Boris’s ‘reset’ bid to save his premiership amid Tory unrest


Boris Johnson will launch a desperate bid to ‘reset’ his premiership this week after the chaotic bloodletting that saw Dominic Cummings axed.

The PM is planning to set up a new ‘policy board’ as he scrambles to reconnect with increasingly mutinous Tory MPs.

He will offer more support to backbenchers in the ‘Red Wall’ northern ex-Labour seats that delivered his historic election victory less than a year ago – and vow to make more progress on his ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Mr Johnson is also due to lay out a new environment strategy, as he seeks to ‘soften’ the government’s image, despite resistance from Rishi Sunak’s Treasury at the prospect of huge spending commitments.

The charm offensive comes after an extraordinary civil war in Downing Street reached an explosive climax, with Mr Cummings and ally Lee Cain ousted after losing an apparent power struggle with Carrie Symonds.

Boris Johnson is planning to set up a new ‘policy board’ as he scrambles to reconnect with increasingly mutinous Tory MPs

Dominic Cummings

Tory MP Neil O'Brien could take charge of the new policy board

There are fears that Dominic Cummings (left) will mount an all-out attack on the PM rather than ‘going quietly’. The new Tory ‘policy board’ is expected to be chaired by the MP Neil O’Brien (right), who helped former chancellor George Osborne devise the Northern Powerhouse

There were claims today that the PM’s fiancee held a ‘victory party’ upstairs in the No11 flat after the departure of the two Vote Leave aides.

But allies of the pair have warned that Mr Johnson’s time in power is running out, with Rishi Sunak waiting in the wings, and there are fears that Mr Cummings will mount an all-out attack rather than ‘going quietly’. 

Many senior Tories do not believe the ‘knackered’ PM will fight the next election, amid a backlash at the handling of the coronavirus crisis, and a slew of clumsy U-turns on issues such as free school meals during the holidays. 

The Chancellor is said to be ‘agitating like fury’ for the top job, with warnings he cannot afford to stay at the Treasury too long with a brutal reckoning looming on the public finances due to the pandemic.

According to the Sunday Times, the PM will create a new ‘policy board’ to gather ideas to appeal to northern working class voters who helped Mr Johnson win last year’s general election.

The group is expected to be chaired by the MP Neil O’Brien, who helped former chancellor George Osborne devise the Northern Powerhouse.

Mr Johnson will meet the Northern Research Group of MPs tomorrow to listen to their concerns.

Ms Symonds emerged triumphant on Friday night in the extraordinary power struggle waged with Mr Cummings.

The former Vote Leave chief dramatically carried his belongings out the front door of No10 in a cardboard box, following a final meeting in which Mr Johnson is said to have rebuked the two aides for describing Ms Symonds as ‘Princess Nut Nut’ – something else which is denied by No 10.

Other nicknames for Ms Symonds previously circulating among the Brexit clique include ‘Cersei’, a reference to the scheming Game of Thrones character. 

Ms Symonds’ friends deny that there was a ‘boisterous celebration’ in No11 – the latest in a vicious cycle of claim, denial and counter-claim by the warring factions.

Carrie's friends deny that there was a ‘boisterous celebration’ in the No11 flat after Mr Cummings and Lee Cain departed last week. Pictured: Mr Johnson and his fiancee in March

Carrie’s friends deny that there was a ‘boisterous celebration’ in the No11 flat after Mr Cummings and Lee Cain departed last week. Pictured: Mr Johnson and his fiancee in March

The tensions reached boiling point after wrangling over whether Mr Cain should be promoted from director of communications to the key job as No10 chief of staff.

He is believed to have demanded the role to shore up his authority after Allegra Stratton was appointed the PM’s press secretary against his wishes. She will be taking televised, West Wing style press conferences from the New Year.  

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr O’Brien said next year would be an opportunity for the government to ‘turn the page’.

He said the ‘first priority must be doing everything we can to get growth going and unemployment down’. 

‘That means questioning everything across government: is the tax system doing everything it can to encourage investment and innovation? Are regulations governing insurance firms and pensions holding back productive investments? How do we change government spending in ways that support business growth – for example, supporting business R&D?’ he wrote.

He also delivered a stark warning on the threat of Scottish independence, with Nicola Sturgeon pushing for a fresh referendum.

‘Breaking up Britain would mean years of paralysis as we argued over currencies, pensions, debts, and state assets,’ Mr O’Brien said. 

‘The whole of government needs to be swung behind a coordinated campaign to win hearts and minds and show the benefits of working together.’

In a nod to unrest among the Tory ‘Red Wall’ MPs, Mr O’Brien said: ‘We need make 2021 the year people begin to feel the benefits of the PM’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.’ 

Mr Cummings carried his belongings out of No10's famous front door in a cardboard box on Friday night

Mr Cummings carried his belongings out of No10’s famous front door in a cardboard box on Friday night

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