Boris Johnson’s key aide Lee Cain QUITS following claims PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds was trying to block him from becoming the new No 10 chief of staff
- The longstanding Johnson aide was only yesterday being touted for promotion
- The move appeared to have been blocked by the Prime Minister’s fiancée
- Mr Cain revealed he had been offered the powerful post before quitting
The longstanding Johnson aide and Dominic Cummings loyalist was only yesterday being touted for promotion to Number 10 chief of staff.
Reports of the move spurred a flurry of hostile briefings, with critics lashing out at his media handling of the pandemic and branding it a power-grab by Downing Street’s Vote Leave faction.
The promotion was also opposed by the Prime Minister’s fiancée Ms Symonds, with whom Mr Cain has previously had a fractious relationship.
However in his resignation statement tonight, Mr Cain revealed he had been offered the powerful post before quitting.
He will leave Downing Street in the New Year when he will be replaced by the PM’s official spokesperson, James Slack.
Boris Johnson ‘s top aide Lee Cain (pictured today) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 ‘s chief of staff
Mr Cain, a Vote Leave campaign veteran who has served Mr Johnson since his stint at the Foreign Office, will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, the prime minister’s official spokesperson
Carrie Symonds – a former media chief at CCHQ who has previously had a fractious relationship with Mr Cain
In a statement tonight, he said: ‘After careful consideration I have this evening resigned as No 10 director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year.
‘It has been a privilege to work as an adviser for Mr Johnson for the last three years – being part of a team that helped him win the Tory leadership contest, secure the largest Conservative majority for three decades – and it was an honour to be asked to serve as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
‘I would like to thank all the team at No 10 – including the many unsung and incredibly talented civil servants – for their hard work and support during the last 18 months.
‘And most of all I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his loyalty and leadership.
‘I have no doubt that under his premiership the country will deliver on the promises made in the 2019 election campaign and build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.’
In response to the resignation, Mr Johnson said: ‘I want to thank Lee for his extraordinary service to the Government over the last four years.
‘He has been a true ally and friend and I am very glad that he will remain director of communications until the new year and to help restructure the operation. He will be much missed.’
Cain is a former journalist who used to dress up as the Daily Mirror’s election chicken, pursuing David Cameron and other leading Tories during the 2010 campaign
Mr Cain is one of Mr Johnson’s most trusted advisers, having been by his side since 2017 when he left Theresa May’s Downing Street operation to work with him at the Foreign Office.
When Mr Johnson quit Mrs May’s Cabinet over Brexit in 2018, Mr Cain continued working with him.
He then helped run his leadership campaign before joining his Government as director of communications.
The two men also worked together during the Brexit referendum in 2016, when Mr Cain was a press officer at the Vote Leave campaign masterminded by Mr Cummings and led by Mr Johnson and Michael Gove.
Last year he ordered ministers to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today programme because of perceived bias. The ban was only lifted when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Mr Cain has also imposed a boycott of ITV’s Good Morning Britain that has lasted for more than six months.
This year he sparked a walkout by political journalists after he banned reporters from news outlets deemed unfriendly from attending a No10 briefing with officials.
Mr Cain has developed a reputation as an ardent Brexiteer and helped forge Mr Johnson’s tough stance last year which saw him controversially prorogue parliament in an attempt to prevent pro-Remain MPs blocking a no-deal departure.
But this year it emerged he saw the Vote Leave job as a route into politics rather than a vocation.
A former colleague from his time as a journalist told PR Week: ‘He told me: ‘I just want to get into politics. I’ve applied for two jobs and I’ve got one of them.
‘I’ve applied for head of broadcast for Remain and head of broadcast for Leave. If this ever comes out I’ll be in a lot of trouble’.’