A Brexiteer official will take over the duty of advising Boris Johnson on the state of the union after his former aide quit.
Oliver Lewis will take over a “beefed-up union unit” which advises Johnson on ways to counter calls for Scottish independence after Luke Graham quit following a furious dispute with Downing Street, the FT reports.
The row is reported to have broken out last Friday – a day after Johnson’s visit to Scotland – and is said to have been “fairly brutal” by one government insider.
A research director for Vote Leave before becoming Johnson’s no-deal adviser during Brexit negotiations, Lewis will look to lead a new team despite not having any particular expertise in Scottish politics.
“Oliver is good at this stuff — he knows this can’t just be about brute economics. It’s about passion, identity and about promoting the idea that you can be proud to be Scottish and British,” one colleague said.
Lewis will now be central to No 10’s efforts to counter the SNP and their calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
According to officials with knowledge of the dispute, Graham was unhappy with his role and No 10’s strategy for the union.
“There was a lack of faith in letting him do what he needed to do. A lot of his efforts were frustrated by other people in the building,” one official said.
One Scottish Tory added: “Luke was the only one who gets Scotland in there, and it’s a big shame he’s gone and speaks to their total lack of a strategy on how to deal with the SNP.”
Others were happy to see Graham leave. “Luke had gradually pissed off more and more people. He didn’t endear himself with other special advisers, ministers or civil servants. No one was weeping to see him go,” said one government official.
Downing Street declined to comment on “personnel matters”. Graham also declined to comment on his departure. One individual with knowledge of the row said: “They did such a bad job of sacking him, he didn’t realise he had been sacked. The HR was appalling.”
Graham will now move to Scotland to help the Scottish Tory Party’s campaign for May’s Holyrood elections.