Who is Boris Johnson hiring as his closest advisers?

Politics Explained: New PM is massing old faces from the Leave campaign and London City Hall to advise him

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 24 July 2019 18:13 BST
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Stepping out: the former London mayor wants to deliver Brexit by 31 October
Stepping out: the former London mayor wants to deliver Brexit by 31 October (EPA)

One of the first tasks in Boris Johnson’s overflowing in-tray is to assemble the top team he needs to shore up his premiership. While he’s made light work of axing ministers and installing his Brexiteer cabinet, Johnson has also been busy behind the scenes, filling key posts with veterans of the Leave campaign or his time in London City Hall. Who are his influential senior aides?

Dominic Cummings

Vote Leave campaign director was a divisive figure during the referendum
Vote Leave campaign director was a divisive figure during the referendum (AFP/Getty)

Once dubbed as the “brains behind Brexit”, Dominic Cummings is a former Vote Leave chief who dreamed up the campaign’s “Take Back Control” slogan and the discredited pledge to funnel £350m a week to the NHS after EU withdrawal. Cummings is a divisive figure in Westminster. He is known for his outspoken criticism of the civil service and once famously described the then-Brexit secretary David Davis as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad, and vain as Narcissus”.

The Brexiteer, who was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a recent TV drama, was found in contempt of parliament for refusing to give evidence to the Commons’ fake news inquiry. Brilliant but mercurial, Cummings’ appointment shows that Johnson is preparing to turbocharge his efforts to deliver Brexit by 31 October.

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Sir Edward Lister

Drafted in as chief of staff on a temporary basis, Sir Edward Lister was an important part of Johnson’s team when he was mayor of London. The 69-year-old, who is currently on leave from the quango Homes England, has been leading Johnson’s transition team to prepare for No 10. Lister spent nearly two decades at Wandsworth Borough Council before becoming an aide to Johnson at City Hall. He is expected to have several deputies, including James Wild, an adviser to May’s deputy David Lidington, and Ben Gascoigne, who served with Johnson at the foreign office.

Nikki da Costa

The former director of legislative affairs at Downing Street, Nikki da Costa left her post last year ahead of a key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. She became something of a Twitter guru on parliamentary procedure during the crunch Brexit votes earlier this year. However she announced she was leaving Twitter a few days ago, as she prepared to return to No 10 to work on relations with parliament.

Munira Mirza

Another familiar face from his City Hall days, Munira Mirza is to head up the No 10 policy unit. The Brexiteer, who is an academic at King’s College London, previously defended Mr Johnson when he compared women wearing burqas to letter boxes.

Andrew Griffith

Senior Sky television executive Andrew Griffith has been appointed as a business adviser to the newly appointed prime minister. Griffith allowed Team Johnson to run its leadership campaign out of his Westminster townhouse, prompting Labour to suggest the former London mayor was allowing people to “buy influence” in his government.

Lee Cain

Long-serving spinner Lee Cain has been tipped as director of communications at No 10. A former journalist, Cain also worked for the Leave campaign and acted as a special adviser for Johnson when he was foreign secretary. Rob Oxley, another Vote Leave staffer, is expected to become press secretary, with Lucia Hodgson, a former adviser to Andrea Leadsom, as his deputy.

David Frost

Experienced diplomat David Frost is reportedly being lined up to advise Johnson on Europe, acting as a sherpa for the UK government.

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