A former adviser to Boris Johnson has delivered a withering assessment of Vote Leave’s impact on the prime minister’s ability to govern.
Guto Harri, who was Johnson’s communications director when he was mayor of London, said the group of pro-Brexit advisers in Downing Street led by Dominic Cummings had long been undermining the prime minister’s office.
Harri told the BBC: “The problem with Dominic Cummings is not just that he loomed too large but that all the roads led to him and he did not allow anyone else to play.
“It’s like having one player on the pitch who’s not scoring any goals or tries and he’s not passing the ball to anyone else either.
“What Boris needs now is a range of people around him with a sort of chief of staff who allows them all to play to their strengths and allows him to play to his strengths because when I worked for him he wasn’t only effective but he was also popular.”
Harri noted: “Over the last year, there have been questions over both of those things and the leftover team from the Vote Leave campaign have to take most of the blame for that.”
In an article to the Telegraph, Harri double-downed on his attack, writing: “Top aides matter because they give a government a voice, tone and attitude – as well as (ideally) some strategic direction. And a prime minister who fails to disown their behaviour ends up owning it.”
He said Cummings’ disdain for elder statesmen and the sacking of loyal special advisers alongside former comms director Lee Cain’s decision to split the Westminster press lobby were all actions Johnson should have reprimanded them for.
Harri’s comments did not go down well on Twitter.
Andres Jorge quipped: “I think he’s quite capable of making himself unpopular, one of the few things he can do.”
I think Boris Johnson has to take most of the blame for being unpopular
— Heather Jones 🕷️🐄 (@Heather_Jones5) November 13, 2020
“No, I think Johnson has done a pretty good job himself by being completely useless,” John Bridgen responded.
Alex Sowden wrote: “No. Boris Johnson has to take the blame for making Boris Johnson unpopular. He’s always been utterly unqualified for high office #PartTimePM.”
Adam Bell added: “I know that responsibility isn’t Johnson’s strong suit, but ALL of Cummings’ power/authority was derived from the PM.”
I know that responsibility isn't Johnson’s strong suit, but ALL of Cummings' power/authority was derived from the PM.
— Adam Bell (@gilbeybell) November 13, 2020