Downing street

Will an Office for the Prime Minister work?

Boris Johnson now leads an interim administration. Within a fortnight, we will have a new occupant of No. 10. What will Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss find waiting for them in Downing Street? And what might the machinery of government mean for their ability to deliver on their campaign promises? The first thing that will strike the new Prime Minister is Johnson’s internal reforms. The creation of an ‘Office of the Prime Minister’ is potentially the most significant, although it was announced late in Johnson’s premiership and it remains to be seen how seriously it has been taken. On arrival, the new Prime Minister may therefore be equally entitled to

The dreary truth about partygate

I’m starting to get a bit annoyed about partygate. Well no, that’s a lie. I’m angry in theory. On paper I’m fuming. In real life? Meh. This whole saga has trundled on for so long now I’ve just stopped caring. I’m probably annoyed about something else. Train timetables or maybe the fact that broccoli is £1.60 in M&S. Given how miserable the rest of us were during lockdown, those making the rules should really have done the polite thing and followed them. But then when you read the details of ‘partygate’, you can’t help but think that they weren’t really enjoying themselves. A Colin the Caterpillar cake in between meetings? ‘Wine time

The changing face of No. 10

David Canzini has made quite an impression since he joined No. 10 as the Prime Minister’s deputy chief of staff in February. He’s there not just to provide focus but to make the operation feel a bit more traditionally Tory. At a recent meeting with government aides, Canzini, a former Tory party campaign director from the Lynton Crosby school of bluntness, asked for a show of hands: who was a signed-up Conservative party member? More than half the room. For the uninitiated, Canzini pointed to membership forms in the corner. No. 10 plans to check on their progress in a few weeks. Canzini’s approach marks a wider shift in No.

Read: The Prime Minister’s address to the nation as Russia invades Ukraine

Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine to offer the continued support of the UK, because our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population. A vast invasion is underway — by land, by sea, and by air. And this is not, in the infamous phrase, some faraway country of which we know little. We have Ukrainian friends in this country; neighbours, co-workers. Ukraine is

Who would join Boris’s No. 10?

Munira Mirza’s resignation over Boris Johnson’s refusal to withdraw his Savile barb at Keir Starmer led to Downing Street bringing forward the departure of various senior staff. Johnson’s shadow whipping operation were keen to emphasise that these were the very changes to his operation that he had promised Tory MPs on Monday night. Leaving aside the fact that these departures looked rather chaotic, the real challenge will come with whether Johnson can persuade anyone to come into Downing Street. As I say in the Times today, the failure to get Lynton Crosby to take on a formal role shows how difficult it will be to get the kind of big hitters

Boris Johnson’s lockdown birthday

‘Wait for Sue Gray’ has been the mantra on every ministers’ lips these past few weeks. But with just days to go before the senior civil servant is due to deliver her findings on ‘partygate’ how much longer can that line continue to hold? For this evening ITV have dropped yet another bombshell: Boris Johnson had a birthday party during lockdown in June 2020 despite rules forbidding social gatherings indoors.  Up to 30 staff celebrated in the cabinet room where his wife surprised him with a cake, with Lulu Lytle — the designer who was doing up the Prime Minister’s flat at the time — among those who came down to the

What ‘partygate’ got wrong about wine

There is palpable public outrage about the flagrant lockdown rule flouting of 10 Downing Street during Partygate. But for oenophiles everywhere, by far the most disturbing revelation is not that the Prime Minister broke the rules (even though he made the rules) or that he might have lied about it, but that staff in No. 10 scuttled to the local Tesco Express with a ‘wheelie’ suitcase in which to smuggle enough vino back to the office for ‘wine-time Fridays’. Talk about tasteless.  It’s admirable that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lives in a modest flat above the shop instead of in some grand, sprawling neo-classical mansion surrounded by

How long until we tire of Boris?

The brilliant but troubled footballer Mario Balotelli once scored a goal in a Manchester derby match and then lifted up his jersey to reveal a t-shirt with the slogan: ‘Why always me?’ Those who had followed his chaotic career closely could have told him that being the sort of bloke who allows fireworks to be let off in his own bathroom — as he had done the night before, starting a fire that caused £400,000 worth of damage to his house — probably had something to do with it. Today Boris Johnson would seem to have pulled off a similar feat, as he faces the increasingly likely prospect of police

New No. 10 party leak puts Johnson under pressure

How much trouble is Boris Johnson in over partygate? Since allegations first emerged last year of a number of parties and gatherings in 10 Downing Street when the rest of the country was living under strict Covid restrictions, the Prime Minister has had to launch an investigation (now led by civil servant Sue Gray after cabinet secretary Simon Case had to step down over his own prior knowledge of said gatherings) and seen his approval ratings plummet. Just as Downing Street aides had begun to hope the saga was nearing an end, new evidence has emerged which appears to put Johnson in the firing line. ITV News has published an email sent by the Prime

No, there is no Downing Street Christmas party loophole

Was 10 Downing Street really a rule-free zone when it came to the coronavirus regulations, the laws which have governed our lives to varying extents since the pandemic first erupted? Steven Barrett writing on Coffee House, says that it was: ‘the regulations almost certainly never applied to No. 10 anyway,’ he argues. I’m not convinced. Why? Because the so-called ‘restrictions on gatherings’ were restrictions that applied to individuals wherever they were, including on Crown land. It’s true that there is such a thing as a ‘Crown exemption rule’. In short, an Act of Parliament doesn’t bind the Crown unless there is an express provision saying so or an obvious implication

Katy Balls

The three problems facing Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson may be celebrating the birth of a baby daughter but that doesn’t mean the pressure on him is eased. Instead, the Prime Minister is fighting on three fronts going into the weekend. The first is the alleged Downing Street parties with more claims emerging that there were several events. While cabinet secretary Simon Case is investigating, it’s already looking tricky for key Downing Street staff, with ITV reporting that Downing Street director of communications Jack Doyle gave a speech and handed out awards. While No. 10 figures suggest a speech is a pretty regular occurrence, the real issue with the claims is that Doyle is the person who

How much trouble is Boris Johnson in?

Just how bad is it for Boris Johnson? In some ways it’s difficult to tell, this is a prime minister who seems almost unable to exist without a crisis.  But last night’s new Covid rules — mixed up with the unending stories about Downing Street parties in the depths of lockdown — seem to have ushered in a different level of Westminster discontent. It’s more the timing than anything else. On Tuesday morning, the Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said ‘We don’t think that Plan B is required’. On Wednesday evening the PM implemented Plan B. What happened?  During those intervening 36 hours, the data on Omicron only seemed to have improved.

Will the public take Plan B seriously?

After holding strong for two weeks, fears over the Omicron variant look set to change the government’s course on Covid restrictions. Reports this morning suggest that Plan B could be implemented as early as tomorrow, including advice to work from home and — more controversially — the introduction of vaccine passports. The timing is interesting: rumours about the possible decision landed hours after a video clip — showing the Prime Minister’s former press secretary joking about last year’s alleged Downing Street Christmas party with No. 10 aides — was leaked. Downing Street still adamantly denies the party took place. Many are wondering if this is a ‘dead cat’ strategy: one that

Watch: No. 10 staff joking about Downing Street Christmas party

Downing Street have spent the week trying to play down reports of a secret No. 10 party last Christmas when the rest of the country was under restrictions. They have tried a few tactics: at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Boris Johnson didn’t deny the event had taken place but insisted all Covid guidance had been followed. When that failed, the Prime Minister’s spokesman went on the record saying there had been no party. Then today the blame shifted to civil servants: with briefings that it was an event mainly made up of officials rather than political appointees. Those responses are unlikely to hold much weight going forward. This evening, ITV has released footage of senior

Sunday shows round-up: abused children need ‘maximum protection’ says Raab

Dominic Raab – Abused children like Labinjo-Hughes need ‘maximum protection’ The Justice Secretary undertook the government’s media round this morning. On Sky, Trevor Phillips began the interview by asking Raab about the tragic case of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was tortured and murdered by his father and stepmother last year.  Raab told Phillips that there would be a review as a result of the incident, amid the revelation that the safeguarding authorities in Solihull had not reported any concerns about Labinjo-Hughes’s situation. He also confirmed that there would also be a review into the sentences handed to Thomas Hughes and Emma Tustin, to ensure that they were not too lenient:

The mystery of Downing Street’s cinema

As a former court room, the No. 9 Downing Street briefing hub has seen its fair share of drama – and none more so than this past year. Some £2.9 million was lavished on turning the site into a state-of-the-art stage for press conferences, amid plans to televise government briefings with the parliamentary lobby. But all that changed in April when, following the departure of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, the idea was scrapped, with Allegra Stratton moved from lobby briefings to the COP26 beat. But what to do with the newly-restored press room, newly decked out in royal blue and Union Jacks aplenty? For the last six months the former Privy Council

Andrew Mitchell relives the agony of Plebgate

Andrew Mitchell, as he readily admits, was born into the British Establishment. Almost from birth, his path was marked out: prep school, public school, Cambridge, the City, parliament, the Cabinet. At every step along the way he acquired the connections that would propel him to the stratosphere. But for one extraordinary event, who knows where he might have ended up? Certainly in one of the top jobs. In other circumstances this might have been a conventional story. Posh boy goes into the City, makes loads of money and then takes time out to come and govern us. In fact this is an unusual memoir — honest, self-deprecating and rich in

What will Cummings say?

As the government puts the final touches to its social distancing review and Foreign Office ministers ponder the best response to the situation in Belarus, it’s a scheduled select committee appearance that is the subject of the most animated chatter in Westminster. Dominic Cummings is due to give evidence before the joint health and science committee inquiry into the government’s Covid response. Boris Johnson’s relationship with his senior aide has dramatically worsened since Cummings left government The session — which is due on Wednesday from 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Cummings has said he is happy to stay longer) — has been causing nerves in 10 Downing Street for some

Will the No. 10 flat criticism bounce off Boris?

Will the Downing Street flat criticism bounce off Boris Johnson? The Prime Minister is under fire this week over the refurbishment of the No. 11 apartment. After the Electoral Commission launched a formal investigation, today’s front pages make particularly miserable reading for No. 10. However, the Prime Minister has earned a reputation as a politician who is ‘scandal-proof’ in a way that many of his colleagues are not. Will this be the same?  Polling since the story took off is fairly limited but a BMG Research poll published today — taken Thursday to Monday — on the question of ‘preferred prime minister’ puts Boris Johnson on 40 per cent and Keir

Lara Prendergast

The curious rise of cottagecore

Cottagecore, not to be confused with cottaging, is an aspirational lifestyle trend. The word is relatively new —although you’ll find it used all over TikTok — but the idea isn’t. If you have ever dreamt of leaving behind the urban sprawl for something more bucolic, or donned a cheesecloth dress and flower crown in the hope that it will make you seem a little folksy, you’ll understand the aesthetic. Cottagecore is the eternal search for a pastoral idyll, updated for the Instagram generation. It is hardly surprising that such a romantic movement has been revived during a time of pestilence and isolation. Throughout the pandemic, many of us have felt