In the News

Boris Johnson adds David Canzini to his inner circle

Mike McCartney

1st March 2022

Canzini is the latest in a conveyor belt of appointments at number 10

Recent PMs have increasingly sought the advice of non-elected, special advisers. The practice was evident under Harold Wilson, but recent PMs have accelerated this trend by, for instance, consulting them on issues of major importance. Mrs Thatcher preferred taking input from her economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, not her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, on ERM entry. Jonathan Powell, Blair’s Chief of Staff, played a key role in the Good Friday negotiations. Further, the size and scope of political offices has grown. Under Blair, the number of political appointees jumped from 8 to 28, and a plethora of new units were created, e.g. the delivery unit and the strategy unit. In particular, there has been an expansion of the media machinery. Blair created the Strategic Communication Unit, headed by a political appointee, Alastair Campbell, a man some dubbed ‘the real Deputy Prime Minister’. Brown also ploughed this furrow. In 2007 key advisers included Spender Livermore and Damian McBride. In the run up to the 2010 poll, for a variety of reasons these people had moved on, but unelected advisers continued to wield more power at the heart of the central executive territory than many Cabinet ministers. Justin Forsyth was DSC (Campbell’s job under Blair) and David Muir was director of political strategy. Interestingly the latter played the role of David Cameron when Brown rehearsed for the TV debates preceding the election!

Under Boris Johnson, the number of political appointees grew to over 100, with the most notorious being Dominic Cummings. According to the Daily Mail, Cummings was paid over £100,000 and the total cost to the taxpayer of his team weighs in at over £7 million. See: How Boris Johnson's team of senior advisers including Dominic Cummings | Daily Mail Online

Cummings was replaced by Dan Rosenfield, who was seen to be a safe pair of hands as his new Chief of Staff. Rosenfield departed last month in a wave of resignations triggered by partygate.

Rosenfield was then replaced by Stephen Barclay, the former Brexit secretary, as his new Chief of Staff (are you keeping up!?). See: What do we know about Boris Johnson’s new chief of staff Steve Barclay?

Canzini will be Barclay’s deputy.

According to the Guardian: "Boris Johnson has appointed the combative election strategist David Canzini as part of his attempts to restore his battered reputation amid new claims that Downing Street lockdown parties regularly descended into “carnage”.

Canzini, a key ally of the political strategist Lynton Crosby, is due to start work in Downing Street on Monday. The pair worked for the former prime minister Theresa May before turning on her in 2018

His new role as deputy chief of staff is expected to involve winning over disgruntled backbenchers and coming up with an election-winning strategy.

Tory MPs have been encouraged by Boris Johnson’s handling of the Ukraine crisis, but more are expected to submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister if he is served with a penalty notice as part of the police investigation into lockdown parties.

The Sunday Times reports that one party on 18 December 2020 became so raucous that red wine was sprayed on the walls of rooms in Downing Street. Staffers were also reported to have been photographed sitting on each others laps, at the event. The paper said one source alleged that drinks events often ended in “carnage”.”

See: Boris Johnson appoints combative election strategist David Canzini | Boris Johnson | The Guardian

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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