Boris Johnson’s chief of staff cancels meeting amid rumours he faces the sack

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Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff - Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock
Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff - Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

Boris Johnson’s chief of staff unexpectedly cancelled a regular meeting with advisers on Friday, sparking speculation that Number 10 sackings could be imminent.

Dan Rosenfield, the long-time civil servant who became Mr Johnson’s chief of staff only a year ago, had long been tipped by Whitehall insiders as someone who could be moved on.

There was also a sighting of Antonia Romeo, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, who was considered for the civil service’s top job last year, entering Downing Street.

Cabinet ministers have said that the Prime Minister is preparing to overhaul the “culture” in Downing Street in the wake of politically damaging allegations of lockdown-breaking parties.

He will address Parliament after the publication of a report due next week from Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating the claims. Downing Street departures are expected.

Others whose futures are now in doubt include Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, and Jack Doyle, the Number 10 director of communications.

On Fridays, Mr Rosenfield regularly holds a meeting with special advisers – political appointees who serve Cabinet ministers – to recap on the week and give out praise or criticism.

But on Friday, the meeting, which has been held virtually in recent weeks due to Covid rules, was abruptly called off.

An email, which The Telegraph has seen, read: “Given the change to Plan B restrictions as announced by the PM this week and that some of you will have made plans around today’s all SpAd meeting being virtual, we will be moving today’s meeting to next week so that we can meet in person.

“We look forward to gathering again in person at No 10 next week!”

Antonia Romeo, spotted going into Number 10 on Friday morning - Steve Back
Antonia Romeo, spotted going into Number 10 on Friday morning - Steve Back

One person who received the message said that the cancellation had set off speculation that Mr Rosenfeld may not be in post for next Friday’s gathering.

“There are lots of rumours about what that means,” the government source said of the cancelled meeting. “Silence speaks louder than words at a time like this.”

Mr Rosenfield has told colleagues “we might all need to fall on our swords here,” according to The Times.

Speculation mounted further after it emerged that Ms Romeo had attended meetings in Number 10 on Friday morning.

Later on Friday, sources said that a photograph of Ms Romeo entering the building had “raised eyebrows” across Whitehall, with some suggesting she could be being lined up to replace Mr Rosenfield – or even Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary.

Seen as a rising star among civil servants, Ms Romeo was widely tipped to become the first female head of the civil service after the vacancy opened in 2020.

She was rumoured to have made the final three on the shortlist before the role was handed to Mr Case.

Approached for comment, Number 10 denied suggestions that Ms Romeo’s attendance was linked to a Downing Street clearout but refused to say why she had been in the building.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary - Leon Neal/Getty Images
Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary - Leon Neal/Getty Images

The news came as a source who knows Mr Rosenfield suggested that he could be shuffled to the Treasury rather than being sacked from the Government altogether.

“He’s somebody who at some point, if he isn’t damaged too much, could be permanent secretary or second permanent secretary to the Treasury,” they added. “That’s his natural home.”

Their comments were echoed by a Treasury official, who claimed that Charles Roxburgh, the Second Permanent Secretary to the Exchequer, was due to step down in July.

“There is a job coming up in the summer,” they said. “That would be a very happy landing zone for Dan Rosenfield. It’s usually someone who has a lot of industry experience. I can see how that would be a realistic proposition.”

However, a senior Treasury source said they were unaware of any discussions about Mr Rosenfield crossing over.

Meanwhile, a senior diplomatic source also suggested that Mr Reynolds, who previously served as the British Ambassador to Libya, could be handed a mid-level ambassadorial role.

They suggested a “middle-sized European state” or somewhere further afield, such as Singapore, would be a suitable posting.

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