A series of deeply worrying and unpleasant stories circulated Westminster yesterday concerning the conduct of Boris Johnson’s senior adviser and henchman Dominic Cummings.
According to one account, he ranted against former Tory Cabinet minister and anti-No Deal rebel Greg Clark, saying: ‘We are going to purge you.’
Another report said that Cummings ‘stank of booze’ during a confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday night, outrageously accosting the Labour leader over his refusal to agree to a snap general election, taunting him as follows: ‘Come on, Jeremy, let’s do this election. Don’t be scared!’
Dominic Cummings, pictured in Downing Street today, is masterminding the government’s Brexit strategy
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 4, 2019
Though he has only been in the No10 bunker for six weeks, there are a number of other claims about Cummings’ rudeness.
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I’ve heard accounts of him being dismissive and curt to Tory MPs and even to former Cabinet ministers. For example, he has called Theresa May’s Brexit minister David Davis ‘thick as mince’ and ‘lazy as a toad’.
He swears frequently. Most troubling, Cummings has been criticised for the way he personally fired one of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s female advisers – summoning police to help him – after he accused her of lying about her conversations with members of former chancellor Philip Hammond’s team.
It’s unsurprising that former prime minister David Cameron dubbed Cummings a ‘career psychopath’.
All this would be bad enough. But Cummings, 47, is the architect of the Johnson Government’s flawed and crumbling Brexit policy.
Dominic Cummings, Special Advisor to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves Downing Street in London, Britain, 04 September 2019
Dominic Cummings leaves No10 before Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves No10 for PMQ’s this morning
His hand can be detected in the decision to strip the whip from the 21 Tory rebels, including Father of the House Kenneth Clarke, Philip Hammond and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames.
The Cummings strategy has been to get the public to identify the Tory Government with taking Britain out of the EU and honouring the 2016 referendum – and thus making voters think that every other party is an enemy of democracy.
What he has done, though, is to unite previously disunited opposition parties into a powerful force which has seized control of the Commons.
That’s not all, his tactics have seen Johnson lose control of events and allow Corbyn to dictate whether there is to be a general election.
Cummings’ enemies have been swift to point out that he is not a member of the Tory Party – unlike great men such as Kenneth Clarke, who first stood as a Tory parliamentary candidate 55 years ago.
The new No10 rottweiler has scant respect for the Civil Service, too, denouncing some civil servants as ‘grotesque incompetents’
In other words, he’s a newcomer who has gatecrashed a great party and has become a human wrecking ball.
Indeed, he holds non-compliant Conservative MPs in contempt, having described them as ‘narcissist-delusional’.
I know Cummings quite well. In my experience, he abhors many British institutions which natural Tories are brought up to respect.
It is also worth noting his association with the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 of which he was director. For example, it was fined after breaking the EU referendum spending limit.
And Cummings was widely criticised for refusing to appear in front of a committee of MPs who wanted to ask him questions about the use of Facebook data during the campaign. The new No10 rottweiler has scant respect for the Civil Service, too, denouncing some civil servants as ‘grotesque incompetents’.
Dominic Cummings, special adviser to PM, arrives at the Cabinet Office, London
It is no wonder that Lord Kerslake, former head of the Civil Service, reacted angrily to the decision to prorogue Parliament, saying civil servants needed to examine their conscience as to whether they could support the Government’s actions. Such is the immense power and influence of a man little known outside Westminster until being hired by Johnson on his first day as PM.
Until then, Cummings’ svengali character was only known to Westminster insiders and to viewers who watched Benedict Cumberbatch play him in the Channel 4 TV film Brexit: The Uncivil War. Now, the name Dominic Cummings is on every MP’s lips.
Many are spitting blood over the behaviour of the man about whom I wrote in the Mail in the first week of August under the headline ‘Why I fear the future of Britain (and Boris) is now in the hands of an unelected svengali’. My opinion has only hardened since.
He’s never struck me as possessing a brilliant mind, despite what a small band of media sycophants claim.
The signs were always there. But the wheels came off his strategy with the Commons defeat on Tuesday night.
As a result, Johnson faces the possibility of becoming the shortest-serving Prime Minister in history.
I wish the Premier well for he is beyond question talented and charismatic. Furthermore, he showed in his first international excursion, when he met Angela Merkel last month, that he has the polished statesmanship to operate comfortably on the international stage.
But thanks to his chum Cummings, Johnson is losing MPs, friends, goodwill and public support very fast. Too fast.
If Johnson is to survive in No10, he must regain his confidence and composure and find a new way of conducting himself in office.
Above all, he must sack his boorish senior adviser without delay.
Otherwise he will be seen to sanction Cummings’ grotesque conduct.
This is because such a man, prone to bullying, is completely unacceptable in any organisation, let alone Downing Street. But his tactical blundering has been calamitous too.
Johnson urgently needs to find new advisers because he has only 56 days left to take Britain out of the EU.
Sacking Cummings, of course, would be a great humiliation for Johnson. But it would not be as fatal for him as the smashing of the Tory Party which he leads.
That looks a stone cold certainty with Cummings granted such power inside Downing Street.