Dominic Cummings arrived home with a bottle of champagne last night after Boris Johnson ordered him to leave Downing Street for good.
After a week of turmoil, the Prime Minister told his most senior adviser to go with immediate effect in a bid to end the toxic rows at No 10.
Lee Cain, who announced his resignation as Mr Johnson’s director of communications on Wednesday after Carrie Symonds thwarted his promotion to chief of staff, was also sent home.
It was claimed last night that Mr Johnson had accused the pair of Vote Leave campaign veterans of briefing against his fiancée.
In a tense 45-minute meeting he is reported to have shown them incriminating text messages which had been forwarded to his fiancée. The explosive claims were denied by No10.
It is understood that Mr Cummings and Mr Cain will be on gardening leave until mid-December. Mr Cummings may continue to work from home to tie up loose ends, but neither man is expected back at No 10.
A Downing Street source said Mr Johnson ‘wanted to clear the air so the Government can move forward’ amid fears the Brexiteer duo would ‘poison the well’ if they were allowed to stay until the New Year.
Downing Street said that Sir Edward Lister, a long-serving adviser to Mr Johnson, would become chief of staff ‘for an interim period pending a permanent appointment to the post’.
Former chancellor Sajid Javid was last night being touted to fill the highly-coveted role which will see him back in the upper echelons of Government after resigning in February.
Although a serving MP, he is a friend of Ms Symonds and is reportedly spearheading a shift from the aggressive campaigning politics practiced by Mr Cumming’s Vote Leave faction to a more cohesive No10 operation.
Carrying a cardboard box, Mr Cummings left Number 10 for the final time by the famous black front door in full glare of the cameras before travelling back to his west London home, where he was later pictured walking in tracksuits and trainers while carrying a bag full of booze.
His departure was cheered by Tory MPs who have grown frustrated with the ‘incompetent’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, and clumsy U-turns on issues such as free school meals during the holidays.
Members of the Cabinet have also complained that they have been excluded from decisions on handling coronavirus. Some policies have been revealed to them just minutes before they were announced to the public.
One senior Tory said last night: ‘Gosh, maybe we will now get to actually fulfil our roles as Cabinet ministers.’
Dominic Cummings arrived home clutching a bag of alcohol last night after Boris Johnson ordered him to leave Downing Street for good
The Prime Minister’s chief aide chose to walk out into the full glare of the Downing Street cameras last night carrying a large cardboard box
Boris Johnson had initially offered to promote communications Lee Cain to become chief of staff. But he dropped the plan following objections from his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured with Mr Johnson)
Mr Cummings outside his west London home last night , where he was pictured in tracksuits and trainers
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving Downing Street today) is believed to want to ‘reset’ his government with a new ‘softer’ image
A painting was also seen being loaded into a van in Downing Street yesterday afternoon
‘No man has done so much harm to this country in such a short time’: How politicians reacted to Dominic Cummings’ departure tonight
Senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale: ‘I think the right thing has happened – I think it is belated. I have been saying for months that since Barnard Castle incident Dominic Cummings’ position is untenable.’
Tory former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine: ‘I can think of no man who has done so much harm to this country in so short a time. He has left a generation to pay the price of Brexit.’
Shadow Lord Chancellor David Lammy: ‘Donald Trump defeated and soon out of the White House. Vaccine breakthrough. Dominic Cummings carrying boxes out of Number 10. The crisis we are living through is catastrophic, but my god, it is good to feel hope once again.’
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron MP: ‘Cummings may have gone, but let’s never forget that the worst part of the whole Barnard Castle affair was the way Conservative ministers shamelessly lined up to defend him saying ‘it’s what any loving father would have done’, while millions made huge sacrifices by staying at home.’
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson’s senior advisers were ‘abandoning the Prime Minister like rats on a sinking ship’
Labour MP Bill Esterson joked: ‘Cummings leaving early to beat the traffic to Barnard Castle.’
Mr Cummings’ departure and the ongoing turmoil inside No 10 came as:
- Critics of all stripes lined up to cheer the departure of the maverick No10 adviser;
- There were claims in Brussels a less abrasive Number 10 could secure a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations;
- Nigel Farage said he feared the departure of Vote Leave veterans Mr Cummings and Mr Caine could result in a watered-down Brexit;
- Tory MPs cast doubt on whether Mr Johnson will lead the party into the next election amid the No10 revolt;
- Allegra Stratton, the new No10 aide to front televised press briefings, mysteriously tweeted, and then hastily deleted, a picture of former Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis, who was sacked after failing to clinch promotion;
- Scientists warned Christmas could still be at risk even though the R rate has been brought down to 1.
The Prime Minister summoned Mr Cummings and Mr Cain for a lunchtime meeting to discuss their ‘general behaviour’.
He confronted them with hostile texts which had been sent to Ms Symonds and scolded them for throwing the government into turmoil, before telling them to get out and never return, according to the Financial Times.
Vote Leave loyalists inside Number 10 reportedly refer to Ms Symonds as Princess Nut Nuts behind her back.
Mr Cummings left with a parting swipe at the PM, telling allies Mr Johnson is ‘indecisive’ and that it was often left to senior minister Michael Gove to fill the leadership vacuum, according to the Telegraph.
But he disputed accounts of a supposed confrontational meeting with the PM and told the paper the pair had ‘had a laugh’.
Despite several back exits available to him, Mr Cummings opted to leave No10 by the front door, where the press pack were positioned.
A former adviser said of Mr Cummings’ decision to leave through the front door: ‘Such an attention seeker.’
Workmen were also seen in Downing Street yesterday afternoon loading pictures into a van.
Downing Street insiders dismissed claims that Mr Cummings would be offered another key role – such as a part-time job advising on technology. A No10 source said: ‘Once you are gone, you are gone.’
Jubilant Tories reacted to the bombshell events by gloating ‘Vote Leave has left!’, while a former adviser swiped ‘goodbye and good riddance’. Senior MP Bernard Jenkin said it was an opportunity to restore ‘integrity and trust’.
Another MP said of Mr Johnson: ‘If he doesn’t start listening to backbenchers then he will gone too… the talk of the tearooms is already how soon will he be gone, and who will replace him.’
Senior Conservative backbencher Sir Roger Gale told Times Radio: ‘I think the right thing has happened – I think it is belated. I have been saying for months that since Barnard Castle incident Dominic Cummings’ position is untenable. And it’s got more untenable as he’s increasingly become the story.
‘When you’ve got a PM trying to deal with the biggest crisis since the Second World War and Brexit negotiations, to have a bunch of schoolkids squabbling in Downing Street just isn’t the solution.’
He added: ‘I would like the Prime Minister to see this as an opportunity to muck out the stable and get in the team of people he really needs and deserves behind him.’
A Government insider believed this was the most likely course of action and anticipated the PM to gut the remaining members of the Vote Leave faction.
They told the Times: ‘There will be a huge clearout. A lot of people were there only because of their relationship with Dom’.
Former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers also welcomed the ‘good opportunity for a fresh start’. Clearly there are concerns about the dismissive attitude sometimes shown by Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings,’ she added. ‘This is an opportunity to… have a more collaborative approach.’
Gavin Barwell, former chief of staff to PM Theresa May, tweeted: ‘Big moment: Boris now has an opportunity to get a more harmonious, effective Downing Street operation (like he had at City Hall); improve relations with the parliamentary party; and lead a less confrontational, more unifying government that better reflects his own character.’
Sir Edward served in Mr Johnson’s City Hall administration, but the 71-year-old will not take on the role permanently and is believed to want to soon leave Downing Street.
After a week of turmoil, the Prime Minister told his most senior adviser to go with immediate effect in a bid to end the toxic rows at No 10
The maverick chief aide is set to leave Downing Street by Christmas after a brutal reckoning that saw his closest ally Lee Cain fall on his sword, having failed to secure the key role of Mr Johnson’s chief of staff
Treasury special adviser is set for up to £100,000 settlement after she was sacked by Dominic Cummings
A Treasury aide sacked by maverick No10 chief Dominic Cummings and frogmarched out of Downing Street by police is to receive a ‘five-figure’ pay-off.
Sonia Khan was dramatically axed in August 2019 after being accused of staying in touch with people close to her former boss, Philip Hammond.
An extraordinary showdown with Mr Cummings in No10 ended up with the Chancellor’s adviser being walked out of the building, still protesting her innocence.
Mr Cummings apparently demanded to inspect both Ms Khan’s phones before immediately firing her.
In a damning slight to then Chancellor Sajid Javid, who kept Ms Khan on at No10 after taking over from Mr Hammond, he was only told after the dramatic events.
Mr Javid’s name was being floated last night, an appointment that would raise eyebrows as he only quit No11 recently after Mr Johnson backed his aide Cummings rather than his top minister in a row over advisers.
It would be rather a step down for an MP who had held one of the great Offices of State and who recently landed a lucrative second job with US bank JP Morgan.
A source close to the former chancellor said: ‘Sajid thinks getting an experienced chief of staff is a good idea, but it’s not a role he has ever been offered or considered for himself.’
But one ally of Mr Javid cast doubt on him filling the role, however they did tell MailOnline: ‘I would expect to see Saj come back into government soon though.’
Were Mr Cummings to be replaced by the former chancellor it would be revenge for the way that Mr Javid lost his ministerial role in February.
The Bromsgrove MP – who challenged Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership last year before becoming his top minister – was given an ultimatum by the PM that he must accept his political advisers being ousted and replaced by Cummings loyalists to stay in No11.
Mr Cummings had been especially furious at the Treasury over a series of briefings and leaks he blamed on ‘rogue’ operatives in No11.
Flashpoints included the Budget in March, a ‘mansion tax’ and Mr Javid’s determination to push ahead with the HS2 rail link. Instead of capitulating, Mr Javid chose to walk away and was replaced by his deputy Rishi Sunak.
There is speculation that other key aides close to Mr Cummings could choose to walk out, while Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove faces seeing his influence diminished as he has lost an important supporter in No10.
It came as one of Ms Symonds friends was tipped to fill the vacant position, if it is filled. The Telegraph reported that former chancellor Sajid Javid was being lined up for the role
Downing Street said that Sir Edward Lister, a long-serving adviser to Mr Johnson, would become chief of staff ‘for an interim period pending a permanent appointment to the post’
Mr Johnson is now believed to want to soften the government’s image and recover his reputation as a One Nation Tory, encouraged by Ms Symonds, 32, – herself an experience political operator and former head of media at CCHQ.
There is expected to be more focus on environmental issues, and a less combative stance on overhauling the civil service and BBC – issues that Mr Cummings had been championing.
There were claims in Brussels that the shift could increase the chances of the premier compromising to get a post-Brexit trade deal over the line.
But Nigel Farage warned the departure of Vote Leave campaign veterans Mr Cummings and Mr Cain could result in the Government capitulating to EU demands and delivering a watered-down Brexit.
He tweeted: ‘It is well documented that I have never liked Dominic Cummings but he has backed Brexit. Seeing him leave Number 10 carrying a cardboard box tells me a Brexit sell-out is close.’
Mr Symonds’ allies in Number 10 include Allegra Stratton, the recently appointed ex-journalist who will front White House-style press briefings.
Following Mr Cummings’s departure tonight, she tweeted, and then hastily deleted, a picture of former Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis, who was sacked after failing to clinch promotion.
However, there is renewed scepticism on his own benches over whether Mr Johnson will be in charge much longer, despite having won an historic majority at the election less than a year ago. Asked whether Mr Johnson would fight the next election, one senior MP told MailOnline: ‘Good God, no.’
Dominic Cummings, pictured in Westminster yesterday, is expected to leave his current role before Christmas
Mr Cain, an ally of Mr Cummings, quit on Wednesday night after Mr Johnson’s change of heart. He was Mr Johnson’s director of communications
The web of connections in Downing Street, which has been reeling from factional infighting during the coronavirus crisis
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday Mr Cummings ‘will be missed’, but but swiped that ‘advisers do come and go’.
Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘As he wrote right at the beginning of the year in his own words, he planned to make himself largely redundant this year with the big thing that he worked on, of course, which was Brexit, coming to an end at the end of the transition period, which is December 31.
‘Of course, the other big thing is helping to ensure we have the roll-out mass testing to defeat this virus. Both these things are on the near-term horizon now.
‘He will be missed but then again we’re moving into a different phase and Brexit will be, we’ve already left Europe, but the transition period will be over and things move on and advisers do come and go.’
Sir Bernard, chairman of the powerful Commons Liaison Committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the news represented ‘an opportunity to reset how the Government operates and to emphasise some values about what we want to project as a Conservative Party in Government’.
‘I would suggest there are three words that need to become the watch words in Downing Street – they are respect, integrity and trust.
‘Certainly in the relationship between the Downing Street machine and the parliamentary party there’s been a very strong sense that has been lacking in recent months.
‘Now we hope the Prime Minister will choose people around him who will help him restore that relationship.’
He added: ‘I’m not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his Government’s communications and crowding out the proper messages the Government wants to convey.
‘Nobody is indispensable.’
STEPHEN GLOVER: Yes, Dominic Cummings won Brexit and a thumping majority but he was a bully who took us for fools by flouting lockdown – so I’m glad he’s gone… at last Boris Johnson can be his own man
By Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail
How are the mighty fallen! Carrying a cardboard box of old junk out of the front door of No 10, a disconsolate and humiliated Dominic Cummings last night bade farewell to power for ever.
The question the nation should be asking itself this morning is whether the sudden demise of the man, until yesterday the second most powerful in the kingdom, will restore good sense to a Government which is all at sea, and stability to a Prime Minister who is stumbling from one mishap to another.
Or will the exit of this lifelong rebel and iconoclast leave a gaping hole at the top of government? For despite his many faults and errors, Cummings is a man of conviction and strong political ideas. That is why Mr Johnson appointed him 16 months ago.
One might say that Dominic Cummings has comprised half of Boris’s political brain — the wilder, though probably more ingenious, half which has led the Prime Minister into successive scrapes.
I think the answer to my question is that Cummings’s departure — which was obviously not voluntary, as he was shown the door yesterday — will give No 10 a chance to embrace sanity and discipline. The danger is that it may also expose an emptiness, and an absence of real belief.
So I raise, if not three lusty cheers, at least two and a half full-throated ones. We should be glad he has left. I don’t doubt he has some achievements but there have been many failings. One towers above all the others, and has inflicted lasting damage on the Government.
This was, of course, the 260-mile car journey from London to County Durham which he took with his wife and child at the start of the first lockdown. It was followed by a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle when he had recovered from Covid.
Both sorties were against the spirit of lockdown (whose terms Cummings helped devise) and the Barnard Castle jaunt was almost certainly a legal infringement, though Durham police chose to do nothing despite handing out penalties to other transgressors.
No sensible person believed the chief adviser’s excuse that the Barnard Castle trip was to check his eyesight before driving to London — apart from his loyal mentor Michael Gove, who idiotically declared he had ‘on occasion’ driven to test his own eyes.
As was later pointed out — though unfortunately no one raised the question during a bizarre press conference in No 10’s Rose Garden — Dominic Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield, was perfectly capable of taking the wheel for the return drive to the capital.
I don’t doubt he has some achievements but there have been many failings. One towers above all the others, and has inflicted lasting damage on the Government. This was, of course, the 260-mile car journey from London to County Durham at the start of the first lockdown. followed by a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle (pictured)
It was a lie — nothing less — and because it was excused and exonerated by a characteristically untroubled Boris Johnson, it has stained the Government’s already tattered reputation for integrity, as well as spreading the divisive message that those who rule us live by different laws.
As for the ruled, who can doubt that some of them have followed Dominic Cummings’s example, and ignored some of the regulations promulgated by No 10, thereby giving the virus a fillip?
The Prime Minister was weak — shamefully weak — in sparing his friend. Why did he do so? Partly because he is easy-going and dislikes confrontation and unpleasantness. And partly because he did not want to lose the ideas and counsel of his chief adviser.
Mr Johnson was right to recognise Cummings’s achievements. He is a brilliant campaigner — razor sharp in analysing opponents’ weaknesses, and combative and tireless in exposing them.
Without his inspired leadership of Vote Leave (though some on his own side would concede there was occasional mendaciousness) it’s possible Brexit would never have got across the line. As a Brexiteer I can’t forget that.
He was equally indispensable to the Conservative Party during last year’s election campaign. Not really being a Tory at all, and with roots that gave him a better understanding of the North than anyone else in No 10, he understood how to appeal to disenchanted Labour voters. The ‘red wall’ is, above all, his creation.
As was later pointed out — though unfortunately no one raised the question during a bizarre press conference in No 10’s Rose Garden (pictured) — Dominic Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield, was perfectly capable of taking the wheel for the return drive to the capital
Looking further back, to when Michael Gove was running the Department for Education, Cummings helped him as a special adviser to take on vested interests in the teaching unions (the ‘Blob’). He is in many respects temperamentally and intellectually closer to Mr Gove than Mr Johnson.
So, yes, he can lay claim to some successes. But his confrontational and excitable nature did not at all suit him to the business of governing once installed in No 10.
Almost everywhere he went he took strife and conflict with him. In August 2019, he summarily sacked Sonia Khan, special adviser to the then Chancellor, Sajid Javid, for alleged leaking.
The poor woman was frogmarched out of Downing Street by armed police. This week it was reported she is in line for compensation worth between £50,000 and £100,000. Why not send Dominic Cummings the bill?
Last February, he cooked Sajid Javid’s goose. The Prime Minister, egged on by his tumultuous sidekick, insisted that the Chancellor sack his entire team of political advisers. This was an ultimatum which Mr Javid could not honourably accept, and he resigned.
In the same month the Press (which Cummings seemingly disdains, along with the Tory party and perhaps Parliament itself) came in for some typical shock-and-awe treatment. This was a co-production with his Vote Leave pal Lee Cain, whose resignation on Wednesday night helped precipitate Cummings’s own departure.
Back in February, journalists deemed unsympathetic to No 10 were lined up along one wall and told they were not welcome at a briefing on the EU. Reporters who hadn’t been excluded then walked out in solidarity.
On the face of it, the friendship between Cummings and Cain is perplexing. The bullet-headed Cain, who could plausibly double as a minor assassin in any Shakespeare play in which large amounts of blood are shed, is a former red-top journalist who once dressed as a chicken to harass David Cameron.
He definitely does not share Cummings’s passion for the Greek writer Thucydides, nor his obsession with artificial intelligence. What they do have in common are happy memories of having served in the same pro-Brexit trench — and an ingrained aggression that sometimes turns into bullying.
On the face of it, the friendship between Cummings and Cain is perplexing. The bullet-headed Cain, who could plausibly double as a minor assassin in any Shakespeare play in which large amounts of blood are shed, is a former red-top journalist who once dressed as a chicken to harass David Cameron. Pictured: Lee Cain walking near Downing Street
To return to the charge sheet of Dominic Cummings’s blunders born of his confrontational nature. Time and again, when the Government has bent the rules and provoked widespread indignation, the chief adviser’s fingerprints have been visible.
He was partly behind the decision to prorogue Parliament in August 2019, even though the benefit was debatable as MPs were deprived of only five or six days of sittings. However, the brouhaha was deafening, and the Supreme Court ruled the prorogation was illegal.
More recently, Cummings’s contempt for the rule of law has been evident in clauses of the Internal Market Bill which, by the Government’s own brazen admission, would break international law. However good the cause may be, such illegal behaviour would besmirch Britain’s international reputation.
Granted, one of the chief adviser’s favourite targets — senior civil servants obstructive to change — has been well-chosen. But it seems typical of the man to make a lot of noise and then grow bored, rather than follow through with the policy in a patient manner.
His biggest scalp was that of the competent if perhaps uninspiring Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill. He was replaced by the inexperienced and underqualified Simon Case, whose virtue is that he will uncomplainingly do whatever he is told.
In his attitude to the Civil Service reform, as in much else, Dominic Cummings resembles a trigger-happy cowboy in a Western who rides into a hapless town, shoots dead a couple of people in the bar, then moves on to the next town without caring about the mess.
So you will see why I welcome the demise of this turbulent man who had too often urged Boris Johnson towards courses of action that set him against his own MPs and natural supporters.
But what comes next? However obnoxious and destructive Cummings has sometimes been, there is no doubting he has been the second most important man in the Government, and that his exit will create a political vacuum.
What we do not want are more interventions by Mr Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds. The PM’s future wife (assuming they marry) can’t be allowed to play a major role in No 10, however politically well-informed and astute she may be. Replacing a maverick adviser with a meddling fiancée would be an extremely unwise thing to do
Some say an often side-lined Cabinet should fill it. That would be an excellent idea if the Prime Minister were prepared to have by his side the strongest ministers rather than those who are merely eager to agree with him.
A Cabinet that has a place for the almost farcically miscast Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary, yet cannot find room for former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, is unlikely to carry much conviction.
What we do not want are more interventions by Mr Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds. She was on the right side in plotting the removal of Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings — which is to say on the side of Tory MPs, and sensible, grown-up government.
That said, the PM’s future wife (assuming they marry) can’t be allowed to play a major role in No 10, however politically well-informed and astute she may be. Replacing a maverick adviser with a meddling fiancée would be an extremely unwise thing to do.
We need proper Cabinet government. But we also want a more focused and disciplined Prime Minister who can act as a trustworthy and dependable leader, and is not forever chopping and changing and altering courseHis chief adviser’s exit gives Boris Johnson the opportunity to be his own man.
We will finally find out what he is really made of. Glad though I am to see the back of Dominic Cummings, I have a sense of foreboding about the future.