Who is Henry Newman: the No 10 aide and Carrie Symonds ally accused of being the ‘Chatty Rat’?
A close friend and confidant of Carrie Symonds, Henry Newman has swiftly risen through the ranks of Government advisers to become one of the most influential figures in Downing Street.
But now the senior Number 10 adviser has found himself thrust into the middle of a highly-personalised row between Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.
In a move that allies have described as detonating a “nuclear bomb” underneath the Prime Minister, Mr Cummings on Friday alleged that he had been told by the Cabinet Secretary that Mr Newman was likely to have been the so-called “chatty rat” who in October last year leaked details of the second lockdown to newspapers.
While the claims have been dismissed by senior Government sources as “entirely false”, their publication is nevertheless likely to have far-reaching repercussions – for Mr Johnson, Ms Symonds, and Mr Newman, too.
Prior to his elevation to Number 10, Mr Newman had long been viewed as a rising star among the ranks of special advisers, having served loyally under Michael Gove for a number of years.
Having cut his teeth in the Cabinet Office during the Coalition years, Mr Newman joined Mr Gove’s entourage in the Ministry of Justice after he was appointed as the Lord Chancellor in 2015.
He then joined the Vote Leave operation during the 2016 Brexit referendum, where he became part of the team that would later take over the running of Government under Mr Johnson.
Leading the team was Mr Cummings, while Lee Cain, the Prime Minister’ former director of communications, worked as head of broadcast.
Ms Symonds, then a special adviser for the culture secretary John Whittingdale, was also on the scene throughout.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum campaign, Mr Newman was among a close circle of Mr Gove’s friends who were said to have helped to convince him to “knife” Mr Johnson and torpedo his bid for the Tory leadership by deciding to run himself.
Following the success of the Leave campaign, he established himself as a prominent commentator during Theresa May’s premiership, regularly featuring on panel discussions and in broadcast interviews.
He also became a director of Open Europe, a pro-Brexit think tank dedicated to producing policy recommendations for the future of UK-EU relations.
Following Mr Johnson’s election as Conservative leader in July 2019, Mr Newman returned to the Cabinet Office to be reunited with Mr Gove, whose influence in Government – along with his close group of advisers – continued to grow as he accumulated an ever-increasing number of responsibilities as the minister in charge of Brexit preparations.
However, while seen as a capable and trusted aide to Mr Gove, it was Mr Newman’s close friendship with Ms Symonds that some in Government believe lay behind his recent transfer to Number 10.
Described by Ms Symonds as one of her “favourite people”, in February he was appointed a senior adviser to the Prime Minister, alongside Baroness Finn, a former girlfriend of Mr Gove and non-executive board member of the Cabinet Office, who was made deputy chief of staff.
His promotion came soon after the downfall of Mr Cummings and Mr Cain, who left Number 10 in the wake of a power struggle which allies claim was orchestrated by Ms Symonds and those loyal to her.
Their appointments also took the number of so-called “Goveites” in Number 10 to five, joining Henry Cook, Meg Powell Chandler – who are also friends with Ms Symonds – and Declan Lyons.
Together, Mr Newman, Mr Cook and Ms Powell Chandler are referred to by the Prime Minister as his “three musketeers.”
While the veracity of Mr Cummings’s claims are unknown, it is this personal connection to Mr Johnson and his fiancée that lies at the heart of the controversy.