Theresa May has been accused of running the Home Office as a rogue department – wilfully ignoring instructions from Downing Street and allowing her advisers to engage in feuds with David Cameron’s officials.
Several senior government sources told The Independent that relations between Tories working in No 10 and the Home Office had now entirely “broken down”. One said Ms May’s political advisers were “barely talking” to their opposite numbers in Downing Street, while another described the situation as a “kind of Cold War”.
Under Whitehall protocol, all announcements made by individual departments have to be cleared with Downing Street in advance to ensure they don’t clash with other bits of government business. These are normally co-ordinated by ministerial advisers and David Cameron’s political aides.
But The Independent understands that over the past few months, Ms May’s advisers have been deliberately briefing news stories to the media without the permission from No 10 – and at a time of their choosing. In revenge, Downing Street aides have refused to agree to Home Office announcements being placed on the official “grid” of government business.
Downing Street believes Ms May has explicitly approved the actions of her advisers Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson, and suspects her of trying to boost her own profile as a future Tory leadership candidate at the expense of running a co-ordinated Tory re-election campaign. “They feel that they are so powerful they don’t have to worry what No 10 thinks any more,” said one person with knowledge of the situation.
Another said: “They see themselves as working for Theresa, not the Government – and that means promoting her over the Government’s agenda and ignoring anything that gets in their way. It’s all about the Tory leadership.”
Reports of the infighting come in the wake of the removal of Mr Timothy and Mr Parkinson from the official list of candidates eligible to stand as MPs at the next election, a move explicitly approved by Mr Cameron after the pair refused to take part in telephone canvassing during the Rochester by-election.
Ms May’s advisers claimed they could not take part because to do so would have breached their terms of employment as special advisers.
Downing Street insists that the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, had cleared advisers to campaign but Labour has now demanded evidence of this in writing.Reuse content