Katy Balls

No. 10’s charm offensive steps up a gear

No. 10's charm offensive steps up a gear
(Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
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Since the new chief of staff Dan Rosenfield arrived in Downing Street, there has been a renewed effort to reach out to the parliamentary party. Each week, a member of the No. 10 team hold a Zoom call with Tory MPs — with attendance usually upwards of 50 MPs. Some have likened the Q&A to therapy sessions — working through previous trauma from the Vote Leave regime when the parliamentary party would regularly complain that they felt ignored.

After cancelling last week, this Tuesday it was the turn of political secretary Ben Gascgoine and No. 10 political unit's Declan Lyons. The pair began by telling MPs on the call that they wanted to listen more to what they had to say — thereby allowing them to make sure the No. 10 political operation was more in tune with party views. Both said they were happy for MPs to have their mobile numbers and contact them as and when they wished. Though one attendee points out the numbers were not handed out in the session — instead MPs are to go through the Prime Minister's parliamentary private secretary Alex Burghart who helped to host the call. 

There are multiple political problems that MPs want unblocking. Several attendees voiced their concerns ahead of next month's budget. John Redwood and George Freeman criticised recent reports in the media suggesting tax rises could be on the way while Rob Halfon was disappointed that the idea of a fuel duty rise had been floated. It was suggested that a Treasury Q&A session could follow. Meanwhile, MPs with major fishing constituencies discussed their concerns over the current Brexit arrangements. The Union was raised, as was the need to return pupils to the classroom sooner rather than later.

Although No. 10 aides said they were in listening mode, not everyone was heard. When Michael Fabricant attempted to invoke the spirit of Jackie Weaver at the Handforth Parish Council meeting by saying 'I have the authority', he was quickly muted by Burghart. However, generally speaking MPs left the call believing their concerns will be taken more seriously. 'The proof will be in their actions,' says one attendee.