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Boris Johnson loses trusted adviser after Downing Street fails to approve his job application

Will Walden had been at the former London Mayor’s side for several years

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 18 October 2016 11:15 BST
The Foreign Secretary has had his profile managed by communications director Will Walden since 2012
The Foreign Secretary has had his profile managed by communications director Will Walden since 2012 (Sky)

Boris Johnson has suffered a blow after failing to secure a government post for one of his most talented and trusted advisers.

The appointment of Will Walden to a political job with Mr Johnson at the Foreign Office was widely expected. But despite his application having been lodged weeks ago, it failed to ever gain traction in Downing Street.

It was confirmed today that it has been withdrawn, meaning Mr Johnson will be without the communications director who managed his profile since 2012.

Neither Mr Walden nor Number 10 would comment on the departure this morning, but the move is being seen as a sign Theresa May wants tighter control of cabinet press contact.

Former BBC journalist Mr Walden travelled the world with Mr Johnson during his time as London Mayor and managed his communications as he opted to back the Leave campaign during the EU referendum and then launch a Tory leadership bid.

Mr Johnson’s communications will now be handled by Liam Parker, former press secretary to Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.

The change comes after a week in which reports of a rift between Brexit-backers in the cabinet and Chancellor Philip Hammond hit the headlines.

Theresa May makes joke about Boris Johnson staying 'on message

Ms May’s team is said to be unhappy over press reports of a cabinet sub-committee meeting, which told how the Chancellor had expressed economic concerns about a work permit system that would prevent unskilled EU immigrants coming to the UK. There is no suggestion Mr Walden was personally behind the leak.

But one Brexit-backer was quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying: “[Mr Hammond] is arguing from a very Treasury point of view. He is arguing like an accountant seeing the risk of everything rather than the opportunity.”

As the story developed yesterday Downing Street was even forced to say Theresa May retains “full confidence” in Mr Hammond.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted there had been “lively debates” around the Cabinet table about how Britain’s exit from the European Union is handled.

At Tory conference Mr Hammond emerged as a potential champion for people in the Conservatives who favour a softer Brexit, which sees economic considerations put ahead of arbitrary controls on immigration.

But his focus on protecting the economy first, goes against the tougher lines on immigration and the single market taken by Ms May and others such as Mr Johnson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

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