Number 10 Chief of Staff Praises “Magic” Kemi Badenoch to SpAds

Guido hears Downing Street Chief of Staff Liam Booth-Smith is doing his best to keep up morale at SpAd School, with Guido’s moles describing last week’s meeting as “more buoyant” than previous weeks – co-conspirators will recall Booth-Smith told pessimistic aides to quit immediately if they didn’t believe the Tories could win – and that he now has a “spring in his step” heading into conference. If there was any doubt, the gloves are finally off…

Having lost their erstwhile Director of Communications Amber de Botton last month, Number 10 are keen to find a new, bold approach going into the election year. Look no further than the Net Zero rollback last week. Booth-Smith was particularly impressed by Kemi Badenoch’s punchy interview with Sky News on that very topic. Apparently he described her entire media round performance as “magic“. They’ll need to cast a spell on voters next year after all…

Multiple sources described the new approach as the right call, though one did say “some soppy wets sat there with worried little faces“. Maybe they should have thrown in the towel when they had the chance…

mdi-timer 25 September 2023 @ 14:56 25 Sep 2023 @ 14:56 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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.

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Last Night Rishi’s Chief of Staff Told Pessimistic Aides to Quit If They Don’t Think Tories Can Win

Guido hears Number 10 Chief of Staff Liam Booth-Smith took the gloves off last night at “SpAd school” – the weekly get together for the political operatives who lubricate Whitehall’s processes. According to Guido’s moles, Booth-Smith gave the team a stern lecture over their attitude towards the next election, with any pessimists told if they “don’t believe we can win” then they should resign now and get it over with. He went so far as to say he’d even help quitters find a new job if they’re honest enough to throw in the towel now. His promise that any SpAds who lost their jobs in future reshuffles would be looked after – suggesting that more will go – did not go down well in the room. Multiple sources say it was the most “honest” and frank they’d ever seen him. The Liam Booth-Smith Job Centre Plus is now open in Downing Street…

Guido reported yesterday on the underlying tensions within Number 10, with Liam Booth-Smith said to be shoring up his position with new hires like his friend Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. Last night’s Cummings-esque tough talk at SpAd school was clearly a wake-up call for demoralised SpAds after a wasted summer recess. Perhaps the beatings will continue until morale improves.

The upcoming government ‘reset’, with a wider (much-delayed) reshuffle before the King’s Speech, is part of the coming turnaround plan. The reality is that this morning another poll confirmed the Tories are trailing Labour by 20 points, and brought news that house prices fell 5.3% last month. According to pollsters Techne, confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the country’s priorities over the next 12 months has fallen over the summer. It now stands at net minus 17. The clock is ticking…

mdi-timer 1 September 2023 @ 10:50 1 Sep 2023 @ 10:50 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
Rishi’s Ex-Spinner Joins Times with Gove

Given it was the only paper to endorse Rishi Sunak during the leadership election, this morning’s Times splash that MPs are now planning to try and install Rishi as PM in a Commons coup fails to disguise its yearning hope. It now appears the paper is providing career refuge to increasing numbers of Rishi’s supporters. Last night The Guardian confirmed the well-worn Westminster rumour that Michael Gove is entering the mini-Shard, albeit as a Times Radio presenter and columnist as opposed to the more glamorous vacancy of deputy editor. Rishi hasn’t given an interview for quite some time…

Guido can also reveal there may be another reason behind the paper’s wishful coverage of a Rishi leadership coup. The Times has recently hired a new leader writer. None other than Rishi’s former Chief of Staff, Liam Booth-Smith…

UPDATE:  Guido is told Liam is not on the staff, he’s freelancing. Presumably awaiting the call for the coup.

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Team Rishi Calculate Liz Truss’s Policies Will Save Taxpayers £48.3 Billion in Taxes

According to figures just released by the Rishi campaign, taxpayers will get a net saving of £48.3 billion in reduced taxes under Liz as Prime Minister compared to Rishi. This is a similar figure to calculations made by the Guardian newspaper. This is intended to be an attack line, the argument Rishi is making is that Liz will have to choose between tax cuts or handouts. When you consider that this is equivalent to some £2,000 per taxpayer you will understand what Liz means when she says she wants to “help people in a Conservative way”. The figures below are taken from Rishi’s latest press release:




Cancel corporation tax increase

£19.2 billion

OBR public finances databank

Scrap Health and Social Care Levy

£17.4 billion

HMT ready reckoner

Scrap green levies

£11.6 billion

Renewables Obligation = £7.2bn (OBR)

Contracts for Difference = £1.4bn (OBR)

Green gas levy = £0.1bn (OBR)

Feed-in Tariff = £1.4bn (Ofgem / HMT)

ECO = £1.0bn (BEIS)

WHD = £0.48 (BEIS)

Make income tax personal allowance transferable

£6.7 billion

Estimate based on HMT Ministers answers given in Parliament, uprated for change in personal allowance

Defence spending to 2.5%* by 2026

-£6.6 billion

Difference between expected defence spending and 2.5% of GDP (OBR Forecast).


£48.3 billion

In the Rishi campaign’s press release the tax savings are described as “costs”. This approach hasn’t been seen since 2010, when Gordon Brown would point to any tax saving proposed by the opposition and demand to know from Cameron and Osborne what spending would be cut. It is a mindset that considers the public’s money to belong to the government and any income not taxed to be a “cost”. Guido’s not sure why Liam Booth-Smith, Rishi’s policy guru, ever thought this orthodox Brownian line of attack would appeal to Tory members…

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