Thursday’s cabinet reshuffle may have been minor but the No. 10 shake-up is proving more substantive. Amber de Botton has stepped down as Director of Communications saying ‘it is the right time to move on’.
In her statement, the former broadcast journalist describes No. 10 as ‘a demanding and high pressure place to work – yet the professionalism and talent they display every day is exceptional.’
De Botton’s successor is her former deputy Nerissa Chesterfield. Chesterfield is a long-standing aide of Sunak’s, handling his press operation during his time as chancellor. Prior to that Chesterfield worked for Liz Truss as well as the Institute for Economic Affairs. She is a Brexiteer. It means Sunak has – like with the appointment of Claire Coutinho as Energy Secretary – promoted people he trusts and knows well. It also suggests there won’t be a major change of comms strategy, though Downing Street is moving to a more combative footing.
On Thursday the former health adviser Jamie Njoku-Goodwin returned to government as director of strategy, after a period leading UK Music, the industry lobby group. Njoku-Goodwin never worked for Sunak – he worked for Matt Hancock at a time when Sunak and the then health secretary were often at loggerheads over lockdown. However, he is close to Sunak’s team, particularly with No. 10 chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith. The role is meant to help shape a long-term government narrative rather than focussing on the day to day. The other hire is from the Cameron era: Adam Atashzai, who will be working to make the operation more political. Aides think lessons can be learnt from David Cameron’s operation and its message discipline.
Speaking last night to special advisers in their weekly meeting, Booth-Smith told those assembled that if they don’t believe the next election can be won by the Tories, they should leave their roles now.