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Dominic Cummings goes out and Dan Rosenfield comes in through Downing Street’s revolving door. They are ships that almost passed in the night.
Rosenfield is a former civil servant; Cummings distrusted the civil service. He worked for Alistair Darling and George Osborne, both faces from the vanished pre-EU referendum world. Cummings helped to destroy it. Rosenfeld then went to Hakluyt, a strategic advisory firm, via Bank of America. This is Planet Remain territory, not Leave Country.
Such comparisons are bound to be made today in the wake of Rosenfeld’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. They are wide of the mark.
Cummings was Boris Johnson’s Chief Adviser – election strategist come guru come specialist operator, concentrating during the run-up to his depature on getting the new “moonshot” test and trace plan up and running. But Rosenfeld is not replacing him: indeed, Cummings, for better or worse, is irreplacable.
Rosenfield will be Chief of Staff, not a special adviser. He has clearly been appointed not to provide policy direction, but to exercise administrative grip. That he reportedly has no discernable political views whatsoever is from that point of view a plus. And a sign that Johnson wants a bit of calm after the storm. For the moment.
At any rate, Rosenfield is broadly in the tradition of Jonathan Powell, the former civil servant who became Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, rather than that of Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s Chief of Staff who later became a civil servant – or, more precisely, a diplomat; or more precisely still, Ambassador to Paris.
Powell, one old Labour hand tells us, “scarcely dealt with Labour MPs at all”. Conservative MPs queueing up to bend Rosenfield’s ear may be re-directed to Johnson’s Political Secretary, Ben Gascoigne.
“I really enjoyed working with George,” Rosenfield has said in an interview. “He is a really professional guy, and someone who cares deeply about making a difference. I enjoyed every minute.”
As we write, Osborne has not yet tweeted about the appointment. It’s impossible to believe that Downing Street didn’t at the least ask the former Chancellor for his view. Anyway, that’s the admin dealt with. (We hope.) Next comes the politics. That means sorting not so much staffing in Downing Street as relations with Tory MPs.
Which suggests change in CCHQ come the reshuffle, a shake-up in the Whips Office and a senior backbencher as a Number Ten troubleshooter – to snuff out problems before they can flare up.