The Prime Minister wants to appoint former TalkRadio journalist Ross Kempsell, 28, as Conservative director of research despite angry protests from senior Tories, the Daily Mail has been told.
It would mean ousting current research director Iain Carter, who was Miss Symonds’s boss when she was forced to resign as the party’s communications director in 2018 after being accused of abusing her expenses.
Miss Symonds was instrumental in the recent departure of key No10 advisers Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, seen to pave the way for a less combative Downing Street operation.
That changing of the Vote Leave guard gathered pace today as it emerged a close ally of Mr Cummings, Cleo Watson, has also quit.
The Prime Minister wants to appoint former TalkRadio journalist Ross Kempsell (left) as Conservative director of research. The No10 changing of the guard (right) was apparent today as it emerged a close ally of Mr Cummings, Cleo Watson, has also quit
The row over Mr Kempsell comes amid concern among some Conservatives at Miss Symonds’s influence over Mr Johnson
Conservative chief executive Darren Mott is said to be among those opposed to the job going to Mr Kempsell, who plays tennis with Mr Johnson despite a two-decade age gap.
A Tory HQ source said: ‘Ross Kempsell is a political novice without the background in serious political thinking needed to lead CRD.
‘It takes more than being chums with the PM and his partner. It would be outrageous to get rid of Iain like this.’
The Conservative Research Department was the driving force behind many of Margaret Thatcher’s policies and plays a key role in producing the party’s election manifesto.
Mr Kempsell is a member of Miss Symonds’s network of Tory friends and attends soirees hosted by her in the Downing St flat.
The Prime Minister made his ‘do or die’ pledge to carry out Brexit in a TalkRadio interview with Mr Kempsell during last year’s Tory leadership campaign.
After the election Mr Kempsell was given a job as a No 10 policy aide.
Mr Kempsell, who now works for Times Radio, yesterday disclosed the Prime Minister’s backing for the Conservatives’ ’50-50 Campaign’ to achieve equal representation for men and women in Parliament. Miss Symonds is an active supporter of the campaign.
Ms Watson was confidante of Mr Cummings during his time as the Prime Minister’s chief aide and would regularly be seen with him on the way to Downing Street
As Tory political director in charge of the party’s media machine and CRD, Mr Carter was involved when Miss Symonds was asked to leave her £80,000-a-year director of communications job after party chiefs said her performance was poor. They had previously challenged her over her expenses.
She was accused of costing the party thousands in unauthorised expenses, secretly booking cabs in the names of junior staff to disguise the fact they were for her and using taxis for free travel home and to bars and restaurants to meet friends, even when off-duty. Friends of Miss Symonds denied her Tory HQ exit was linked to the expenses row.
After Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, Mr Carter was demoted to research director, and stripped of control of the communications team.
The row over Mr Kempsell comes amid concern among some Conservatives at Miss Symonds’s influence over Mr Johnson.
This newspaper has revealed how she tried to stop him hosting a Covid crisis meeting to deal with a media row over their dog Dilyn and how Mr Johnson vetoed the promotion of a male Tory MP cleared of sex assault after Miss Symonds gave evidence against him in court two years ago.
A Tory HQ spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on staffing matters.’
Mr Kempsell last night denied he’d been offered the job.
Boris signs up a peacemaker
By Larisa Brown Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail
A former Treasury official who advised George Osborne was yesterday appointed by Boris Johnson as his new chief of staff – as part of a bid to ‘reset’ his premiership.
Dan Rosenfield will begin working in No 10 next month before he formally takes over in the new year, marking the end of the Dominic Cummings era.
Former colleagues described the Manchester United fan as a ‘bright, tough and politically savvy’ economic expert from outside the Westminster bubble.
Dan Rosenfield will begin working in No 10 next month before he formally takes over in the new year, marking the end of the Dominic Cummings era
Mr Rosenfield, a married father of three, will take over from acting chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister.
The move comes after an extraordinary row over a proposal to appoint No 10 communications chief Lee Cain to the post. This led to Mr Cain and his close ally, top adviser Mr Cummings, both leaving Downing Street.
Mr Rosenfield joins No 10 from Hakluyt – a strategic advisory firm for businesses and investors – where he has been global head of corporate clients and head of the UK business since 2016. He had previously worked as a Treasury official for over a decade, serving as principal private secretary to chancellors Alistair Darling and George Osborne. He is also chairman of World Jewish Relief, the British Jewish community’s humanitarian agency.
The departure of Mr Cummings and Mr Cain was widely seen as the culmination of a bitter internal power struggle in which the former Vote Leave campaigners had sought to strengthen their grip on No 10.
Mr Cain’s appointment to the chief of staff post – in which he would have been one of a handful of people in Downing Street with direct access to the Prime Minister – was said to have been opposed by Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds. Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, was also reported to have advised against giving him the role. The departure of Mr Cummings – who made no secret of his contempt for most MPs – was widely welcomed by many Tories at Westminster.
Senior Conservatives had been urging Mr Johnson to appoint a chief of staff who could build bridges with the parliamentary party.
The feeling that MPs had been routinely ignored by No 10 was seen to have fuelled a recent series of damaging Commons rebellions.
They will hope that Mr Rosenfield’s arrival will see the start of Mr Johnson’s much-heralded Government ‘reset’ with the adoption of a more inclusive approach.
He is expected to spend his first weeks in Downing Street meeting with ministers, Conservative MPs and the wider No 10 team. His previous employers, Hakluyt, have a reputation for discretion, having been founded by former MI6 officers, and are reported to keep a close relationship with the intelligence agencies.
Mr Rosenfield’s appointment was yesterday welcomed by Mr Osborne’s former chief of staff, Rupert Harrison, who worked with him in the Treasury.
‘Dan is a class act and an inspired appointment,’ he tweeted. ‘He was the principal private secretary in the chancellor’s office who managed the transition from Alistair Darling to George Osborne. Bright, tough and politically savvy with a small ‘p’.’