Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Conservatives
7 February 2022

Neither Guto Harri, nor Steve Barclay, can save Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s reshuffle might help him survive another week but it won’t reboot his government.

By Stephen Bush

Boris Johnson has appointed Guto Harri, a former aide from his time as mayor of London, as his new communications director, and Steve Barclay, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire and minister in charge of the Cabinet Office, as his new chief of staff.  

Although Harri has made a number of disparaging remarks about Johnson, this is a routine hire. Instead, it is Barclay’s new job – which he will do alongside his roles as MP and minister – that is provoking conversation. In some ways, the appointment makes a lot of sense. Barclay is liked by fellow MPs, and whatever happens to Boris Johnson, Barclay is likely to have some kind of role in Conservative Party politics for the foreseeable future. That means it is unlikely departmental ministers will simply stop cooperating with Downing Street or avoid controversial instructions, because even if they think Johnson is not an enemy worth fearing any more, they can’t be as confident the same is true of Steve Barclay. It also makes sense to boost the bureaucracy around the Prime Minister.  

But chief of staff in Downing Street is a round-the-clock job, and it is not clear anyone can do it alongside working as an MP or minister. There’s a reason no living former chief of staff has endorsed the decision. Establishing order where there is chaos has, in different ways, been the job of both Dominic Cummings and Dan Rosenfield since Boris Johnson became prime minister. Neither man managed it, and it seems unlikely that an MP will be able to when the job is a side hustle.  

The move sums up Johnson’s position: he is weak, and this is one way to achieve the crude aim of “surviving another week”. But as a way to get his government back on the front foot it is near certain to fall short.  

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs
Flooding is a major risk for our homes
Topics in this article: