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“Mark’s an outstanding servant of this country and will continue to be,” he said. Mr Johnson faced a barrage of criticism from former mandarins and opposition politicians after the announcement of the shake-up at the top of the Civil Service. Some critics claim his chief adviser Dominic Cummings is seeking to force out mandarins opposed to his push for radical shake up of Whitehall. The Prime Minister also came under fire for handing Sir Mark’s role as National Security Adviser to his chief EU negotiator David Frost.
Lord Kerslake, a former head of the Civil Service, hit out at “cowardly, unfair and undermining” by Tory aides against mandarins.
Lord O’Donnell, who was cabinet secretary under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said appointing political allies such as Mr Frost to key jobs meant there were “more likely to be yes men” in Downing Street.
He said: “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.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said it was “obvious” that Mr Johnson forced Sir Mark out of his job.
“Why you do so in the middle of a pandemic and a crisis instead of actually focusing on the crisis, is a question the prime minister needs to answer,” he said.
But Mr Johnson rubbished reports of that his aides had run a briefing campaign against Sir Mark to force him out of his job.
“People brief all kinds of things into the newspapers. All the newspapers report all kinds of things,” the Prime Minister said during an interview on Times Radio.
Praising Sir Mark, Mr Johnson added: “He’s seen the government through all sorts of very, you know, tough stuff.
“The change in premiership, an election, Brexit, then dealing with the really worst bits of the Covid crisis. He’s got a lot more to, or has indicated, he’s got a lot more to offer, and I’m sure he will.”
Sir Mark, who is expected to receive a peerage, is taking on a diplomatic role when the Government takes over the presidency of the G7 international grouping later this year.
Downing Street dismissed claims that the Prime Minister had broken with tradition by appointing Mr Frost, a special adviser rather than a civil servant, to the National Security Adviser job.
“The appointment of the National Security Adviser is always a decision for the Prime Minister,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said.
“It is not unusual in other countries for ambassadors to serve as national security advisers and ambassadors can be political appointees. David Frost has the status of an ambassador.
“The First Civil Service Commissioner has agreed the appointment. That is consistent with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.”
Mr Johnson also dismissed suggestions that he was now seeking a committed Brexiteer to take over as Cabinet Secretary.
“Who knows what his or her views will be?” he said.
“The great thing about the Civil Service is that nobody should know, least of all me.”
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