Boris Johnson has picked a former Treasury adviser, banker and security consultant as his new chief of staff, in a move seen by Downing Street insiders as a decisive attempt to professionalise his operation.
Dan Rosenfield, widely seen as a sophisticated navigator of treacherous Whitehall waters, previously worked as private secretary to Alistair Darling, when he was Labour chancellor, and his Tory successor George Osborne.
His appointment comes just days after Mr Johnson changed his mind about offering the position to Vote Leave campaigner Lee Cain, a former tabloid newspaper journalist.
“There’s quite a difference between Lee and Dan,” smiled one senior Tory. While Mr Rosenfield is a sinuous Whitehall insider, Mr Cain played up his background as an Ormskirk grammar school lad willing to fight the system.
“Dan’s been clear about his terms,” said one friend. “The rule of law, constitutional proprieties, less of the quixotic attacks on institutions.” The culture shift in Number 10, especially after the departure this month of Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, could be marked.
Mr Rosenfield won admirers in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash when he helped to manage tensions between chancellor Mr Darling and prime minister Gordon Brown.
After weeks of recent turmoil in Number 10, the current prime minister has selected a chief of staff whose career was forged in a crisis and who previously helped to plan the 2012 Olympics, the biggest triumph of Mr Johnson’s time as London mayor.
Mr Rosenfield, a former managing director of investment banking at Bank of America and now working for the consultancy Hakluyt, will take up the role on January 1, as part of a “reset” of the Johnson premiership. He will replace Eddie Lister, Mr Johnson’s long-serving ally from his London City Hall days.
He will spend the first few weeks of his job meeting ministers, Tory MPs and Number 10 staff, with a mandate to try to connect the dysfunctional centre of Mr Johnson’s government to the wider party and outside world.
The Olympic connection proved crucial in securing Mr Rosenfield the job, which some have described as one of the hardest in politics. “I hope he’s lined up a way out,” joked one friend.
Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London Olympics organising committee, recommended the 43-year-old for the job. Lord Deighton, who knows Mr Johnson well, is now chairman of Hakluyt.
He also came with a glowing recommendation from Mr Osborne. “He’s v bright, tough and politically savvy with a small p,” said Rupert Harrison, the former Tory chancellor’s one-time chief adviser.
Mr Darling was also an admirer of the young official who helped to hold things together in the fraught aftermath of the 2008 crash, with Number 10 and Number 11 in a state of cold war on how to respond.
“Business and the City will be relieved to have someone who can count and who understands basic economics in Number 10,” said one colleague of Mr Rosenfield, whose father-in-law is Alex Brummer, veteran Daily Mail economics commentator.
Mr Rosenfield, who comes from Manchester and avidly supports Manchester United, is not part of any Old Etonian network. “He’s definitely not part of the old chumocracy,” one associate said.
But he has a reputation in the City as a formidable networker who has leveraged his long standing relationship with Mr Osborne to great effect on behalf of Hakluyt, the high-end corporate intelligence firm.
Hakluyt was originally founded by former MI6 officers looking to leave the secret service and make money in the private sector but in recent times has recruited much more widely, taking in staff from the highest levels of government, the media and industry.
The firm, which operates its London base from a Belgravia townhouse, is known in the City for its discretion and deep information networks, which it uses to provide clients with information about potential deals, as well as strategic sectoral advice.
Mr Rosenfield, who is also chairman of World Jewish Relief, the British Jewish community’s humanitarian agency, told the Jewish Telegraph he was “the mug” who led the Treasury effort to put together a budget for the London Olympics.
Meanwhile Cleo Watson, a senior Number 10 advisor and close ally of Mr Cummings, announced on Thursday she was leaving Downing Street. One Whitehall insider predicted further departures. “More Vote Leave people are going to leave now Dom has gone,” the individual said.