Sajid Javid has emerged as a front-runner for a senior role in Boris Johnson’s new team at Number 10 after the exits of the former Vote Leave colleagues Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, is being tipped to take over as Health Secretary in a reshuffle to relaunch Mr Johnson’s Government early next year.
Mr Javid – ousted as Chancellor in February when he refused to accept sharing advisers with Downing Street – is understood to have raised the idea of being appointed chief of staff with the Prime Minister in the summer.
It would be highly unusual for a sitting MP to take on the role, but MPs believe Mr Javid has the right top-level skills for the job and could help communicate the PM’s plans to increasingly fractious backbenchers. One source said he would fit the bill as "someone who commands the respect of the Cabinet, who has been around Government".
The former Chancellor was heavily involved in the development of the Conservatives’ election landslide-winning manifesto in December and would be able to sell tax rises to pay for the response to the Covid pandemic to the party’s base.
He is also close to Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s fiancee, who worked for him for several months as a special adviser when he was Housing Secretary from 2016 to 2018. Ms Symonds, a former Conservative Party head of communications, is seen as having an increasing role in decision-making at Number 10 after she reportedly helped block Mr Cain’s move to chief of staff.
That led to the exits of Mr Cain and Mr Cummings from Mr Johnson’s team this week. On Friday afternoon, it emerged that Mr Cummings would leave with immediate effect.
Earlier this year, Mr Javid was one of the first people to congratulate Mr Johnson and Mr Symonds when they announced that they were engaged and expecting a baby in early summer. Last October, it was reported that Ms Symonds was said to be pitching herself as an intermediary between Mr Javid and the Prime Minister.
Mr Javid, who also attended Ms Symonds’ 30th birthday two years ago, did not respond to requests for comment about becoming chief of staff from The Telegraph this week.
Separately, others are tipping Nikki Da Costa, the director of legislative affairs at Number 10, to be the next chief of staff.
One source said: "She’s a Brexiteer but not Vote Leave, of the party but not factional and divisive, is trusted and respected by all wings of the party and across Whitehall, and has experience of a world outside politics."
A Cabinet minister said Mr Johnson needs someone who "gets everyone focused on delivering for him and the country – the big picture, people’s priorities – rather than creating problems".
Ms Da Costa would be a chief of staff who "empowers rather than kneecaps ministers and lets them get on with the job they’re there to do, which is to deliver on the manifesto we campaigned on a year ago".
Mr Johnson’s supporters are hoping a reshuffle in mid-February, a year on from the last shake-up, will allow him to regain the initiative as spring approaches.
One source said Mr Gove would be a perfect candidate at the Department of Health to refresh the team and prepare for a potential third wave of coronavirus next winter.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, is being tipped to take over as Health Secretary
Credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images Europe
Matt Hancock, who has been Health Secretary since July 2018, is tipped for a move to the Department for Education, replacing Gavin Williamson.
A friend said: "Whether you like him or loathe him, Michael Gove is bloody good. That department will need a complete refresh. I would put some loyalists around the Cabinet Office and get a new party chairman and chief whip."
MPs tipped for a return to Government include Mr Johnson’s former parliamentary private secretary Conor Burns and Jake Berry, who quit as Northern Powerhouse minister earlier this year. Other "Boris-ites" who could be promoted to Cabinet roles include James Cleverly and Nigel Adams, both of whom currently have roles in the Foreign Office.