With his neatly trimmed beard, sharp blue suit and impeccable manners, it is little wonder bespectacled Simon Case is described as the “respectable face of No 10”.
When the Cambridge-educated former royal adviser was appointed as the UK’s most senior servant last September, he was hailed as the only man in Whitehall who could rescue the Government’s erratic handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Initially seconded from Kensington Palace, where he was the Duke of Cambridge’s right-hand man, the mandarin’s promotion to Cabinet Secretary seven months ago was designed to make Downing Street less contingent on Dominic Cummings.
However, the 42-year-old father of three, described as the ‘Rolls Royce of Sir Humphreys’, found himself on Monday having to address claims made in a blog post by the former Vote Leave svengali questioning Boris Johnson’s “competence and integrity”.
Described by one former colleague as “very calm, very clever and a very clear thinker”, there arguably could not have been anyone better to go into bat for the Prime Minister as MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee threw curve balls relating to recent reports of Tory sleaze.
From enquiries about the current administration’s ongoing “chatty rat” leak investigation to questions concerning his former boss David Cameron’s relationship with billionaire Australian businessman Lex Greensill, Mr Case remained characteristically in forward defensive mode throughout.
For the Barbour jacket-wearing former securocrat has gained a formidable reputation as one of Westminster’s most slick and sophisticated operators.
Credited with modernising William and Kate’s operation, turning the Cambridges into the Royal Family’s resident troopers following Harry and Meghan’s departure, the quick-thinking doctor of philosophy has built up a wealth of experience serving under Cameron and Theresa May as well as at GCHQ and on Brexit.
Described as “patriotic to his core”, a “passionate unionist” but also “a bit of a gossip”, media savvy Mr Case has never been shy of having a quiet word with carefully-chosen journalists in a bid to spin his bosses out of trouble.
The type to relish finding solutions to complex problems others wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, the Bristol-born official is credited with “solving the Northern Ireland conundrum” while overseeing the UK-EU Partnership post Brexit.
“I never saw him get cross or lose his temper even when grappling with huge issues,” added the former colleague. “He never flapped.”
Although described as “sometimes getting on Theresa’s nerves,” he served as the former Prime Minister’s private secretary for nearly 18 months from 2016, a stint which ended with him being appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 2017.
Legend has it Mr Cameron had wanted to nominate Mr Case for a knighthood after he worked for him from 2014 to 2016 – only for the rookie to turn it down.
Mr Case was announced as William’s new private secretary in March 2018 and took up the post three months later after the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ Windsor wedding.
Little did he realise that the deteriorating relationship between the royal brothers was about to explode into a constitutional crisis, eventually leading to Harry and Meghan stepping down as senior royals less than two years later.
Cleverly forging a close partnership with the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, the most powerful aide at Buckingham Palace, Mr Case was instrumental in elevating William’s statesmanlike image, to the disquiet of Harry – who felt pushed out by four-generations of royalty photo ops he helped to engineer.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, Mr Johnson personally telephoned the second-in-line to the throne for permission to borrow his invaluable ‘Man Friday’.
Although his posting to Downing Street was initially described as a ‘secondment’, insiders both royal and political always doubted Mr Case would ever return to the palace, with his reputation for “getting things done” making an immediate impression on the Prime Minister.
He was initially appointed as Downing Street Permanent Secretary last May before replacing Sir Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary three months later.