Steve Barclay ‘has a lot of support’ says expert
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Boris Johnson’s top team has undergone an array of changes in the midst of the ongoing party gate scandal that has left his reputation in tatters. Now the Prime Minister is bringing in longstanding loyal support from within his own party in an attempt to rebuild the Government’s tattered reputation.
As a result, he has given MP Steve Barclay his biggest role yet – Downing Street Chief of Staff.
Announcing the appointment this weekend, Mr Johnson said it was part of a plan to “improve how Number 10 operates, strengthen the role of my Cabinet and backbench colleagues, and accelerate our defining mission to level up the country.”
The Prime Minister said Mr Barclay will be “in charge of integrating the new Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office, driving the Government’s agenda more efficiently and ensuring it is better aligned with the Cabinet and backbenchers”.
Brexit watchers will know Mr Barclay from his days as Brexit Secretary in 2018, and he has held several Cabinet roles.
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Who is Steve Barclay?
Son of a trade unionist and a civil servant, Mr Barclay was bought up in Lancashire and attended Cambridge, where he studied history.
He later qualified as a solicitor and entered Parliament in the 2010 election as MP for North East Cambridgeshire.
Mr Barclay is a relatively experienced Cabinet minister who served under Theresa May and was Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s deputy at the Treasury until last September.
He also supported the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, going on to serve as Brexit Secretary under Mrs May’s Government.
On his most recent appointment, a government spokesperson said: “The Chief of Staff role will focus primarily on driving the Government’s agenda and ensuring it is better aligned with Cabinet and backbenchers.
“In his dual role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Chief of Staff, alongside his extensive experience as an MP, Steve Barclay will be well placed to ensure the Prime Minister’s levelling up agenda is delivered at maximum speed while strengthening Cabinet government and providing an enhanced role for Ministers and Parliament.”
Opinion about him and his ability to save Mr Johnson’s job is divided.
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One of his MP colleagues said if anyone can bring in “clear lines of communication and clear chain of command” to a chaotic Downing Street, it would be Mr Barclay.
Paul Harrison, Theresa May’s former press secretary, said: “He is the classic safe pair of hands, but he’s also a nice guy, a thoughtful guy, and we knew he was well-liked inside parliament.”
But others are less convinced. One MP said: “He’s fine, but that’s about it.”
Despite his promotion, Mr Barclay might not be enough to save a Prime Minister on a serious downward trajectory.
A former Downing Street aide said: “Boris’ survival is not dependent on Steve Barclay.
“There’s a limit to the amount that can ever be the case, at least in part, because the whole of the mess of the last week is really a story about the Prime Minister not listening to advice.”
The role of Chief of Staff is not usually appointed to an MP; the role is generally the preserve of a civil servant or political advisor.
Mr Barclay takes over from Dan Rosenfield, who resigned last week in a slew of damaging civil service and aide exits for the Prime Minister.
The job has never been endorsed publicly by a former post holder.
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