Johnson allies call for more time before confidence vote

New faces on No 10 staff as Downing Street rejects book’s claims about Carrie Johnson

Boris Johnson’s allies have called for Conservative MPs to give the prime minister more time to stabilise his leadership before calling a no confidence vote. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Mr Johnson “has got a clear mandate and we have got to give him time and space to deliver on that mandate”.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Johnson was “at the moment” the right man to lead the party into the next general election. He said the prime minister should be given time to address the crises hitting his government but he was unable to say if the Conservatives could regain the public’s trust with Mr Johnson at their head.

“Respect and trust you have to earn, and when you lose it, it’s a very difficult task to get it back across the board. And so that’s going to be a huge task. The government and the prime minister have set out to try and do that,” he told the BBC.

Mr Johnson has named a new chief of staff and a new director of communications following the departure of five Downing Street aides at the end of last week. Cabinet office minister Steve Barclay becomes chief of staff and will also be responsible for creating a new government department of the office of the prime minister.


A former Brexit minister, Mr Barclay backed Leave in the 2016 referendum and he is a popular figure among Conservative backbenchers. But some former Downing Street chiefs of staff questioned whether he will be able to successfully combine the role with being a minister and an MP.

Former BBC journalist Guto Harri, who worked with Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London before becoming a lobbyist, becomes director of communications. A Remainer, Mr Harri has been critical of Mr Johnson in recent years, predicting in 2018 that he would be “highly divisive” if he became prime minister.

Cummings criticism

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings criticised Mr Harri’s appointment in a Twitter post on Sunday.

“Message from No10: ‘So our new boss is a pro-Remain lobbyist who’s said the PM is ‘sexually incontinent’, ‘hugely divisive’, ‘destructive’, ‘dragging the country down’, & picked ‘wrong side’ in referendum’ GREAT,” he wrote.

Downing Street on Sunday rejected claims in a new biography of Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie that she exerts huge power within his government. First Lady by Conservative party donor and pollster Michael Ashcroft says that she is a major influence on Mr Johnson’s appointments and policy decisions.

The book portrays the prime minister as a lonely man surrounded by his wife’s friends, some of whom have become advisers in Downing Street.

“Don’t do anything that’s going to make her torture me when I get home,” it quotes the prime minister as saying to aides.

“You’ve just got to help me. My life at home’s miserable. You’ve got to find a way to make this bearable for me.”

A spokesperson for Ms Johnson said she was being targeted by a brutal briefing campaign against her by enemies of her husband.

“This is just the latest attempt by bitter ex-officials to discredit her. She is a private individual who plays no role in government,” the spokesperson said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times