Boris Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings left Downing Street for the last time tonight after sensationally quitting amid a power struggle with Carrie Symonds.
Carrying a cardboard box, the top Number 10 aide strolled out of the famous black door in full glare of the cameras following 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.
He was not due to leave his powerful post for more than a month, but capping a tumultuous 48 hours at the heart of Government he has now left Downing Street, reportedly after an afternoon meeting with the Prime Minister.
Sources said both he and Mr Cain will continue to be employed by the Government until mid-December, with Mr Cummings working from home on existing projects such as mass testing, in which is he heavily involved.
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 tonight 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 an ally of Ms Symonds, who is reportedly spearheading a shift from the aggressive campaigning politics practiced by Mr Cumming’s Vote Leave faction to a more cohesive No10 operation.
Mr Cummings’ 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.
One senior Tory said: ‘I’ve never been sent so many emojis of champagne and wine glasses.’
The Prime Minister’s chief aide chose to walk out into the full glare of the Downing Street cameras tonight carrying a large cardboard box
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
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 this afternoon
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
‘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:
- Politicians 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.
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 this afternoon loading pictures into a van. Mr Cummings returned to his west London home this evening.
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’.
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.’
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 not take on the role permanently and is believed to want to soon leave Downing Street
The Telegraph reported that Mr Javid was being lined up for the role, an appointment that would raise eyebrows as Mr Javid 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.’
Were Mr Cummings to be replaced by the former chancellor it would be revenge foe 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 serious 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.
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 today, is expected to leave his current role before Christmas
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 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
Who’s who in the civil war between Cummings’ Brexit Boys and the ‘Carrie Symonds crew’
Cummings pictured outside Downing Street in one of the outfits that has made him an unlikely style icon
Official title: Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister
Boris Johnson’s maverick Svengali, who gained national notoriety for his lockdown-breaking trip to Barnard Castle to ‘test his eyesight’ before a trip back to London.
The former Vote Leave director backed his former campaign staffer Lee Cain to take over as the PM’s chief of staff – prompting a bitter wrangle with Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who warned it would be a ‘mistake’.
Cummings, who is known for his acerbic demeanour and preference for hoodies and ‘slob’ style jackets over suits, eventually lost the vicious tug-of-war, prompting Cain’s resignation and speculation that he could follow.
He is known to have a difficult relationship with Symonds, with reports earlier this year suggesting she was opposed to his aggressive approach to politics and tendency to ‘pick unnecessary fights’ which could harm the PM’s image.
Mr Cummings was born in County Durham and is married to Mary Wakefield, a senior journalist with the Spectator magazine, a Tory bible that Boris Johnson once edited.
Cummings ally Cleo Watson seen outside No10
Official title: Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns
It has become a familiar ritual in Downing Street: photographers clamour to take pictures of elegant Cleo Watson as she strides towards the No 10 door with a dishevelled Dominic Cummings, the pair looking, as one wag put it, like ‘a gazelle with a pit pony’.
Watson is Cummings’ special adviser and the pair share a close relationship, with one Whitehall source describing her as ‘the Cummings whisperer’ because she is one of very few people who can calm him down when he flies into a rage.
Watson is one of five high-achieving sisters from an extraordinary family whose story could come from a Jane Austen novel. Indeed, she is the second of her siblings to work closely with a Tory leader. Her sister Annabel, 41, known as Bee, was Theresa May’s Chief of Staff.
Watson worked with Vote Leave during the 2016 EU referendum, before landing a top job in the policy unit in No 10 during May’s premiership.
She remained at the heart of Government under Johnson and now boasts the title of ‘Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns’.
Oliver Lewis is another Vote Leave member to now work in No10
Oliver Lewis (nickname ‘Sonic’)
Age: Late 20s
Official title: Brexit policy adviser
A former Vote Leave staffer, Brexit policy adviser Oliver Lewis is a close ally of Cummings – who is known to address him by the nickname ‘Sonic’.
Oxford-educated Lewis has been working closely with Michael Gove on No Deal preparations, and was inspired by Cummings’ love of science to construct an enormous spreadsheet to model difference scenarios styled on techniques used by NASA.
He has also worked closely alongside chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, and earlier this year was accused by EU sources of repeatedly trying to shut down negotiations, according to The Sun.
After backing his mentor in his quest to install Cain at the top of Downing Street, Lewis has also become embroiled in the ugly fallout following Symonds’ victory.
Reports today suggested he was also ‘seriously considering’ his position.
Carrie Symonds – seen at a Remembrance Day service in Whitehall on Sunday – has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Downing Street
Official title: NA
Boris Johnson’s fiancee and a former Conservative Party head of media, Symonds has emerged as a force to be reckoned in No10.
She is known to have a difficult relationship with Cummings and blocked his bid to install his ally Lee Cain as the PM’s chief of staff, insisting this would be a ‘mistake’ given how the campaign against the pandemic had gone so far.
A brutal stand-off ensued before Symonds emerged as triumphant – with Cain announcing his resignation and Cummings said to be also considering his position.
Symonds grew up in west London and attended Godolphin and Latymer School, an independent day school for girls, and the University of Warwick.
She worked for the Tory party from 2009, before hitting the headlines when her affair with Mr Johnson, 56, came to light.
A passionate conservationist, she had a direct impact on government policy after a badger cull in Derbyshire was called off, a move that saved thousands of the animals.
Allegra Stratton is poised to become the face of Boris Johnson’s new US-style TV press briefings
Official title: No10 Press Secretary
Allegra Stratton, the former journalist poised to become the face of Downing Street’s first US-style televised press briefings, was the cause of the power struggle that erupted.
After her appointment, she insisted she would be answerable to the PM only, not Cain. With the former Daily Mirror journalist fearing he was about to be side-lined, Boris offered him the role of chief of staff.
That’s when Stratton and her allies stepped in, determined to prevent that happening.
Stratton is a respected former journalist for the Guardian and ITV among others, and helped Chancellor Rishi Sunak craft his public image before being poached by No10.
Stratton is a fully paid-up member of the metropolitan elite who was educated at Latymer Upper School in London (fees, £21,000 a year) and studied anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge. She is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of the Spectator.
Interestingly, while Cain has been mocked for dressing as a chicken to stalk former Tory leader David Cameron in the 2010 election, footage has recently emerged of Stratton also dressed as one, dancing at a high-spirited Westminster party where veteran political pundit Andrew Neil led the conga.
Munira Mirza is the phenomenally-bright head of No10’s Policy Unit
Official title: Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit
Munira Mirza is the highly respected and phenomenally bright head of the Downing Street policy unit.
A long-time Boris aide dating back to his time as London mayor, she prefers to work away from the limelight, but is also said to have made her opposition to Cain’s appointment clear.
The Oldham-born academic is a popular figure around No10. ‘She has a huge brain but wears it lightly. Boris listens to her,’ according to one source.
Mirza’s family came to Britain from Pakistan, with her father finding work as a factory while her mother taught Urdu part time.
She attended Breeze High School and Oldham Sixth Form College, where she was the only pupil to gain a place at Oxford, where she studied English Literature.
A former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Mirza is now one of the members in Johnson’s circle, and was named by the PM as one of the five women who have shaped his life.
The chief aide had been on the brink of resigning since the departure of No 10 communications director Lee Cain on Wednesday.
But Government sources revealed he confirmed his intention to step down in a crisis meeting with Mr Johnson yesterday afternoon.
Mr Cummings as pointed to a January blog post in which he expressed a wish for his job to be ‘redundant’ by the end of the year.
But a Downing Street insider said he ‘jumped because otherwise he would be pushed soon’ amid claims his Vote Leave team were just ‘in it for themselves’.
There are claims that Mr Johnson had become increasingly frustrated with his mercurial aide in meetings, referencing his notorious round trip from London to Durham during lockdown, seeking childcare while his family were self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms.
But the Vote Leave camp have been complaining that the PM keeps changing his mind after being lobbied by Ms Symonds when he returns to their Downing Street flat at night.
‘Part of the problem is that everyone comes to an agreement then he goes upstairs to No11 at night and it all changes,’ a source in the camp told The Times. ‘He talks to Carrie, he talks to her friends, and his position moves.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said 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.’
However, there is considerable doubt on the Tory benches over whether Mr Johnson can turn the tanker.
One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that his time in office had been characterised by ‘flip flopping and lack of certainty’, while Rishi Sunak was waiting in the wings.
‘There is too much of the slightly incompetent… It’s like open mic night sometimes,’ they said.
The MP went on: ‘I think he is a bit like Gordon Brown. I want it, I’ve got it, I don’t know what to do with it. I think he’s knackered.
‘I have spoken to three Cabinet members recently, all of whom at the beginning of this session thought he would be there for 10 years. Now they say he will be there 10 months.’
The MP suggested dire Tory local and mayoral elections results in May against a ‘motivated and reinvigorated’ Labour could be a catalyst, and said the prospect of another independence referendum in Scotland – where polls suggest he is very unpopular – could also be a factor.
‘I think the PM cares passionately about the union. The destruction of the UK would pain him,’ the Tory said.
‘Johnson will either go because the party will get spooked or he will do a Harold Wilson and announce he is stepping down.’
A well-connected Tory peer told MailOnline: ‘I’ve have always fallen into the category that he wouldn’t fight the next election.
‘He is not that kind of person. He has a short attention span. I just can’t see him wanting to carry on. It’s just not in his style.
‘He has done the thing he wanted to. I think he will recognise the difficulties and certainly the views of MPs in the north at the moment, and certainly the Scots.’
They added that Mr Johnson had so far benefited from practical difficulties in plotting against him, but that would change if the pandemic eases.
‘The one piece of luck he has had from the coronavirus is that MPs can’t sit and talk to each other in Parliament,’ the peer said.
For 16 months Mr Cummings has pulled the levers of power at the heart of Government as Mr Johnson’s most influential adviser – but he has also been accused of ‘looking like a bully’ at times.
His departure, and that of his fellow Vote Leave campaign veteran Mr Cain, will clear the stage for a more consensus driven approach with a focus on green issues championed by Ms Symonds.
Mr Johnson is now said to be looking towards life after Mr Cummings and building a ‘more liberal, global Britain’.
A senior Tory told The Times: ‘He [Mr Johnson] has been frustrated at the way these guys have operated at times. They can do things in stupid ways’.
Another said of Mr Cummings’ abrasive style: ‘There is an acknowledgement that we need to reset relationships’.
But there will be concern that the change could see some major shifts in the government’s core policies.
Mr Cummings has pushed for civil service reform, condemning the lack of expertise among officials and allegedly threatening a ‘hard rain’ to shake things up.
He has also been an advocate for an overhaul of the shambolic defence procurement system, as well as radical changes to the BBC, its governance and funding model.
Senior figures in Brussels have been gloating today that the news could be the start of a climdown to get a post-Brexit trade deal.
Talks between the two sides are deadlocked, with less than a week to get an agreement in place so it can be ratified before the end of the transition period on January 1.
But No10 flatly denied there was any change in approach today.
‘Absolutely not. That is simply false,’ the PM’s spokesman said. ‘The government’s position in relation to the future trade agreement negotiations is unchanged.’
Before confirmation of Mr Cummings’ exit emerged late last night, his allies were already predicting he was preparing to follow Mr Cain out the door once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
A source said: ‘This will loosen Dom’s grip on government and hasten his departure.
‘He wants to get Brexit over the line, get over the hump of the pandemic and get one or two of his pet projects locked in. Once that is done, he won’t hang around.’
Mr Cummings had pushed for Mr Cain to be promoted to the role of chief of staff as he did not want the job himself, but the move was understood to have been opposed by Ms Symonds.
Mr Cummings made a last-ditch attempt to elevate another ally, Cleo Watson, to the post, but this was also slapped down by the PM, according to Times Radio.
The chief aide has not explicitly confirmed he has resigned and told the BBC: ‘Rumours of me threatening to resign are invented.’
However when pressed if he was planning to step down by Christmas, he said: ‘My position hasn’t changed since my January blog.’
The blog post, which gained attention for its clarion call for ‘weirdos and misfits’ to apply for Government jobs, said: ‘We want to improve performance and make me much less important — and within a year largely redundant.’
That Mr Cummings steered attention towards these remarks last night was interpreted as a strong signal of his intention to soon step down.
His departure will loosen the grip of the Vote Leave faction of advisers inside Number 10.
Mr Johnson is believed to have been deeply unimpressed by briefings and backroom scheming by Mr Cumming’s allies over the past couple of days and will use the shake-up of his top team to drop the aggressive style adopted by the Vote Leave campaign.
He hopes to use televised briefings to ‘reset’ the Government’s image after a bruising year.
It will also usher in a more ‘liberal’ agenda to be implemented after the pandemic.
A Downing Street source told the Times the PM was looking ahead to ‘build liberal, global Britain’.
No10 had earlier dismissed claims that Mr Cummings will quit next year as ‘speculation’.
But in the wake of his departure other senior figures are on ‘resignation watch’, including Ms Watson, Oliver Lewis – known as ‘Sonic’ – and data guru Ben Warner.
A source last night said that while Brexit envoy Lord Frost was unhappy about Mr Cain’s departure, he would not be quitting as talks with Brussels enter their final stages.
The departure of Mr Cain follows the appointment of a new press secretary to the Prime Minister.
Allegra Stratton will begin to carry out daily US-style televised media briefings on Mr Johnson’s behalf in the New Year.
But she was not Mr Cain’s pick, instead having apparently been directly approached by the PM, despite not applying for the job. Eager to secure a change in tone from the government, Ms Stratton is said to have demanded that she reports directly to Mr Johnson rather than his director of communications.
Fearing that would leave him sidelined, Mr Cain offered to resign last week.
Mr Johnson urged him to stay on, having come to rely on the former tabloid journalist – whose previous jobs include dressing as a chicken to follow David Cameron on the campaign trail.
On Monday evening the Prime Minister offered Mr Cain the vacant job of Downing Street chief of staff.
Who else could follow Cummings out the door?
Many of the most senior figures in Downing Street owe their loyalty to Dominic Cummings from Vote Leave days.
Lee Cain’s resignation on Wednesday night had already caused deep frustration.
And there are fears that some could follow Mr Cummings out of the door now he has signalled his departure.
They include advisers Cleo Watson, Oliver Lewis – known as ‘Sonic’ – and data guru Ben Warner.
A source has said that while Brexit envoy Lord Frost was unhappy about Mr Cain’s departure, he has no intention of quitting as talks with Brussels enter their final stages.
The move was backed by both Mr Cummings and the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, who argued that Mr Cain had been fulfilling part of the role for months.
However, news of the appointment was leaked to the Mail – prompting a furious backlash from senior Tories, who feared it would further embolden a Vote Leave faction contemptuous of the role of MPs.
Crucially, it also encountered the wrath of Ms Symonds, who dislikes Mr Cain’s abrasive style. She told her fiancé it would be a ‘mistake’ to give him a promotion.
As news of the row behind the scenes became public, Mr Cain decided his role was untenable.
He will stay in post until the end of the year, when he will be replaced as director of communications by former Mail journalist James Slack, currently Mr Johnson’s official spokesman. However, unlike Mr Cain, who was a political appointment, he will remain a civil servant.
Tory MPs warned Mr Johnson that the chaos in No 10 was undermining public confidence in the Government.
Sir Roger Gale said it was ‘extraordinary and unacceptable that Downing Street should allow itself to be distracted by internal squabbles’ in the midst of a pandemic.
He added: ‘Frankly this is a distraction… the Prime Minister has got to get a grip on it.’
Other MPs urged Mr Johnson to ditch his special adviser.
One said: ‘If they have got rid of one of the Kray brothers they have got to get rid of Cummings as well. To use a well-known phrase, Boris should take back control and be the real Boris that so many of his genuine friends and supporters believe he can be.’
The Prime Minister also faced questions over Ms Symonds’ role in Downing Street.
‘The question on everyone’s lips is ”who will she go after next”… it looks like senior appointments now have to be approved by Carrie,’ an insider said.
‘That is a dangerous path for the Government to go down.’
Another adviser said the episode reflected poorly on the Prime Minister. ‘It is disappointing that he has failed to return the loyalty of his most loyal lieutenant when the going got tough,’ they said.
‘It begs the question – who is making the decisions now?’
Treasury special adviser Sonia Khan is set for up to £100,000 settlement with the government after she was sacked by Dominic Cummings and marched by armed police out of Downing Street
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.
There has been a huge exodus of advisers from Whitehall since Mr Johnson installed Mr Cummings as his chief aide, with sweeping powers to mobilise the government machine to secure Brexit.
One former adviser told MailOnline at the time that Mr Cummings increasingly ‘looks like a bully’, and said his conduct raised questions for the PM.
Ms Khan had earned a reputation as a good operator in Westminster since joining Mr Hammond in 2018. She previously worked for ex-Cabinet minister Liam Fox and the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group.
Describing the row as ‘pathetic’, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘We’re all worried about our health and families, we’re all worried about our jobs… and this lot are squabbling behind the door of No 10.’
Ministers have been harshly criticised for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has included a string of U-turns on everything from A-levels to free school meals.
Mr Cummings himself hit the headlines in May, when he was forced to hold a press conference to justify his decision to drive more than 260 miles to Durham during the first national lockdown.
It comes as yesterday Tories were predicting Cummings could be next out of the Downing Street door today after an extraordinary civil war erupted in public – threatening to derail Boris Johnson’s desperate struggle to control coronavirus.
There are also claims that Allegra Stratton, Downing Street’s new on-screen press secretary, and senior aide Munira Mirza fought the move, while there had been a huge mutiny from Tory backbenchers angry about lockdown policies and a series of humiliating U-turns on issues such as free school meals during school holidays.
It would have meant the PM’s core circle being exclusively male.
Labour has seized on the shambolic scenes, saying No10 officials were like ‘rats in a sack’ and behaving ‘pathetically’ when the country was trying to navigate the worst crisis in generations.
Ms Stratton was said to have only agreed to take the job if she reported directly to the PM, not Mr Cain – leaving him feeling ‘wholly undermined’.
Mr Cain apparently opposed her appointment and the pair had not spoken since she arrived in the role a fortnight ago.
There had been a vicious response when it emerged Mr Cain was in the frame for the top job yesterday, with angry politicians sniping that it was a case of ‘Cain not able’ and another minister saying ‘WTF?!’
In his resignation statement, Mr Cain confirmed he had been offered the powerful post – which allies insisted was ‘basically what he does anyway’ – but after ‘careful consideration’ would be leaving at the end of the year.
He said: ‘After careful consideration I have this evening resigned as No 10 director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year.
‘It has been a privilege to work as an adviser for Mr Johnson for the last three years – being part of a team that helped him win the Tory leadership contest, secure the largest Conservative majority for three decades – and it was an honour to be asked to serve as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.’
There are also claims that Allegra Stratton, Downing Street’s new on-screen press secretary, opposed the appointment
Who could take Dom’s mantle as the PM’s chief aide?
Dominic Cummings’ departure will leave a huge hole at the top of government.
Here are some of the runners and riders to become the PM’s new chief aide.
Credited as the mastermind of the 2019 election rout, the Australian used to work for key Boris Johnson ally Sir Lynton Crosby.
However, he is lucratively working the private sector and might not be seen as the best candidate to reconnect with Tory MPs.
Another highly-respected policy brain, Ms Mirza has worked with Mr Johnson for a long time and would command considerable support from many Conservatives who believe she has good instincts.
The choice of many senior MPs and another product of the Lynton Crosby political machine, he is a Conservative activist and seen as a solid Brexiteer.
The former Spad was drafted in as a major player in the election, and is regarded as a skilled operator.
But he has a very successful consultancy business, and his background with Vote Leave might weight against him given the apparent desire for a ‘reset’.
He also paid a glowing tribute to Mr Johnson’s ‘loyalty and leadership’ and thanked his colleagues at Number 10.
In response to the resignation, Mr Johnson said: ‘I want to thank Lee for his extraordinary service to the Government over the last four years.
‘He has been a true ally and friend and I am very glad that he will remain director of communications until the new year and to help restructure the operation. He will be much missed.’
The former journalist will serve until the end of the year when he will be replaced by the PM’s official spokesman, James Slack.
In a round of interviews this morning, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick desperately tried to play down the situation, insisting the government’s focus was still on the deadly pandemic.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s understandable that journalists, in particular, will be interested in the personalities of who works as advisers within Number 10 Downing Street.
‘But the Prime Minister runs the Government.
‘He is surrounded by a good team, a strong team of advisers, and, of course, the Cabinet.
‘Our sole focus in Government is trying to steer the country through the pandemic.’
He told Sky News: ‘At the end of the day, this is one individual.
‘The Prime Minister runs the Government.’
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – Mr Cummings’ former boss and still a close ally – was challenged in the Commons over whom he sided with in the extraordinary spat.
SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Pete Wishart said the ‘faceless characters who actually run this country in Number 10 are at each other’s throats’.
Mr Wishart asked: ‘Whose side is he on – Dom’s or Carrie’s?’
Mr Gove replied: ‘I’m on the side of people from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth who voted to leave the European Union, who want us as a United Kingdom to make a success of these new opportunities (Brexit).
‘I know the Scottish Government is a total stranger to behind-the-scenes intrigue and briefing wars, so I can imagine his shock and amazement to see things reported in the newspapers.’
Mr Gove said the Government continues to make decisions in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mr Cain’s departure will be a ‘loss to the Government’.
He told MPs: ‘May I just say what a fantastic public servant he has been, somebody instrumental in ensuring the Vote Leave campaign was successful and somebody who has made a huge contribution to this Government.’
The cordial statements from Mr Cain and Mr Johnson masked disarray at the heart of government, with warring factions competing for influence in Downing Street.
Mr Cummings, who has stuffed the corridors of Number 10 with old Vote Leave allies, was initially thought to be considering his position but has resolved to stay in Government, the BBC reported.
That Mr Cain’s promotion was backed by Mr Cummings is one reason it caused such hostility among MPs.
Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer was said to have been ‘inundated’ with messages from MPs urging him to intervene with the PM to try to block Mr Cain’s appointment.
One former minister had warned that allowing No 10’s Vote Leave faction to tighten its grip would be a ‘nail in the coffin’ of Mr Johnson’s Government.
Multiple sources said Ms Symonds, 32, had intervened to try to block the appointment.
One said: ‘Carrie has had her own run-ins with Lee, but she’s also been pressured by MPs to stop this.
‘You have to remember she is a former director of communications for the party and has good relations with a lot of senior MPs.
Munira Mirza (pictured left), 42, the highly respected head of the Downing Street policy unit is also thought to have been against the promotion. James Slack (right) is set to become the new director of communications
That Lee Cain’s promotion was backed by Mr Cummings, whose close relationship with Mr Cain is one reason it caused such hostility among MP
Mr Cain, a Vote Leave campaign veteran who has served Mr Johnson since his stint at the Foreign Office, will be replaced as director of communications by James Slack, the prime minister’s official spokesperson
How PM’s bullish state-educated ‘Scouser’ Lee Cain and his ‘lad gang’ clashed with Carrie and her inner-circle
He’s the state-educated ex-journalist who once dressed as a chicken to chase David Cameron around the country but went on to be his successor’s media supremo.
Lee Cain is a rare everyman figure in the blue-blooded hierarchy of Old Etonian Boris Johnson‘s No 10 operation before his decision last night to quit as director of communications.
His rise to become one of a limited number of people with the Prime Minister’s ear was stark but he was a divisive figure whose brash style saw him make enemies among Tory politics’ more well-heeled operators.
Mr Cain, who grew up in Ormskirk, a town in West Lancashire close to Liverpool, has developed a reputation as an ardent Brexiteer and helped forge Mr Johnson’s tough stance last year which saw him controversially prorogue parliament in an attempt to prevent pro-Remain MPs blocking a no-deal departure.
He was a key member of a coterie of Vote Leave ‘lads’ installed at the heart of Downing Street when Mr Johnson took power in the summer of 2019.
Having successfully started Britain down the road to leaving the EU by winning the 2016 referendum, the hardcore of the brains behind the Brexiteer organisation fronted by Mr Johnson followed him into No10.
The hardcore of the group was a male quartet; Dominic Cummings, Cain, Oliver Lewis and Rob Oxley, aka Dom, Caino, Sonic and Roxstar.
With a game plan of completely shaking up the internal operations of Downing Street, they formed an inner circle that has been accused of throttling access to the Prime Minister and gaining almost total control over the levers of power.
This set them on a collision path with ministers and MPs, as well as other advisers, especially as Brexit and then the coronavirus pandemic threatened to overwhelm the Government.
And eventually they came together to force him out last night. And the Ormskirk Grammar and Stafford University graduate was apparently forced out by a group including Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s privately-educated fiancee.
‘She has told the PM giving Lee the job would be a mistake – she’s just been trying to stop him doing something stupid that would damage the Government.’
Another friend told the Times: ‘She knows he runs the operation in an uncollegiate way where few people can get to him.
‘There’s not a diversity of opinion, he is not getting good advice. His top advisers are running him into the ground.’
The appointment was also said to be opposed by other senior women in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson’s policy chief Munira Mirza and incoming press secretary Allegra Stratton. Allies of Priti Patel insisted she had not been involved this week, despite claims she urged against the move.
Election guru Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded Mr Johnson’s mayoral victories in London, was also said to have told the Prime Minister to think again.
In another layer of intrigue, No10 is in the middle of a frantic hunt for the ‘chatty rat’ who leaked news of the blanket lockdown for England before a final decision had been taken.
The leak at the end of last month infuriated Mr Johnson, who had wanted to take a few days more to consider whether the draconian measures were necessary. Instead he was forced to summon a Saturday night press conference to confirm what was going to happen.
There are suggestions that ministers have now been ruled out of the formal Cabinet Office inquiry, with advisers in the crosshairs.
Leading Tory backbenchers said there had been long-standing concerns about the Downing Street operation.
Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think there has been unhappiness about the Number 10 operation for some time.
‘Members of Parliament have felt excluded from the decision-making process, and that’s no secret.
‘The real opportunity here is for the chief of staff position to be filled by someone who has good links with the Conservative Party and its representation in the House of Commons.’
Former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry – a long-term ally of Mr Johnson who fell out of favour earlier this year – said the PM Johnson was ‘stamping his Johnsonian authority’ on Downing Street.
The Rossendale and Darwen MP told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘The departure of Lee Cain does show, I think, that the Prime Minister is taking back control of his government.
‘He’s moving from a campaigning operation to an operation solely focused on good government. I think it’s a good move for the Prime Minister.
‘As we go past that grim milestone, as you say, of 50,000 deaths from this appalling disease, it’s high time, I think, that there was a bit of a change of guard in Number 10.’
Asked about Ms Symonds being opposed to Mr Cain’s promotion, Mr Berry said: ‘I have been in touch with people in the building, that’s not actually completely my understanding of what has happened.’
He said Mr Johnson had a ‘renewed sense of mission’, adding: ‘I think this is a good sign that he is moving away from just being a campaigning government, coming out of the general election, and then the Covid crisis, and really stamping his Johnsonian authority across the Number 10 operation.’
Sir Roger Gale said Mr Cummings was a ‘liability’ and the PM needed a chief of staff in ‘big boy pants’.
The veteran MP said: ‘The Government, and Downing Street particularly, should be concentrating all of its efforts on the pandemic and on the end game of Brexit, and frankly this is a distraction that cannot and should not be allowed to take place, and the Prime Minister has got to get a grip on it.
Is Gove now out in the cold? Loss of Cummings leaves Boris Johnson’s old ‘frenemy’ short of allies
Boris Johnson’s old political ‘frenemy’ Michael Gove is looking increasingly isolated today after the resignation of Dominic Cummings, one of his closest and oldest allies.
Mr Cummings and the Cabinet Office Minister have a long history of working together across Government and, perhaps most crucially, as the brains behind the Vote Leave Campaign in 2016.
But the decision last night by the No10 Svengali to jump ship after losing a political power battle around the Prime Minister leaves Mr Gove short of friends in Government.
His relationship with Mr Johnson is a complex one – with the Surrey Health MP having been promoted when the PM took power in July 2019.
He gave the former Education and Environment Secretary a powerful role – especially on Brexit -despite the former journalist stabbing him in the back in his 2016 leadership bid, announcing his own challenge while running Mr Johnson’s charge at the top spot.
Mr Gove, who was brought back into the Cabinet by Theresa May, then ran against Mr Johnson again for the party leadership in the summer of 2019, but again failed to make the final run-off.
With No10 now firmly in the hands of Johnson loyalists and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, the Cabinet Secretary has lost a key plank of his quiet power base.
‘For my money Cummings is a liability and what the Prime Minister needs and deserves is a first-rate chief of staff who is a serious heavyweight, I think the expression currently in use is big boy pants.’
Guto Harri, who worked with Mr Johnson at City Hall, said it was an opportunity for a ‘reset’ to when he was one of the most popular politicians in the country.
‘It’s a chance for a government that is more professional… and far less aggressive and tribal than it has been.’
Mr Cain has been one of Mr Johnson’s most trusted advisers, having been by his side since 2017 when he left Theresa May’s Downing Street operation to work with him at the Foreign Office.
When Mr Johnson quit Mrs May’s Cabinet over Brexit in 2018, Mr Cain continued working with him.
He then helped run his leadership campaign before joining his Government as director of communications.
The two men also worked together during the Brexit referendum in 2016, when Mr Cain was a press officer at the Vote Leave campaign masterminded by Mr Cummings and led by Mr Johnson and Michael Gove.
Last year he ordered ministers to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today programme because of perceived bias. The ban was only lifted when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Mr Cain has also imposed a boycott of ITV’s Good Morning Britain that has lasted for more than six months.
This year he sparked a walkout by political journalists after he banned reporters from news outlets deemed unfriendly from attending a No10 briefing with officials.
Mr Cain has developed a reputation as an ardent Brexiteer and helped forge Mr Johnson’s tough stance last year which saw him controversially prorogue parliament in an attempt to prevent pro-Remain MPs blocking a no-deal departure.
But this year it emerged he saw the Vote Leave job as a route into politics rather than a vocation.
A former colleague from his time as a journalist told PR Week: ‘He told me: ‘I just want to get into politics. I’ve applied for two jobs and I’ve got one of them.
‘I’ve applied for head of broadcast for Remain and head of broadcast for Leave. If this ever comes out I’ll be in a lot of trouble’.’
What’s next for the Svengali of No 10? ‘Career psychopath’ Dominic Cummings could make millions as a consultant or by penning a tell-all book after his tumultuous spell as PM’s top aide comes to an end
But he quit after eight months in frustration at his boss’s ‘incompetent’ leadership. Cummings then led the successful 2004 campaign against the establishment of a North-East regional assembly, winning with 78 per cent of the vote.
He was appointed special adviser to Conservative politician Michael Gove in the Department of Education from 2007, before being dismissed by David Cameron, who once referred to Cummings as a ‘career psychopath’, in 2014.
He quickly became known for his blunt style and his criticism of other senior politicians, once referring to Nick Clegg’s proposal on free school meals as ‘Dreamed up on the back of a cigarette packet’.
In 2012, during his time as special adviser to Mr Gove, a senior female civil servant received a payout of £25,000 in a bullying case she took against Cummings and a senior member of Gove’s team.
When Mr Gove became Education Secretary, the pair ran the department as an autonomous wing of the Government, re-designing curriculums, planning more academies and setting up free schools.
From 2015, Cummings was the power behind the Vote Leave campaign that propelled Britain towards backing Brexit in 2016.
He first emerged as a public figure during the campaign, coming up with the winning slogan Take Back Control.
While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were in the limelight the 47-year-old remained in the shadows pulling the strings. He over saw a campaign that totally outflanked Remain and which is widely credited with leading to the 52-48 result in favour of quitting.
Such was his central role he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War. In the 2020 revival of Spitting Image, he is portrayed ‘as a creepy alien with a pulsating head who drools at the prospect of eating Boris Johnson’s baby’.
Mr Cummings was appointed as Johnson’s key No 10 official when he became PM in July 2019, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories.
For Johnson, ambitious to use Brexit to revolutionise and modernise Britain, having a rule-breaker on board was vital.
Johnson’s initial offers to Cummings to join him in Downing Street were rejected. So Johnson cycled across Islington in North London to Cummings’s home to hear what he described as a list of ‘terrorist demands’.
Johnson quickly conceded and once he became PM, made Cummings his key staffer.
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street in May before contracting Covid-19
Ever the strategist, Cummings placed himself in the corner of the hall in No 10 so he would be filmed by the cameras as Boris Johnson made his triumphant first entry after seeing the Queen.
As Cummings intended, many Tory Brexiteers were horrified. ‘If we’d known that Cummings would come,’ said Bill Cash, ‘it would have caused a lot of angst. I was against Vote Leave because of Cummings.’
When Tory MP Greg Clark, a Remainer, called Cummings to discuss a truce, he was told: ‘When are you f****** MPs going to realise, we are leaving on 31 October? We are going to purge you!’
Cummings’s priority was to Get Brexit Done. Britain, as his boss pledged, would be out of the EU by October 31, 2019. ‘Nothing will stand in the way of that,’ he vowed.
In the crash-and-burn tactics devised by him, the No 10 svengali was happy to see a political and constitutional crisis if it achieved a disorderly Brexit, and then hold a General Election to win a Tory majority under the banner of ‘People v Parliament’.
What followed was Cummings’s high-risk strategy of Johnson controversially proroguing Parliament, 21 Tory MPs losing the whip and others in open conflict with Downing Street.
In a blog, he dubbed the fervently anti-EU European Research Group ‘narcissist delusionals’ and ‘useful idiots’ whose intransigence ‘has helped only Remain’.
‘During the referendum, so many of you guys were too busy shooting or skiing or chasing girls to do any actual work,’ he added.
‘You should be treated like a metastasising tumour and excised from the UK body politic.’
With Cummings urging Johnson ‘Hold your nerve’, the tactics paid off. Britain left the EU – and the Tories won their biggest Commons majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1983.
Since his return to frontline politics, Cummings has had civil servants in his cross hairs, from proposals to abolish the Department for International Development, to axing the Justice Department and removing procurement responsibilities from the Ministry of Defence.
And every one of his utterances, blog-postings or tweets has been pored over by a Whitehall contemptuous of his determination to ‘professionalise’ the advice given to ministers.
Last year he posted a bizarre job advert in which he calls for ‘super-talented weirdos’ to apply to work at Number 10.
Writing on his personal blog, Mr Cummings sets out plans for a Downing Street shake-up in which maths and physics PhDs would mingle with ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’ and people who ‘fought their way out of appalling hell holes’.
Mr Cummings warns recruits that he will ‘bin you within weeks if you don’t fit’, adding: ‘Don’t complain later because I made it clear now.’
Cummings has demanded personal loyalty from every political assistant. ‘If you don’t like how I run things,’ he shouted at one meeting, ‘there’s the door. F*** off!’
Some were sacked. One was Sonia Khan, a Treasury media adviser, who was escorted by armed police from Downing Street after a confrontation with Cummings over her contact with those close to the former chancellor Philip Hammond.
She is set for a £100,000 payout, it was reported today.
David Cameron branded him a ‘career psychopath’ after an interview in which Cummings shredded the competence of the Department of Education while blaming a Tory PM who ‘bumbles from one shambles to another without the slightest sense of purpose’.
He was even ruder about Cameron’s aides, calling spin doctor Sir Craig Oliver ‘just clueless’ and describing chief of staff Ed Llewellyn ‘a classic third rate suckup, kick-down sycophant presiding over a shambolic court’. He was no kinder to Tory MPs; former Brexit secretary David Davis was ‘thick as mince’.
Mr Cameron was asked about Mr Johnson’s top aide in September and said: ‘I did sack him twice but he kept coming back. We didn’t necessarily hit it off but he’s a man of great, I mean he’s very clever, he is very able.’.
Carrie Symonds holds the ‘real power in No 10’, body language experts say: ‘Dishevelled’ Boris Johnson ‘lacks any authority’ while his fiancée is ‘by far the most confident’ and watches him like a ‘naughty schoolboy’
Analysis of pictures and videos of the couple have shown a switch of authority between the pair, according to body language and relationship experts.
One told MailOnline today ‘It’s as if the power balance in their relationship has reversed, which may well be spilling into Boris’s professional decision making as well’.
The stunning role switch was laid bare by a influence struggle in the heart of Downing Street last night as Ms Symonds apparently ‘vetoed’ key aide Lee Cain’s appointment as chief of staff and he resigned.
It was a far cry from the impression given at her earlier appearances with Mr Johnson, where she appeared less confident and deferred to her older partner.
And back on July 2019 when she lined up outside Downing Street with staff to welcome the new PM there was little hint of the power she would grow to wield.
But the couple’s more recent video together for an awards ceremony showed him ‘keeping an eye on him’ and displaying strength as he looked ‘like a naughty child’.
His run-down appearance at the recent Remembrance Day ceremony also sounded alarm bells.
Carrie Symonds has risen to hold ‘real power in No 10’ while her Prime Minister fiancé Boris Johnson has become ‘dishevelled and lacking in any signals of dignity or authority’, body language experts have said. ‘Carrie’s fingers appear to have a strong, determined grip’ which was a gesture of ownership while Boris’s hand was clawed in ‘what looks like tension’
Body language expert Judi James said: ‘Carrie’s almost victorious-looking, closed-lip beam direct to the camera, which she holds with her eyes, registers increased confidence’
She said that Mr Johnson’s hand is ‘clawed in what looks like tension’, adding that his part-smile ‘suggests decreased confidence’
Boris Johnson looked ‘dishevelled and lacking in any signals of dignity or authority’, experts say
Body language expert Judi James told MailOnline: ‘Dishevelled and lacking in any signals of dignity or authority, Boris sat slumped and looking physically awkward in his seat with one hand placed randomly on the side of the chair and his toes pointed inward like a small schoolboy.
‘His grave demeanor and reflective, downcast gaze was appropriate for the occasion but he appeared physically uncomfortable, with no obvious signals of high status or leadership.
‘Walking together with Carrie a few days earlier we were shown probably the first body language signals of their status as a couple as she confidently grabbed his arm and he reciprocated by bending his own.
‘Carrie’s fingers appear to have a strong, determined grip here is a gesture of ownership while Boris’s hand is clawed in what looks like tension.
‘Boris’s part-smile suggests decreased confidence while Carrie’s almost victorious-looking, closed-lip beam direct to the camera, which she holds with her eyes, registers increased confidence and a far more assured air than usual.’
Behavoural and dating psychologist Jo Hemmings said: ‘What I think is so intriguing in their evolving relationship, is that while Carrie’s influence and confidence seems to have grown during their time together, Boris is much less self-assured.
‘It’s as if the power balance in their relationship has reversed, which may well be spilling into Boris’s professional decision making as well.’
Carrie Symonds was ‘gazing like a slightly doting but firm mother’, ‘the stronger of the two’
The video was said to have shown ‘a strange looking relationship’ with ‘power signals from her’
Ms Symonds was said to have discarded her ‘ previously demure, slightly boho look for a bold green dress’
The new status quo was becoming evident in a video recorded for the Pride of Britain awards two weeks ago.
There Ms Symonds and Mr Johnson praised NHS frontline heroes, who saved his life when he contracted Covid-19.
But it featured a number of scrutinising looks from her to him as he spoke, as well as a number of unusual exclamations of the PM declaring ‘exactly right’ and ‘correct’.
Judi said: ‘She was gazing at him like a slightly doting but firm mother – she looks like the stronger one of the two
‘She was keeping an eye on him, that he was the naughty schoolboy and she was giving a ‘behave yourself’ eye on him.
‘It was a strange looking relationship, but the power signals definitely come from her.
‘I think what we misunderstand with Carrie because she looks younger than him, I think we underestimate her intellect in terms of politics and maybe her own ambitions and maybe her workplace power.
‘I think we are used to seeing PM’s wives smiling innocently, with Carrie I think the body language shows she has got real power in Number 10.’
Ms Hemmings said the video showed Ms Symonds was uncomfortable and the climax of the change in power of the pair.
She said: ‘Carrie looks by far the most confident of the two, discarding her previously demure, slightly boho look for a bold green dress and a couple of elegant necklaces.
‘She seems to be looking at Boris, with a frown that is willing him to get through this informal chat without saying anything inappropriate or stumbling. Her rather defensive gesture of holding her arm nearest to Boris with her other hand, also reveals that she is not totally happy with this scenario.
‘Boris looks much more uncomfortable here and also gives over a sense that this piece of filming just feels awkward for him. He seems more deferential to a rather glowing Carrie, rather than the other way around. Seemingly quite the reverse of the power dynamics between them only a year or so ago.’
The couple enthusiastically clapped their hands while applauding key workers but both were looking in different directions for most of the short appearance
This was the first time they had been seen together since the birth of their son Wilfred and after the PM had been treated for coronavirus
At one point Ms Symond’s gaze was completely focused outside the Downing Street gates
In May they appeared again for a similar theme, applauding key workers on the weekly public outpouring of gratitude.
This was the first time they had been seen together since the birth of their son Wilfred and after the PM had been treated for coronavirus.
They enthusiastically clapped their hands but both were looking in different directions for most of the short appearance.
Judi said of the moment: ‘Our first sightings of Boris and Carrie together after Boris went into No 10 suggested the kind of ‘High status alpha male and submissive female’ double act body language signals that we normally see when a royal male first appears with his bride-to-be or even from Donald and Melania when he first took over as President.
‘Boris often looked almost oblivious of Carrie, who would been seen walking in his wake and the only real rituals of togetherness came from Carrie, with little or no reciprocation of any touch or attempt to hold hands.’
Ms Hemmings said it had looked like two completely unconnected people standing outside.
She added: ‘When they first clapped for carers, they stood some distance apart and she barely looked at her fiancée.
Of course, she was not applauding him, but staff NHS, nevertheless, I would have perhaps expected her to behave as if they were a more united couple, clapping together, whereas it looked more like two individuals clapping in front of that famous black door.’
In their earlier appearances Ms Symonds was said to ‘dress in the style of a royal wife like Kate’
A body language expert said ‘Boris often looked almost oblivious of Carrie’ early on this year
The expert said Ms Symonds gave a ‘caring glance, but let him be in the main spotlight’
Another earlier appearance saw the pair on March 9 at a Commonwealth Service in Westminster.
Judi said: ‘Carrie even dressed in the style of a royal wife like Kate, with demure, long floral-print dresses.
‘Initially it looked a bit like she was eclipsed by him with him the alpha male at the front.
‘He used to ignore her basically and she would be the one that used to try and make contact. She looked very submissive to start with.’
Ms Hemmings said the couple looked more like Mr Johnson was the focus in this earlier outing.
She added: ‘Carrie is looking a little happier and supportive of Boris, yet still keeping a rather nervous and deferential distance from her partner.
‘She is giving him a caring glance, but letting him still clearly be in the main spotlight of events.’
One expert said Ms Symonds had looked like a ‘member of staff’ when the PM first arrived
The body language professional said she had now risen to power, adding: ‘How better to get away with it and stay under the radar, wear a lot of floral dresses and smile sweetly?’
Both experts agree Ms Symonds current position of apparent kingmaker in the wake of Mr Cain’s sudden resignation is a world away from July last year.
There as her partner achieved his life dream of becoming Prime Minister, she appeared downbeat by his new role.
Ms Hemmings said: ‘Carrie was still wearing her demure flowery frocks, looking a little overwhelmed, almost distressed with her downward glance, by the Downing Street move.’
Judi said she thought the emphasis was firmly on him at the start of their relationship as captured on camera.
She added: ‘When Boris made his first triumphant return to Downing St as PM after his meeting with the Queen, the spotlight was kept fully on him while Carrie was positioned more as part of the Downing St backstairs staff, waiting in a line with other members of the Downing street team rather than greeting Boris on the steps or posing together like most PM’s partners.
‘Watching these submissive-looking behaviour rituals it would be easy to have assumed that Carrie was very much the younger, less confident partner with no real role in the power hierarchy.
‘Clearly anyone in No 10 at the moment they will be aware of where the bodies are buried.
‘I think there has been a big power boost for her. How better to get away with it and stay under the radar, wear a lot of floral dresses and smile sweetly?’