Boris expected to bring back winning election campaign chief in latest government reboot

NI Protocol: James Cleverly gives an update on talks with EU

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Express.co.uk has been told that “a conversation has been had” with Europe minister James Cleverly, to replace Oliver Dowden as chairman following his decision to resign in the wake of the humiliating by-election results last week. The move to bring back a vote-winning chairman comes amid speculation that there could be an early election. Mr Cleverly was party chairman in 2019 and has long been the focus of speculation that Mr Johnson would bring him back into his top team.

A source told Express.co.uk: “James [Cleverly] has been approached to do the job. No offer has been made but a conversation has been had.”

The idea has support within the cabinet after what they believe was a “lacklustre” chairmanship by Mr Dowden.

One Cabinet minister told Express.co.uk: “James would be a great choice. He is a proper campaigner and would bring some of the energy we have been missing at CCHQ (Conservative Central Office).”

Mr Cleverly, who is currently Liz Truss’s number two in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is understood to have said he would be “willing to do it” but is concerned that he has “been there done that.”

Mr Cleverly, a leading Brexiteer and former leadership candidate, was Boris Johnson’s party chairman after he won the leadership contest against Jeremy Hunt in 2019.

He led the party operation during the emergency Brexit election in 2019 and helped the Prime Minister secure an historic 80-seat majority, the biggest for a Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987.

As chairman he took on the role of leading on television interviews and famously clashed with Sky’s Kay Burley when she empty chaired him after she claimed he had turned down an offer to come on her show.

The Prime Minister, who is still currently away from the country, will have to replace Mr Dowden who resigned in the wake of the party losing Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton in the by-elections last week.

In an angry letter, Mr Dowden wrote that Conservatives voters were “angry and disappointed” about Partygate allegations of lockdown rule breaking in Downing Street as well as on policy.

His resignation took MPs completely by surprise but has been welcomed in some quarters.

One MP said: “Oliver is very intelligent and a good man but he was wholly unsuited to be party chairman. He was never going to rally the troops.”

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