Chicken's out! Lee Cain's gone but Boris Johnson's new Director of Communications wrote the Daily Mail's 'Enemies of the People' front page...

... and that's apparently cool, fine, and awesome to our morally bankrupt political press.

Lee Cain is leaving Downing Street at the end of the year. “Who he?” you ask bleary-eyed and struggling to separate one dead-eyed Vote Leave operative in Number 10 from the next. The simple way to remember Lee Cain is to think of him as…

The Chicken Man.

The Chicken Man spent time as a Daily Mirror reporter chasing David Cameron around then decided to get a more embarrassing job, first as part of the Vote Leave campaign then as a ferociously loyal advisor to Boris Johnson. Now, having been offered the chance to become the Prime Minister’s Chief-of-Staff earlier this week, he’s out, allegedly because Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s partner, doesn’t like him.

You may have missed the election that lifted Carrie Symonds into a position where she can influence who is and isn’t employed by Her Majesty’s Government, or even the moment she was elevated to the Lords as Lady Symonds of Tolerating Boris Johnson’s Piss On The Toilet Seat. But in this very healthy democracy, it is, of course, perfectly fine that the Prime Minister’s fiance is reported as heavily influencing his hiring and firing policies. Perhaps she could decide which war we wage next too?

Why should all of this matter to you? Well, because Cain, politely described as “pugnacious” in some media reports but more accurately thought of as a near-sociopathic attack dog for his circus clown boss, is being replaced as Downing Street Head of Communications by James Slack, another former hack whose biggest claim to fame is penning the Daily Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ front page attacking the independent judiciary for being independent and a judiciary.

The extremely smart pointy-heads of the media class will stroke their chins and remind you, “Journalists don’t write their own headlines!” and “Paul Dacre said he came up with that headline” as if Slack writing the entire body copy and generating the story in the first place has no bearing on anything.

I happen to be of the mind that Slack’s presence in government service — he was previously the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson, having gained the role under Theresa May — is categorically a bad thing, as is the revolving door that keeps bringing the worst members of the media into the corridors of power.

But my position on who should/shouldn’t be in charge of how the government presents itself to the world and works with the media is somewhat of an outlier. In a world where David Cameron brazenly appointed a man who was destined to be jailed for his involvement in phone hacking, the bar for suitability has got so low that a Shetland Pony could easily hop over it.

Let’s see what esteemed members of the political media make of James Slack, late of their corrupt and corruptible parish. Here’s LBC’s Westminster Correspondent, Ben Kentish, with his take:

This is technically true — someone who attempts to strangle democracy could very well have a “capable pair of hands”, but what Slack has done to gain respect in Westminster says all you need to know about the swampy horror of politics.

Alright, maybe David Cameron’s former Director of Communications, comms boss for Remain, and ex-senior executive at BBC News, Craig Oliver (Sir), has a more balanced view of Slack:

… oh. No, he also respects being a copper-bottomed shit and deems that to be the sign of a “class act”. A rather different perspective comes from Anna H Ford, a former government press officer, who had to deal with Slack in interactions where he thought he was the one with all the power:

Could it be, perhaps, that the little swinging dicks of Downing Street and wider Westminster admire men who rage and ‘alpha’ their way around the place, like minor characters in The Thick of It, and that people actually doing the work find them awful to be around? It’s just a theory.

And talking about people who are awful to be around… Dominic Cummings, for whom Lee Cain was one of a very small handful of reliable allies, was putting it around last night that the chicken man flying the coop might result in his also clucking off. But surprise, surprise, despite Laura Kuennsberg and Robert Peston swallowing Cummings’ briefings like so much tasty chicken feed he’s now made it clear he’s not leaving. Cummings has often put out whispers that he’ll leave Downing Street ‘soon’ and he’s still there like a tick burrowed deep into a dog’s arse.

Tom Newton Dunce was also taken in by Dom’s posturing. No doubt he also thinks James Slack is a jolly good chap. Could it be perhaps that given the [REDACTED] about him, he’s quite comfortable with unpleasant people? Who can say? Certainly not me. Though the fact that he spent 11 years as The Sun’s Political Editor might lead you to draw your own conclusions on that one. Or that time he published neo-Nazi talking points on the paper’s front page…

Anyway, weep not for the Chicken Man, he’s got the Director of Communications job until the end of the year and then will no doubt step straight into a massively well-paid consultancy job, selling access to all those politicians and civil servants he’s been flapping around in recent years. And if not, I’m sure KFC is hiring. We should worry instead about the bad birds that are still roosting in Downing Street.

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