Boris Johnson is embroiled in a row over plans to appoint a former Mirror chicken as chief of staff amid claims his fiancee Carrie Symonds has objected.
No10 spin chief Lee Cain is said to be in advanced talks over the top post as part of a Downing Street shake-up after criticism of the Government’s handling of coronavirus.
The former Mirror reporter once donned the famous bird suit to taunt David Cameron and his Tory allies during the 2010 election.
His appointment to the top job appeared to be in doubt as Ms Symonds made it clear she was “deeply unhappy”, according to the BBC.
The move would consolidate the power of the Vote Leave faction in No10 at a time when backbenchers are urging the PM to move forward from Brexit wrangling.
Downing Street failed to deny that Ms Symonds opposed the move, which would place Mr Cain in the Prime Minister’s inner circle with top aides Dominic Cummings and Sir Edward Lister.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “I’m not going to comment on speculation about personnel in No10 and I’ve always made it practice not to speak about the PM’s fiancee.”
The PM also refused to comment on the reports, saying: “I have got lots of fantastic members of staff.
” As soon as there are any further announcements to be made about that you will be hearing in due course.”
Mr Cain is reported to have offered to quit last week over fears he would be sidelined by the arrival of new TV spokesperson Allegra Stratton.
A new Chief of Staff – a role which has not been filled since Mr Johnson took office – would aim to impose order on the Downing Street operation after a flurry of U-turns and leaks.
But reports Mr Cain was tipped for the job provoked an angry Tory backlash.
One Conservative MP told the Mirror: “I’m wary about the advisors to No10 after Dominic Cummings. The man is a liability.
“I think the man in Downing Street needs somebody who is solid, sensible, mature and a friend, but a critical friend.
“Whether Lee Cain is that person, I just don’t know.”
A former Tory minister said: “This is designed to alienate the parliamentary party.”
Mr Cain is one of the PM’s most trusted aides and No 0 insiders say that he had effectively been doing the job of chief-of-staff anyway.
One said: “You need somebody who can make decisions. And Lee does that.”
The former Mirror reporter once donned the famous chicken suit to taunt David Cameron and his Tory allies during the 2010 election.
He went on to act as a press officer for Vote Leave, before becoming an aide to Mr Johnson at the Foreign Office and on the back benches.
But his past has come back to haunt him.
One MP told the Times: “No one who dressed as a chicken during an election deserves to be chief of staff to a prime minister.”
The Mirror chicken first appeared in 1997 to taunt PM John Major.