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Boris Johnson hires former Just Eat executive who in January urged PM to quit

Boris Johnson’s new “cost of living tsar” is an online entrepreneur who recently called on the prime minister to quit and has claimed voting Tory is “a form of self-harm”.

Johnson said David Buttress, former chief executive of Just Eat, the online food delivery group, would “develop and promote initiatives that help households and families with rising costs”.

The businessman’s recent social media posts suggest he is an ardent Johnson critic.

In January, as the partygate scandal intensified following reports of Covid-19 rule-breaking gatherings in Downing Street, Buttress expressed contempt for the prime minister.

“Why is it that the worse [sic] people often rise to the highest office and stay there?” he wrote on Twitter. “Boris has to go, he just has to. You can’t survive judgment like this.”

More recently, in April this year, he attacked a Twitter post by Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, who had criticised the fact that workers in Wales received lower pay than the rest of the UK.

“The cost of decades of Westminster Conservative neglect of Wales . . . How on earth can the party of Thatcher have the audacity to tweet this?!” he wrote. “This blows my mind. Destroyed Welsh communities and the concept of society in England.”

On another occasion that month he wrote: “Voting Tory in Wales is a form of self-harm” and said Johnson’s approach to asylum-seekers who crossed the Channel in small boats was based on “prejudice, lack of common decency and humanity”.

His appointment was seized upon by the opposition Labour party, with one aide saying: “We don’t always praise Boris Johnson’s hires — but this guy seems to know what he’s talking about.”

Buttress joined Just Eat in 2006 and was chief executive from 2013 until he stepped down in 2017 from the FTSE 250 group, which connects restaurants with customers through its app and website.

He has previously called for Welsh independence from the UK, saying there was no question that the principality could “stand on its feet economically” after leaving.

Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, said Buttress had “in the past made the compelling case for Wales to set our own fiscal policy and investment agenda to lift people out of poverty. I hope he makes that case directly to the UK government in his new role.”

The businessman was appointed by Steve Barclay, a Cabinet Office minister and the Downing Street chief of staff.

The government said Buttress would encourage companies to set up schemes and targeted help for people struggling with rising bills. It cited examples such as “price-locking campaigns” at Asda and J Sainsbury and energy supplier Octopus doubling its hardship support fund.

But business groups questioned why the new role was required. Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Where’s the help for small business energy costs? Where’s the help on fuel and tax? The government’s appointment of a tsar . . . is not the answer.”

McKenzie added that the “root of consumer price rises is the surging input, utility and fuel costs that firms face — they can only absorb so much before they have to pass operating costs on”. 

Buttress, who became a millionaire during his period at Just Eat and has deleted many of his most critical tweets, did not respond to requests for comment.

Downing Street said his comments were “not relevant” to his new position. “He’s got great experience and I’m sure will help in this area,” said one official.

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