DOWNING Street yesterday defended the appointment of Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator as national security adviser — replacing ‘ousted’ Sir Mark Sedwill.
The prime minister faced criticism that David Frost is a political aide rather than a career civil servant and lacks security experience.
He will take over in the key role from Sir Mark, who resigned as cabinet secretary and head of the civil service amid reports of clashes with Mr Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell said political appointees were more likely to be ‘yes men’ telling ministers what they wanted to hear rather than ‘speaking truth to power’.
‘I’m worried about the appointment of David Frost as national security adviser because I’m not quite sure how putting a special adviser in that role works,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Downing Street insisted such appointments were not unusual in other countries and that Mr Frost — who has the status of an ambassador — had spent 25 years as a diplomat in the Foreign Office before leaving in 2013. ‘The First Civil Service Commissioner has agreed the appointment. That is consistent with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act,’ the PM’s official spokesman said.
Lord Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, accused No.10 ‘or those around it’ of working to ‘undermine’ Sir Mark. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘obvious’ that the PM was determined to get rid of Sir Mark, while some MPs suggested Mr Cummings was involved in forcing him out.
Mr Johnson yesterday dismissed claims that his position had been eroded through hostile press briefings.