Theresa May isn’t the only one being blamed for the Conservative Party’s general election humiliation – her advisers are in the firing line too.
Senior Tory figures have called for the prime minister’s joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, to resign following a disastrous campaign.
And Mrs May’s ex-press chief has described the pair as ‘destructive’ and ‘arrogant’.
Writing in The Times newspaper on Saturday, Katie Perrior, former director of communications at Downing Street, said she had only seen the prime minister stand up to Ms Hill ‘a handful of times’ in ten months.
In a comment piece titled, ‘I was staggered by their arrogance’, Ms Perrior wrote: ‘The chiefs of staff were great street fighters but poor political leaders.
‘Great leaders lead by bringing people with them, not alienating them before having even digested breakfast.
‘What I could never work out was whether Mrs May condoned their behaviour and turned a blind eye or didn’t understand how destructive they both were.
‘For all the love of a hierarchy, the chiefs treated cabinet members exactly the same — rude, abusive, childish behaviour.’
Ms Perrior was communications director at Downing Street between July 2016 and April 2017.
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She said of Mr Timothy and Ms Hill: ‘For two people who have never achieved elected office, I was staggered at the disrespect they showed on a daily basis.
‘I never hated them. I felt sorry for them and how they measured success by how many enemies they had clocked up.’
Ms Perrior accused the joint chiefs of attempting to run a presidential style campaign without putting Mrs May in front of the cameras – the prime minister refused to partake in several media interviews and a head-to-head debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
‘By not participating, it looks like the prime minister thought it was all beneath her,’ said Ms Perrior.
She described one meeting when Ms Hill, ‘in her normal aggressive tone’, proposed sending foreign secretary Boris Johnson to Copeland to rally support on the day of a by-election, only to be talked down by Mrs May.
Illuminating @BBCr4today interview with Katie Perrior about 'toxic' environment in Theresa May's top team & 'bullying' by chiefs of staff
— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) June 10, 2017
‘The room fell silent,’ Ms Perrior wrote. ‘I wanted the floor to swallow me up.
‘The prime minister had, for once, dared to raise her voice, a rare moment. Normally we would all sit there while Fiona would raise some bats**t crazy idea and not say a word. This one clearly had the prime minister rattled.’
Ms Perrier also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday morning and said the atmosphere in meetings attended by the joint chiefs was ‘terrible’.
A number of Tories have called for Mr Timothy and Ms Hill to lose their jobs – The Guardian reported that one WhatsApp group involving MPs described them as ‘monsters who propped her up and sunk our party’.
4. I cannot see how the inner circle of special advisers can continue in post. Needs to be far more inclusive in future
— Sarah Wollaston (@sarahwollaston) June 9, 2017
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston wrote on Twitter: ‘I cannot see how the inner circle of special advisers can continue in post. Needs to be far more inclusive in future’.
Former minister Anna Soubry also called for Mrs May to sack the pair, saying: ’It was a dreadful campaign.’