MP, Minister, and Chief of Staff to PM - how will Steve Barclay cope?
- Credit: Steve Barclay
Questions have been asked about how much time NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay will be able to commit to his new role as chief of staff to the prime minister while also being a cabinet minister and an MP.
Boris Johnson made the surprise decision last night (Saturday) to appoint Mr Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to his new and expanded role.
Gavin Barwell, who served as chief of staff to Theresa May and now sits in the House of Lords, said Mr Barclay would have to find "a different way" to do the job than he did.
Lord Barwell said it would be challenging for Mr Barclay "because he's combining it with being a government minister and an MP at the same time, so he's going to have to find a way of doing the job in a different way".
He told Sky's Trevor Phillips On Sunday: "And then the second challenge, and I think probably the key one, is whether the Prime Minister is going to listen to the good advice that he will give."
He added: "There's only so much different advisers can make if the person at the top is not actually listening to the advice that we're giving."
Lord Barnwell said there was not "a chance in hell" that Boris Johnson will stand down voluntarily.
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And he said there was a "strong case for change" at the top of Government.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it was "absolutely right" for the Prime Minister to "try and get the Cabinet Office and No 10 working more cohesively together" with his new appointments.
He told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News that this was recommended in Sue Gray's report into parties held across Whitehall during Covid-19 measures, and that it had been "very difficult to see where the accountability was".
He said the "ongoing focus on partygate is not helping anyone", telling the BBC: "We've got a serious agenda, we've got a potential war situation in Ukraine... Russia developing... we've got cost of living issues to deal with, there are very serious concerns about how we bounce back from the pandemic.
"So, I don't think focusing on the parties is necessarily the best way for us to get through this."
Some 15 Tory MPs have now publicly called for Mr Johnson to resign but not all have sent letters of no confidence to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.
Privately, the numbers are expected to be higher, but Mr Kwarteng told Times Radio: "My own view is that we're probably not that near the letters (threshold) but I don't know - until we reach that point, I think it's idle speculation."
Sir Charles Walker, a former vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee, told The Observer Mr Johnson's departure was an "inevitable tragedy".
But Mr Kwarteng said this was not the case.
He told Trevor Phillips On Sunday: "He's entitled to his view, as I'm entitled to mine.
"And I have to say Trevor, you know this, lots and lots of people have said things are inevitable and they never happened over the last few years, and I just want to wait and see."