UK Politics

Who are Boris Johnson's key advisers?

Dominic Cummings
Image caption Dominic Cummings was criticised for refusing to take part in a parliamentary inquiry into fake news

Boris Johnson is the UK's new prime minister and is assembling his cabinet. But apart from the high-profile ministers, he will also rely on a number of key advisers behind the scenes.

Dominic Cummings

Outside the cabinet, the most eye-catching appointment of the day so far is that of Dominic Cummings as senior adviser to the new prime minister.

Cummings, who has a reputation for being extremely quick-witted but also brash and outspoken, was previously an adviser to Michael Gove at the education ministry and thereafter campaign director for Vote Leave during the EU referendum.

The Oxford-educated 47-year old is credited with devising the Leave side's winning strategy, including coming up with its hugely resonant "take back control" slogan. He was the main character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in James Graham's TV dramatisation of the campaign earlier this year.

Prior to that, he worked for Business for Sterling, a campaign group formed in the late 1990s to oppose membership of the euro. He was also a key figure in the successful campaign against a regional assembly in the north-east of England.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Vote Leave bus was one of its most notable campaign tactics

Mr Cummings, who is married to the Spectator writer Mary Wakefield, comes with political baggage.

Vote Leave was found to have broken electoral law over spending limits by the Electoral Commission, and Mr Cummings was held in contempt of Parliament for failing to respond to a summons to appear before, and give evidence to, the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. On the few occasions that he has been scrutinised by MPs, there have often been rhetorical fireworks and bad blood on both sides.

At the Department for Education, he railed against the "blob" - the informal alliance of senior civil servants and teachers' unions that sought, in his opinion, to frustrate his attempts at reform. He left of his own accord to set up a free school, having rubbed up a number of people in the ministry and in the Conservative Party the wrong way.

He once described Brexit Secretary David Davis as "thick as mince" and as "lazy as a toad" and so irritated David Cameron, that the ex-prime minister once famously described him as a "career psychopath".

No doubt Mr Cummings will bring the same disrespect for authority and intellectual zeal to his new role inside No 10 and will concentrate on resolving Brexit and other issues.

Image copyright Channel 4/House Productions
Image caption Benedict Cumberbatch was widely praised for his portrayal of Dominic Cummings in Brexit: The Uncivil War

His appointment has been welcomed by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has said Mr Johnson needs people around him "dedicated to getting this thing over the line". But his arrival in Downing Street will give cause for concern to civil servants, as well as many Brexiteers and Remain-supporting Tories alike.

A prolific blogger, Mr Cummings has criticised the failure of MPs to devise a plan for Brexit and believes the government should have waited longer to trigger Article 50.

While associated in the public mind with senior Tory Brexiteers, Mr Cummings regards himself as being above the fray of day-to-day politics and has been particularly dismissive of the European Research Group of Tory MPs. He insists he has never been a member of a political party.

The BBC's political correspondent Alex Forsyth said while he was not regarded by some as a team player or, indeed, being particularly likeable, Mr Cummings was able to marshal a team and take it with him through sheer force of personality and intellectual brilliance.

Utterly convinced of his own rightness, she said he was scathing of the social and economic status quo in the UK and what he saw as the malaise and dysfunction of government and of the civil service.

She said he had "latched on" to Brexit as the way of upending traditional political and economic structures, which he believed had contributed to so many people being "left behind".

Sir Edward Lister

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Sir Edward Lister was deputy mayor of policy and planning and chief of staff to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London

Sir Edward Lister will come into Downing Street as Boris Johnson's chief of staff. The former leader of Wandsworth Council was Boris Johnson's right-hand man in the London mayor's office and played a key role in his prime ministerial campaign team.

The 69-year-old, on leave from his job as chairman of Homes England, the government body that promotes housebuilding, was reportedly not intending to take up a post in No 10 but has been convinced to stay on for at least a year or so.

He will play an important role co-ordinating disparate government departments to deliver the new prime minister's agenda. That means houses, too, but first and most of all - Brexit.

David Frost

David Frost is set to act as Boris Johnson's EU "sherpa", his guide to the Brussels bureaucracy and a key member of his negotiating team.

Olly Robbins played the same role for Theresa May but became a figure of hate for Brexiteers, who thought he spiked plans for the Brexit they wanted.

Mr Frost is no stranger to the European political scene, having spent more than 20 years at the Foreign Office, including serving as the British ambassador to Denmark from 2006 to 2008.

He was part of the team of advisers around Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, until his boss resigned in 2018, and has spent the last six months running the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Andrew Griffith

Image copyright RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian
Image caption Former Sky chief operating officer Andrew Griffith let Boris Johnson use his Westminster townhouse during the leadership campaign

Mr Johnson has named Sky executive Andrew Griffith - not to be confused with the MP - as his business adviser in Downing Street, where he will have to reassure chief executives that the PM has their interests high on his agenda.

Before joining Sky, Mr Griffith worked in the City as an investment banker. His Westminster house has been transformed over the past few months into Mr Johnson's campaign bunker, where all the planning for the incoming prime minister's first days in office was done. He and his colleagues will be packing up their papers and moving them to 10 Downing Street.

Nikki da Costa

Image copyright Cicero Group
Image caption Nikki da Costa returns to No 10, where she previously worked for Theresa May

Nikki da Costa will join Boris Johnson's team as head of legislative affairs.

She will have a job on her hands trying to guide any legislation through Parliament, where the government only has a working majority of two.

She did the same job for Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May before resigning at the end of last year.

Between her spells at No 10 she worked in the private sector.

During this period she was very active on Twitter, where she tried to explain how Parliament works during the unprecedented scenes in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson may be hoping her previous experience will help the government navigate the twists and turns in the months ahead.

Lee Cain

One of many Vote Leave alumni to be joining the new prime minister's team, Lee Cain was head of broadcast for the Vote Leave campaign and will be No 10's head of communications. In the role, he would oversee the deployment of ministers to carry the government's message on air and in print, and frame the government's message.

After the referendum campaign, Mr Cain joined the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Andrea Leadsom and then Mr Gove. Mr Cain was hired by Mrs May in 2017, only a few months before being poached by Mr Johnson to become his chief media spokesperson at the Foreign Office.

Mr Cain also used to work as a journalist for the Daily Mirror newspaper - where he, on occasion, dressed up as the famous Mirror Chicken.

The chicken was repeatedly deployed by the tabloid over the years to mockingly follow politicians during election campaigns.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Cain, in full chicken costume in 2010, with then Conservative Party leader David Cameron

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