f I were Keir Starmer, I would be very worried about the appointment of Dan Rosenfield as chief of staff at Number 10. That’s because Rosenfield represents a mortal threat to Boris Johnson’s reputation for mayhem and buffoonish incompetence, which has done so much to depress the prime minister’s approval ratings, and has made Starmer probably look even better than he is. If Johnson needed someone like Dominic Cummings to get him in to power with a decent majority, then he now needs someone to actually make his government work properly. After the year we’ve had, and the persistent mumbling about installing Rishi Sunak at some suitable early opportunity, Rosenfield might even manage to save Johnson’s premiership. He may be “Sir Dan” ere long.
Plainly, Rosenfield is part of the “reset” that dare not speak its name. The wholesale clearout of Cummings and the old freewheeling laddish Vote Leave gang was more than an just an unusually bloody palace coup. After a brief flirtation with the notion of making Sajid Javid Johnson’s chief of staff – not a great fit, to be fair – a completely conventional choice was made. It was a victory for the establishment over the soi-disant disrupters. The power of the career civil service and Treasury for which Cummings showed such contempt has been restored.
Rosenfield is a fine example of that tradition at its best, with about 10 years at the Treasury straight from university, though since about 2011 he has worked in banking and consultancy. According to a “friend” who spoke to the Financial Times: “Dan’s been quite clear about his terms, the rule of law, constitutional proprieties, less of the quixotic attacks on institutions…” Rupert Harrison, a former political special adviser to then chancellor George Osborne when Rosenfield was Osborne’s principal private secretary, describes him as “v bright, tough and politically savvy with a small P”. David Gauke, a Treasury minister from the era says Rosenfield was “likeable and effective”. From that description and has background he sounds much like Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, who concentrated on policy and decision-making and did so much to make Blair’s sometimes fractious administration work smoothly (as well as helping to build peace in Ireland). If so, then Rosenfield will represent a formidable asset to Johnson and his government.