Theresa May attacks Gove and Johnson for appointing Brexiteer as key adviser

PUBLISHED: 13:09 30 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:04 30 June 2020

Theresa May fumes about the number of political appointments as advisers. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Theresa May fumes about the number of political appointments as advisers. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Theresa May has launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson’s government for replacing an impartial civil servant as national security adviser with a political appointment.

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The former prime minister and Tory leader said that David Frost, currently chief Brexit negotiator, has “no security experience” to qualify him to be National Security Advisor.

She told the Commons: “I served on the National Security Council for nine years - six years as home secretary and three as prime minister. During that time, I listened to the expert independent advice from national security advisers.

“On Saturday (Gove) said, ‘we must be able to promote those with proven expertise’. Why then is the new national security adviser a political appointee with no proven expertise in national security?”

But Gove said that it is “entirely appropriate” for the prime minister to choose an adviser “appropriate to the needs of the hour”.


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He replied: “Well, like my right honourable friend I too want to pay tribute to Sir Mark, and I appreciate having served in cabinet when she was prime minister when Mark was cabinet secretary, just how much we all owe to him for his distinguished public service.

“I should also say that we have had previous national security advisers, all of them excellent, not all of them necessarily people who were steeped in the security world, some of whom were distinguished diplomats in their own right.

“David Frost is a distinguished diplomat in his own right and it is entirely appropriate that the prime minister of the day should choose an adviser appropriate to the needs of the hour.”

Sir Mark is standing down from his role as both cabinet secretary and the UK’s national security adviser amid reports he was being undermined by Johnson’s allies.

The prime minister played down the “negative briefing” and said he did not attach the “utmost credence” to the reports.

Ex-cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell earlier said: “I’m worried about the appointment of David Frost as national security adviser because I’m not quite sure how putting a special adviser in that role works.”

O’Donnell added that political appointees were “more likely to be yes-men” rather than “speaking truth to power”.

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