A Whitehall reshuffle has seen Dominic Cummings’ influence diluted, after the Prince William’s private secretary was brought in and a critic of his was promoted.
In a sign that Boris Johnson’s Chief Political Advisor had lost a rare power defeat Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, was brought into No 10 as the Permanent Secretary.
Mr Case has been described by those who have worked with him as a master navigator, who is able to discreetly negotiate difficult issues.
According to the Mail on Sunday sources claimed that Mr Cummings had been at the centre of an attempt to oust Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, although this was denied by No 10 sources.
However the appointment of Mr Case, whose roles have included director of strategy for GCHQ and principal private secretary to former prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May, has been seen by some as not only a direct challenge to Sir Mark but also a bid to weaken Mr Cummings’ influence in Downing Street.
It was revealed in April that Mr Case, 41, would return to the cabinet office to ensure the "nonshielded vulnerable", including food bank users and potential victims of domestic violence, received adequate support during the lockdown.
It is believed that Mr Case will also act as a bridge between No 10 and Whitehall.
Mr Cummings has not seen eye to eye with the Whitehall establishment for some time. In February the civil service was forced to intervene by rewriting human resources rules to ensure the ministerial special advisers he oversees are treated “with respect.”
The Cabinet Office subsequently advertised for a senior policy leader to produce new HR policies for special advisers based on “treating everyone with respect” and “building trust”, which would be overseen by Helen MacNamara, who led the office’s propriety and ethics team.
Ms MacNamara has since been promoted to Deputy Cabinet Secretary as well as head of the Cabinet Secretariat, which was previously held by Sir Mark.
One source told the MoS: “There is a view that a few things have been kept out of the Prime Minister’s view by Sir Mark and that the PM needs a better grip on what he is up to. He’s clearly been too thinly spread and now that’s changing.”
Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, told The Daily Telegraph: “Mr Cummings is clearly an iconoclast and not positive about a lot of what the civil service does.
"Change is fine but you have to do it with people rather than go to war with them. This was a problem before coronavirus, the pandemic has added to the urgent need for these relationships to work and I suspect that's why Mr Case is back to strengthen the systems and reduce the dysfunctional behaviour that is going on.”