Public affairs chief joins No 10 as director of legislative affairs
Exclusive: Former Bellenden lobbyist Nikki Da Costa is taking up the political post.
Theresa May has established a powerful new post in Downing Street in the latest bid to ensure that her domestic agenda is not derailed by Brexit or her failure to get a majority in the general election.
The director of legislative affairs position has been created as the prime minister could yet face a struggle to push through tricky legislation without a strong majority in the Commons.
The political role has been taken up by former Bellenden managing director Nikki Da Costa. A Conservative Party spokesperson was unable to say what the job entailed or why it had been created, but the main focus is understood to be on co-ordinating legislation in Parliament to ensure enough time for Brexit and domestic bills.
It comes as the prime minister has been accused by Labour of "rigging" Parliament by giving Tory MPs majority control of public bill committees, which scrutinise future Acts of Parliament.
By convention, bill committees should reflect the balance of power in the House of Commons. But earlier this month, the Tories pushed through a rule change that guarantees them a majority on bill committees, even though they are in a minority government propped up by the DUP.
Earlier this year, the weakened prime minister admitted that she may not be able to implement her promised crackdown on insecure and exploitative working practices. May said it would be difficult to guarantee implementing the legislation recommended by the Taylor Review without a strong majority in the Commons.
There is also uncertainty over the Conservative manifesto promise for an extra £1bn per year which depended on funding from scrapping universal free school meals for infants, a proposal now abandoned. Ministers have instead said that they are reflecting on plans for school meals and "will come forward with proposals in due course".
Da Costa started out in lobbying as a graduate trainee at Weber Shandwick. She takes the new post after leaving Bellenden (now called Newington Communications) in 2015 to set up her own business providing training to public affairs professionals.
Weber Shandwick corporate and public affairs chairman Jon McLoed said: "This shows the importance Number 10 is attaching to getting a grip on a what will be a congested legislative programme."
He added: "It’s also a great compliment to WS that one of our graduate trainees is running this important function for Theresa May."