps some with the promised glowing reference from Liam Booth-Smith. Their market value will plummet closer to a Labour victory. One adviser told Guido the choice is now to commit hara-kiri by honourably staying, or to abandon ship for a lucrative lobbying career. The problem is Sunak’s vibe of limp managerialism does not inspire much self-sacrificing loyalty in the SpAd class, never mind voters.

mdi-timer 4 September 2023 @ 13:00 4 Sep 2023 @ 13:00 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Amber de Botton Resigns as Downing Street Director of Communications

The morning after Rishi’s Chief of Staff told aides to quit if they don’t believe the Tories can win, Amber de Botton has announced she’s quitting as Rishi’s Director of Communications:

“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications but I have decided it is the right time to move on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for his support and his leadership… The team he has built around him is dedicated and focused because those are the qualities he inspires. I also want to thank my colleagues – Number 10 is a demanding and high pressure place to work – yet the professionalism and talent they display every day is exceptional.”

Rishi responds:

“I would like to thank Amber for all her hard work over the past year. She brought with her top-level journalistic and management experience that has been invaluable.”

The spin is she’s leaving on “amicable” terms – Guido was briefed this morning that Amber was on “compassionate leave”. Guido had heard a different rumour

UPDATE: Katy Balls reports Nerissa Chesterfield is set to take over, jumping up from her current role as Deputy Director of Communications and Press Secretary. Congratulations…

mdi-timer 1 September 2023 @ 14:02 1 Sep 2023 @ 14:02 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Appointment of Aides Underlines Downing Street’s Tensions

Below the ministerial reshuffle headlines today are important appointments by the PM to Number 10. The good news is that Downing Street has decided it needs direction to its strategy. The summer recess, after all, delivered new records of channel migrants during ‘stop the boats’ week – and not much else. The much promised ‘gloves off’ moment against Starmer is yet to appear…

The interesting news is that the strategy (which really means the run up to the election) will be directed by music industry lobbyist and former Matt Hancock aide Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. A friendly figure in SW1, Jamie is a popular spinner most at home feeding the daily and Sunday Lobby hack pack. This is a different job description to a political strategist. Whispers emerge from No. 10 that Jamie’s close relationship with the Lobby has very much put the current Director of Communications Amber de Botton’s nose out of joint. Under pressure in the polls, the internal tensions of an under-performing Number 10 are beginning to break out into the open.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin is also an ally of Liam Booth-Smith – for ally, read ‘former housemate’. Chatter in the building is that this appointment shows the PM’s Chief of Staff shoring up his position by bringing in a friend, given recent ructions with other senior advisers over the government’s woeful performance since taking – seizing – the reins almost a year ago. Having a ‘director of strategy’ in post will be very useful for those seeking to avoid any blame game following an election defeat. Liam Booth-Smith thinks James Forsyth is not an objective adviser to his best friend the PM, and Jamie will be a useful counterweight voice. Contrariwise, Forsyth has got it in for Liam, whom he thinks is sub-par. 

The appointment will also propel forward Jamie’s search for a safe seat, having been careful to keep it quiet from the music industry that he was on the Tory approved candidates list. Jamie is a genuine chess maestro and has in the past successfully relieved Guido of a few quid from the other side of the board with ease. Any move for a safe seat would probably see him of necessity depart the strategic helm in Downing Street well before election day, so his position is likely tactically en passant. The quid-pro-quo for joining play in the endgame.

Adam Atashzai’s time-limited appointment signals the ‘gloves off’ moment is imminent. His is the return to Downing Street of a “wartime consigliere” to the political office. Even admirers of James Forsyth will concede he is more a Tom Hagen than a ruthless Corleone. Atashzai fights politics with knuckle-dusters.

Good luck insiders, SpAds and spinners – you know how to reach us…

mdi-timer 31 August 2023 @ 12:10 31 Aug 2023 @ 12:10 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Amber De Botton is Rishi’s Pick for Director of Communications

In 2012 Guido predicted that Amber de Botton was “one to watch” when she left her reporting job at the ill-fated Total Politics to go to Sky News. Ten years later the boss of ITV News leaves for Downing Street to become Rishi’s new Director of Communications. A job that will involve her selling the merits of the government after what will have been 14 years in office come the next general election, at a time when it faces horrendous economic challenges. Widely liked, Amber is taking on one helluva job…

She was at one time mooted for the job of fronting a daily televised briefing from Downing Street – mostly by people who didn’t realise she was pregnant at the time. Allegra Stratton eventually got that role before it was abandoned in tears. Amber told Guido around the same time that “there is probably a happier middle ground to be found with on- and off-camera briefings, especially as ‘fake news’/media transparency places more pressure on our industry”. So she seemingly favoured more televised briefings when she was a poacher, will she still now she is a gamekeeper? If anyone has the experience to know how to deal with prima donna Lobby television reporters it is Amber. Could we see the idea modified and revived under her management?

mdi-timer 29 October 2022 @ 11:22 29 Oct 2022 @ 11:22 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Total Politics Pol Ed Amber Elliott Moves to Sky News

One to watch…

mdi-timer 24 July 2012 @ 13:03 24 Jul 2012 @ 13:03 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments