Boris Johnson’s aides ‘told to keep memos short’ to make sure he reads them

Boris Johnson’s aides have been told to keep memos to the Prime Minister short to ‘make sure he reads them’, it has been reported.

Officials have been told the cut the number of papers given to Mr Johnson for “weekend reading” and keep any memos that do make it into his red box to two sides of A4, according to the Sunday Times.

As floods devastated parts of the country following a series of storms, Mr Johnson has spent much of the last week at Chevening, a country house usually used by the Foreign Secretary.

He has not been seen in public since Valentine’s Day, when he held his first meeting with new cabinet ministers.

The Sunday Times reported senior aide Dominic Cummings had placed a hard cap on briefing documents added to Mr Johnson’s red ministerial box.

A source told the paper: “Box submissions have to be brief if he is going to read it. If they're overly long or overly complex, Dom sends them back with savage comments."

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The reports are reminiscent of tales which emerged in the early days of the Trump administration about officials having difficulty getting the US President to read critical documents.

Officials were said to keep briefings to a single page, and to include as many pictures, graphs and maps as possible, so as to keep President Trump’s notoriously short attention span focused.

It’s said National Security officials would also include the President’s name in the text of any paragraph that required his particular attention, because he liked to read about himself.

Environment Secretary George Eustice has defended Mr Johnson's absence from public view during the floods.

He told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the "first thing" the Prime Minister told him last week when he was appointed to the role was that there were storms incoming.

"It was agreed that I would make a visit to look at our preparedness over that weekend," Mr Eustice said.

"It's not true that the Prime Minister's not been engaged in this. From the very moment he appointed me he's been engaged. We stood up a national flood response centre and there have been daily conference calls that I've led.

"And in a cabinet Government it's not a one-man show, it's right that on certain operational things such as this that the Prime Minister will ask one of his Cabinet members to lead, I can't see anything wrong with that."

He went on to claim Mr Johnson having appeared in flood-hit areas during the election campaign, but staying away from them after he won an 80-seat majority, was because of 'purdah'.

He claimed that due to rules around election campaigns, there were "no ministers" – and that had contributed to government's response being slow.

While it's true that government departments are not allowed to make announcements during 'purdah' about any new or controversial government policies, the claim that there are "no ministers" is false. Ministers remain ministers, with full responsibility for their departments, throughout election campaigns.

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