It is a sign of the uncertainty over Boris Johnson’s search for a new chief of staff that so many people have been tipped for the job, often inaccurately, even when it was unclear whether a formal vacancy existed.
Many Conservative MPs say privately that they want someone able to correct the sense of drift inside No 10, clamp down on factional squabbles and improve messaging from the centre of government.
Here are some of the potential runners and riders for the chief of staff role.
If the aim of the appointment is successful strategy inside No 10, then the young Australian has the ideal pedigree, given that Tories widely credit him as the ultimate mastermind of the 2019 election victory. A former employee of Lynton Crosby’s consultancy, Levido has also worked on campaigns in the US and Australia. Moving back to No 10 would involve him taking a break from the strategy consultancy he co-founded last year, which might be tricky.
Being an MP might appear an obstacle to taking on another full-time job – Burghart has represented Brentwood and Ongar since 2017 – but there are some who argue this could better connect No 10 to backbenchers. If so, Burghart would seem a good fit as a former parliamentary private secretary to Johnson. He also worked for Theresa May on social justice issues, so he knows his way around the Downing Street machinery.
Mirza is far less high-profile than Dominic Cummings or even the departing communications director, Lee Cain, but she is arguably just as integral to Johnson’s No 10 operation, and her judgement is similarly trusted. She was a Revolutionary Communist party member at university but has since traversed the ideological spectrum, and as No 10’s chief she is a notable and controversial voice in areas such as institutional racism.
A seasoned Westminster and Whitehall insider, Newman has served two stints as an adviser to Michael Gove, interspersed with a period running the Euroseceptic thinktank Open Europe. Cummings is another alumnus of Gove’s employ, and as a Cabinet Office special adviser Newman is already at the centre of decision-making.
Like Levido, Canzini is a product of the Lynton Crosby academy. He formerly worked for Crosby’s CTF Partners consulting firm and played a key role in running Johnson’s bid to become Conservative leader. He is also a long-time Conservative activist and helped Tory MPs agitate against May’s Brexit deal.
Another integral member of the Vote Leave team, Stephenson was its communications head and is close to Cummings and others from that era. Many of them have ended up in No 10, but Stephenson – also a former ministerial adviser – is now a partner with the PR consultancy Hanbury and is perhaps unlikely to leave for an uncertain future in Downing Street.
The grandee candidate. Baron Feldman of Elstree, as he has been since 2010, is a businessman and veteran Tory fundraiser who chaired the party for six years under David Cameron. Someone from the Cameron era might seem unsuited to Johnson’s No 10, but there are reports the prime minister offered Feldman the job – and he refused.