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3 March 2021

Commons Confidential: Yearning for Dom

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Desperate Dan, door-shutting Dan, Dominic Cummings without the hoodie, Dom in a suit and Cummings without the charm are a few of the sobriquets used in Westminster to describe Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s technocratic chief of staff. The one-time Treasury official, who purportedly told civil servants he and others reduced document print sizes so it was harder for Gordon Brown to read briefs, is losing friends and alienating special advisers by favouring civil servants over spads in meetings. The Bring Back Dom campaign hasn’t started but euphoria at his downfall in November 2020 is a distant memory in No 10.

 

Home Secretary Priti Patel has joined the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on the “at risk” list for the expected summer reshuffle after May’s local and national elections. The stalker in each case is a Michael Gove itching to escape the Cabinet Office. Patel’s supporters mutter that Johnson would be chief lad of a boys’ club if all the top jobs were handed to blokes by dumping a British Asian woman. The woke right is embracing its own identity politics.

 

Matt Hancock intervening to save a hospital emergency unit earmarked for closure was a victory for a local MP with the power to make the Health Secretary’s life hell. No, not Johnson or Gove this time but Lindsay Hoyle. The Commons Speaker regularly reminded the cabinet minister of his department’s threat to Chorley and South Ribble Hospital. The drama-free Lancastrian is, muttered a backbencher, a good friend until crossed, after which he becomes a very bad enemy.

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Publish and be damned oop north, where Conservative tykes are boycotting the Yorkshire Post, traditionally the voice of the Tory county set. Editor James Mitchinson angered MPs on his patch in the governing party by, among other things, accusing the Prime Minister of lying and the paper tweeting after Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death that emailed press releases from Tory MPs would be spiked and didn’t deserve to be read. “He’s turned the Yorkshire Post,” protested a disgruntled MP, “into something between the Guardian and the Morning Star.” I’d buy that.

 

Had Covid-19 erupted when Tony Blair, who loudly pontificates on coronavirus, was PM, would he have proved as fatally complacent as Boris Johnson? Blair’s response to a 2005 WHO warning that flu could kill 500,000-700,000 globally wasn’t reassuring. On page 520 of his memoir A Journey he admitted: “I’m afraid I tried to do the minimum we could with the minimum expenditure. I understood the risk, but it just didn’t seem to me that the ‘pandemic’ was quite justified.” Political memoirs are a hostage to reinvention.

[see also: The anti-Cummings: how Dan Rosenfield became Boris Johnson’s chief of staff]

This article appears in the 03 Mar 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Humanity vs the virus