When the Prime Minister called the general election, Katie Perrior stood down as No. 10 communications chief. An odd decision: why walk away from such a prestigious job after only nine months? She has never really explained: until now. Writing in the Times, she reveals that her ‘painful’ time in No. 10 was made all the more painful by Lady Macbeth and Rasputin – aka Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s joint chiefs of staff.
The portrait she paints is extraordinary: a Prime Minister who is more captive than master, someone who has seemingly employed two lunatics and can’t rein them in. The team at No10 could have done great things together, Perrior says. ‘But there was no together. Her closest advisers put paid to that.’
How so? ‘Normally we would always sit there while Fiona would raise some batshit crazy idea and no one would say a word,’ she says. An example of Hill’s batshit crazy idea was sending Boris Johnson up to a by-election on polling day What’s the point in getting press coverage that comes out the day after voting? She says on this rare occasion, the PM agreed. On Nick and Fi, she has this to say:-
‘For two people who have never achieved elected office, I was staggered at the disrespect they showed on a daily basis’
‘The chiefs of staff were street fighters, but poor political leaders’
‘They measure success by how many enemies they clock up’
‘I saw the Prime Minister stand up to Fiona Hill only a handful of times’
‘For all the love of a hierarchy, the chiefs treated Cabinet members exactly the same — rude, abusive, childish behaviour.’
Now, we have heard such tales before – with Gordon Brown and his notorious aide Damian McBride, whose activities Brown pretended to know nothing about. And this is the question Perrior signs off with:-
‘What I could never work out was whether Mrs May condoned their behaviour and turned a blind eye, or didn’t understand how destructive they both were’.
For weeks now, in her Times columns, Perrior has been quite restrained. Now she’s revealing what she portrays as the horror of Theresa May’s dysfunctional No. 10 – and even she can’t work out if her old boss condones the ‘destructive’ regime. As the Tory party's attention turns to Mrs May, and the conditions on which they'll keep her as leader, Mr Perrior's j'accuse seems carefully timed.