Monday, 17 May 2021

Theresa May makes rare intervention to slam Boris Johnson’s security adviser hire

Theresa May has attacked Boris Johnson’s choice to be his new national security adviser, saying he has “no proven expertise” in the area.

The former prime minister unleashed unusually strong criticism on her successor after Downing Street announced the PM would bring in his chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, to take on the role of national security adviser.

Mr Frost will replaces Sir Mark Sedwill, who is being let go from his senior roles as national security adviser and cabinet secretary from September.

The unusual move by Mr Johnson saw a politically-neutral civil servant replaced with a political adviser.

Mrs May did not hold back her criticism of the major Whitehall shakeup in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“I served on the National Security Council for nine years – six years as home secretary, and three as prime minister,” she told MPs.

“During that time I listened to the expert independent advice from national security advisers.”

Addressing Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, she continued: “On Saturday, my right honourable friend said, ‘We must be able to promote those with proven expertise’.

“Why then is the new national security adviser a political appointee with no proven expertise in national security?”

Mr Gove responded by paying tribute to Sir Mark’s unusually short service at the top of the civil service.

He explained: “We have had previous national security advisers – all of them excellent, not all of them necessarily people who were steeped in the security world, some of them who were distinguished diplomats in their own right.

“Sir David – sorry David Frost – is a distinguished diplomat in his own right and it’s entirely appropriate that the prime minister of the day should choose an adviser appropriate to the needs of the hour.”

Lord Ricketts, the UK’s first national security adviser, has also been less than positive about the appointment.

He said the role requires someone with “deep knowledge” but instead that Mr Johnson’s priority is “not to expertise and experience, but to political loyalty among his closest advisers”.

Mr Frost has had a rocketing ride through the civil service, having run the Scotch Whisky Association for two years until joining then-foreign secretary Mr Johnson as a special adviser from 2016 to 2018.

He was previously the UK’s ambassador to Denmark and held diplomatic posts in Brussels with the European Union and in New York with the United Nations.

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