One the Prime Minister’s key aides, Chris Brannigan, has resigned from his role as head of government relations at Number 10.
He may not have been a household name, but Brannigan was in charge of external relations – particularly with the business community. In a former life he served as a tank commander, and with the PM under fire from all directions it looks as if his loss leaves another chink in the armour of an embattled Downing Street operation.
Publicly, Theresa May’s administration never made a great deal of room for business chiefs and captains of industry. It just wasn’t part of her pitch. Her predecessor, David Cameron, called on business leaders every other month to pen an open letter denouncing Ed Miliband’s economic policies, and he convened a business advisory council to keep City bosses in the fold.
May disbanded this group as soon as she took the keys, and ever since then there have been grumblings from certain quarters of the business community that the new PM simply didn’t show enough interest in business. In truth, much of this discontent came from a small band of individuals who didn’t like the fact that they could no longer be seen strutting in and out of Downing Street.
The CBI, for example, didn’t cope with the apparent rejection at all well, and relations with Number 10 have remained frosty. But behind the scenes, groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors have been working closely not just with Downing Street aides but with business secretary Greg Clark, to whom May was more than happy to outsource day-to-day business relations.
As for the City, it’s simply not true that May broke off contact. She’s held numerous meetings with finance chiefs and, for all her faults, demonstrated a firm grasp of City issues when interviewed by this newspaper days ahead of the election.
Downing Street may be shedding a few advisers in the aftermath of the election disaster, but the PM still retains a respected and well connected business adviser in the form of James McLoughlin. While some business figures need their egos massaged, most just want a clear line of communication with policy makers and a fair hearing at the top table. McLoughlin can deliver this, and the PM should trust him to get on with the job.