The Symonds allies with key roles at No 10: The ex-girlfriend of Michael Gove who ‘convinced him to pull the rug out from Boris Johnson’s 2016 leadership bid’ and ex-Cameron era Cabinet Office aide appointed to PM’s ‘court of King Henry’
- Baroness Simone Finn is deputy chief of staff and Henry Newman her assistant
- Pair are allies of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Carrie Symonds
- They worked together before in Mr Gove’s team when he betrayed Mr Johnson
Shockwaves were sent through No 10 after Boris Johnson appointed two new aides, one of whom is the ex-girlfriend of Michael Gove.
Baroness Simone Finn was appointed as deputy chief of staff and Henry Newman was made a senior adviser of Downing Street.
The pair are not only allies of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove but also the prime minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
Mr Johnson last week decided to appoint Baroness Finn as deputy to new No.10 chief of staff Dan Rosenfield – and to appoint the ex-Gove aide, Mr Newman as her assistant.
The pair have worked together before and were in Mr Gove’s team when he famously betrayed Mr Johnson in the 2016 Tory leadership contest.
However, they are reportedly often invited to the Downing Street flat by Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds, unlike Mr Gove.
Baroness Simone Finn (left) was appointed as deputy chief of staff and Henry Newman (right) was made a senior adviser of Downing Street
Baroness Finn and Mr Gove were an item when they left university. She also hosted Miss Symonds’s 30th birthday party in 2018, which was attended by both the Prime Minister and Mr Gove, while Miss Symonds, Baroness Finn and Mr Newman campaigned together in the 2019 election in Wales.
A political ally of Mr Johnson said that it is now turning into ‘the court of Henry VIII’.
‘Wolsey [Cummings] has had the chop and it all depends on who Anne Boleyn favours now,’ they said.
Lewis had also allegedly been under fire from Mr Johnson’s new chief of staff Dan Rosenfield. A source told The Times: ‘Dan has wanted to get rid of Oliver too but it’s all coming from the same place. It’s a complete clearout of anyone associated with Dom [Cummings].’
Pictured left to right: Simone Finn, Henry Newman, Dilyn and Carrie Symonds
Ms Symonds was reportedly instrumental in removing Cummings from No 10, along with Lee Cain, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications. She also played a role in bringing Baroness Finn and Mr Newman into their new roles.
A source told The Times: ‘This is her tribe, these are her people. If she wasn’t [engaged] to Boris then she’d be working for him in a senior position in Downing Street. They are a loving couple and he values her opinion but she is a force in her own right.’
Baroness Finn worked with mr Newman for just under five years while David Cameron was in power.
She is an ex-girlfriend of Gove but knows Mr Johnson well after running his fundraising campaign when he stood as mayor of London.
The pair are not only allies of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove but also the prime minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds
One source said that Finn had been one of Gove’s aides who convinced him to ‘pull the rug out’ from under Johnson in the 2016 leadership race.
Mr Newman is a friend of Ms Symonds, who has in the past tagged him in a group photograph of Tory canvassers on Twitter as one of ‘four of my favourite people’.
Lord Frost, the negotiator behind Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal, threatened to resign over the new appointments made last week over concerns his role as Brexit adviser was being marginalised.
Not wanting to lose a valued adviser, Mr Johnson appointed Mr Frost as a minister of state in the Cabinet Office – letting him oversee the country’s relationship with Europe.
Oxford-educated Baroness Finn has been a member of the House of Lords since 2015 and was appointed as a non-executive board member for the Cabinet Office in May last year before her promotion.
After leaving university she worked as an accountant for PwC before being recruited by the Conservative party in 2010 as the Coalition Government’s industrial relations adviser.
In 2019, Mr Newman wrote of his admiration for Cummings: ‘Cummings is one of only a few political advisers who understands the importance of, and is truly committed to, reforming the Whitehall machine.
‘I worked with another, Simone (now Baroness) Finn, in the Cabinet Office between 2012 and 2015.
‘As special advisers to Francis Maude (then the Minister for the Cabinet Office), Finn and I helped design and push forward a programme of Whitehall reform. It wasn’t about moving away from the Northcote–Trevelyan system of a non-political civil service, it was about making the machine work more effectively.
‘At the time the big challenge was austerity – could you save money and yet provide better public services? Now the challenge is Brexit.’
An ally of Lord Frost told the Daily Mail: ‘There was a real danger that Lord Frost would walk.
One source said that Finn had been one of Gove’s aides who convinced him to ‘pull the rug out’ from under Johnson in the 2016 leadership race
‘The new appointments in Rosenfield’s team dilute the power of those who have been loyal to Boris over many years. Giving Lord Frost a seat in the Cabinet redresses the balance.’ Supporters of Mr Gove last night denied giving Lord Frost a place in his ministerial team was a ‘snub’ to him – and insisted Mr Gove had suggested the idea himself.
Others maintained it is the latest evidence of deep seated tensions in Mr Johnson’s inner team.
They flared last year when Mr Johnson’s controversial senior Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings and his ally Lee Cain were forced to resign. Mr Cummings and Mr Cain were both close to Lord Frost. But they were heavily criticised by Tory MPs – and critically, had fallen out of favour with Miss Symonds, 32.
Mr Johnson hoped the appointment last month of Treasury civil servant turned banker Mr Rosenfield as his new chief of staff would bring stability to his Downing Street machine. But some officials have claimed Mr Rosenfield has failed to make his mark and that there is a ‘lack of chemistry’ between him and Mr Johnson.
UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement
A source says Mr Lewis’ departure came because Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds wants Henry Newman running the Union instead, highlighting how tensions are still present within Downing Street over the parting of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, ITV political editor Robert Peston says
Reports say Miss Symonds, nicknamed ‘Princess Nut Nut’ by Cummings allies, had been a key player in the removal of Dominic Cummings and former director of communications Lee Cain – as well as being involved in the decision to bring in Baroness Finn as deputy chief of staff and senior advisor Henry Newman.
Ms Symonds was reportedly labelled a ‘princess’ for what her foes claimed was regal behaviour while the ‘nut’ is believed to be a poor-taste joke about her being ‘crazy’.
The slur went viral as the extraordinary power struggle between the PM’s fiancee and the Vote Leave cabal emerged in public last November
But in fact it is said to have been circulating since the early days of Boris Johnson’s premiership, with tensions evident from the outset.
Ms Symonds’ adversaries are said to have used the ‘Princess Nut Nut’ name so much that they started using an emoji of a princess followed by two peanuts instead of words in text messages
A source told the Mail on Sunday that the nickname had been wrongly reported as ‘Princess Nut Nuts’.
‘It’s Princess Nut Nut,’ they said, before revealing that Ms Symonds’ adversaries used the phrase so often during the general election that they started using an emoji of a princess followed by two peanuts instead of words in text messages.
A Government source said that Baroness Finn was appointed without consultation from Mr Rosenfield.
A source told The Times: ‘Simone’s appointment was presented to Dan as a fait accompli. He had absolutely no say in the matter. That’s not the best start to the relationship.’
No 10 deny this and say Rosenfield was happy with Baroness Finn’s appointment.
Another source said: ‘Carrie is not a pushover by any means and there are times when Boris just wants a quiet life. That is part of what’s going here.’
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