One of David Cameron's top aides has risked fuelling concerns about the Downing Street machine by admitting most of his time is spent on "crisis management".
Oliver Dowden, the Prime Minister's deputy chief of staff who oversees domestic policy, said he was "surprised on a day-to-day basis" by the news agenda.
The comments, in an interview with an American public broadcaster last month, emerged with No 10 under heavy fire from Tories for presentational failures and a lack of long-term strategy.
Party grandee Lord Tebbit waded into the row on Sunday by accusing the Government of incompetence over the "plebgate" controversy that forced the resignation of chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
"The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich, but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently," the peer wrote in the Observer.
Mr Dowden - nicknamed "Olive" by colleagues - said in his interview: "Most of my time is spent on day-to-day crisis management - is the term we use. We're not permanently in crisis, but dealing with the issues that arise on a day-to-day basis."
Mr Dowden admitted he was "often surprised" by the headlines on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
He added: "Of course, the first thing I do in the morning, if I'm not woken up by my very young children, I turn on the Today programme and hear what's going on. Hopefully we will have some sense of what's coming up anyway, but often you'll get surprised by what's going on..."
Asked when he was last surprised, he replied: "I'm surprised on a day-to-day basis. There is no accounting for the conduct of individuals."