Daily Mail

U-turns? We were in the teeth of a gale, says PM

But calmer seas lie ahead, vows Boris as he seeks to re­as­sure pub­lic

- By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor Politics · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Dominic Cummings · Michael Gove · Boris Johnson · Prince William of Wales · Elijah Cummings

‘Giv­ing him more power will end in trou­ble’

BORIS John­son ap­pealed for pub­lic un­der­stand­ing over the rash of em­bar­rass­ing U-turns yes­ter­day – as Do­minic Cum­mings es­tab­lished a new ‘mis­sion con­trol’ de­signed to stamp them out.

In an on-cam­era state­ment ahead of the first Cab­i­net meet­ing since the sum­mer, the Prime Min­is­ter said the Government had been ‘sail­ing into the teeth of a gale’ as it grap­pled with the pan­demic.

‘I am no great nau­ti­cal ex­pert but some­times it is nec­es­sary to tack here and there in re­sponse to the facts as they change, in re­sponse to the wind’s change,’ he said. ‘But we have been go­ing steadily in the di­rec­tion, in the course we set out and we have not been blown off that course.’

Mr John­son ac­knowl­edged there would be ‘some tur­bu­lence ahead’ as the Government tries to deal with the con­tin­u­ing threat from coro­n­avirus and a ‘dif­fi­cult’ eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

But he in­sisted that ‘ calmer days, brighter days and calmer seas’ lay ahead.

His com­ments came as a new ‘mis­sion con­trol’ cen­tre de­vised by Mr Cum­mings came into op­er­a­tion. The hub is de­signed to fuse pol­icy developmen­t with de­liv­ery in a bid to im­prove the Government’s ef­fec­tive­ness, re­move block­ages in the sys­tem and head off prob­lems be­fore they arise.

One White­hall source said: ‘With all the U-turns, things are clearly not work­ing as well as we want them to be, but hope­fully you will now see that start to change.’

The new unit will be based in Michael Gove’s Cab­i­net Of­fice at 70 White­hall, rather than no 10. Mr Cum­mings will sit at the cen­tre of an open plan ‘collaborat­ion hub’ along with a string of key aides, in­clud­ing no 10 pol­icy chief Mu­nira Mirza, for­mer Vote leave data guru Ben Warner and mem­bers of the Prime Min­is­ter’s pri­vate of­fice.

Se­nior of­fi­cials and po­lit­i­cal aides will be grouped in themed mod­ules around them, fo­cus­ing on is­sues such as schools, the econ­omy and in­fra­struc­ture. Mr Cum­mings, a data ob­ses­sive, hopes to have real-time in­for­ma­tion on coro­n­avirus and other government pri­or­i­ties beamed on to the walls.

The PM has so far re­sisted pres­sure from Mr Cum­mings to move out of his cosy no 10 ‘den’. But in­sid­ers yes­ter­day said that so many of his key aides are now work­ing at the new cen­tre that he is likely to have to spend at least part of his time work­ing from there.

The cre­ation of the unit has un­der­lined fears amid some Tory MPs that Mr Cum­mings and his men­tor Mr Gove have taken con­trol of Mr John­son’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. One se­nior Tory said: ‘Boris just hands ev­ery­thing over to Cum­mings, whose plans since com­ing into government have been a dis­as­ter. He’s not even a Con­ser­va­tive and I have no idea why the PM is trust­ing him with so much.

‘Giv­ing him more power will only end in more trou­ble.’

Government sources dis­missed sug­ges­tions that the move rep­re­sented a shift of power out of no 10, point­ing out that the Cab­i­net Of­fice is part of the same com­plex of build­ings at the heart of White­hall. a con­nect­ing door, which has pre­vi­ously been shut, will be re­moved to al­low for the free flow of of­fi­cials and min­is­ters be­tween no 10 and the Cab­i­net Of­fice.

‘It’s in 70 White­hall be­cause they have got the space, but it’s ef­fec­tively the same build­ing,’ a source said. ‘no 10 is a rab­bit war­ren of cor­ri­dors and of­fices. This move will al­low peo­ple to be brought to­gether in a way that should im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of government.’

The move came as no 10 con­firmed the ap­point­ment of Prince

Wil­liam’s for­mer aide Si­mon Case as the new Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary.

Mr Case will suc­ceed Sir Mark Sed­will, who an­nounced his de­par­ture in June after los­ing a power strug­gle with Mr Cum­mings.

Government sources con­firmed that the PM had phoned Prince Wil­liam to ask per­mis­sion to poach his pri­vate sec­re­tary, who had been on sec­ond­ment in no 10 to help out with coro­n­avirus. an ally of the prince said he was ‘tak­ing one for the team’, adding: ‘How can any­one not be sup­port­ive given the scale of the chal­lenge com­ing?’

Mean­while, a week after deny­ing ru­mours he would soon be leav­ing

Down­ing Street. Mr John­son has joined so­cial net­work linkedIn.

an­nounc­ing his new pro­file on the pro­fes­sional net­work­ing site – widely used to find jobs – the Prime Min­is­ter said he was us­ing the plat­form to ‘con­nect more di­rectly’ with Bri­tish busi­nesses. The pro­file lists the PM’s pre­vi­ous jobs in pol­i­tics such as For­eign Sec­re­tary and Mayor of lon­don, but does not in­clude his work as a jour­nal­ist.

last week the PM dis­missed as ‘ab­so­lute non­sense’ claims from Mr Cum­mings’ fa­ther-in-law that he was plan­ning to stand down early next year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK