Dominic Cummings, pictured leaving home today, used his BBC interview to continue his criticism of Carrie Johnson, who his allies nicknamed Princess Nut Nut
Dominic Cummings and Carrie Symonds have ‘f***ed us all’ and pursued petty squabbles about who really ‘pulls the strings’ in Boris Johnson‘s No 10 while ‘the whole country is on fire’, a former aide told MailOnline today.
The architect of Brexit told the BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg last night that Mrs Johnson – the PM’s third wife and mother of his youngest son Wilfred – ‘wanted rid’ of him and his Vote Leave loyalists so she could appoint her own ‘complete clowns’.
Mr Cummings was today accused of misogyny towards Carrie, a former Tory party communications chief he clashed with repeatedly until he left Downing Street last November. His allies were alleged to have referred to her as ‘Princess Nut Nut’, which enraged Mr Johnson and upset his then fiancee.
An ex-aide told MailOnline: ‘Neither of them are f***ing great. She obviously is Princess Nut Nut. Between them they have f***ed us all. They have fights about her appointing her friends to something. Meanwhile the whole country is on fire’.
While a senior Tory adviser said: ‘He is right about Carrie. It is ridiculous she has so much latitude and Boris is giving her carte blanche. But how many times can you say it?’
After watching last night’s on social media pondered whether he was ‘dead jealous’ about Carrie’s relationship with the PM as his own influence was waning – with Mrs Johnson ‘breaking up their bromance’.
Mr Cummings said last night: ‘We were in a situation where the Prime Minister’s girlfriend is trying to get rid of us and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs.’
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said today that Mrs Johnson should be left alone to ‘get on with the job of being married to the Prime Minister’.
In an interview with the BBC, broadcast last night, Dominic Cummings laid into the Prime Minister’s new wife Carrie Johnson
The Oxford-educated former aide claimed Mr Johnson (pictured with Carrie at Embley this month) allows Carrie to appoint his aides
Ms Symonds’ adversaries are said to have used the ‘Princess Nut Nut’ name so much that they started using an emoji of a princess followed by two peanuts instead of words in text messages (pictured)
An insider said Mr Cummings was making all the mistakes he criticised other people for, coming across as ‘arrogant’ and failing to make any impact on the PM.
The latest ‘Domshells’ dropped in BBC interview with Laura Kuenssberg
On plotting a ‘coup’ to replace Boris Johnson:
‘We were already saying by the summer either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister.
‘He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be Prime Minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country.’
On Carrie Johnson’s alleged attempts to control Number 10:
‘Within days we were in a situation where the Prime Minister’s girlfriend is trying to get rid of us and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs.’
On Mr Johnson’s alleged lack of a plan inside Downing Street:
‘The Prime Minister’s only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland, that’s it.’
‘He is becoming they story. His whole thing is politicians are egotistical, venal, lacking self-awareness. Yet he seems to have become the things he spent the whole time railing against,’ they said.
‘He knows it’s always better to show rather than talk about process. Why talk about a process like the coup that has failed?
‘It is a law of diminishing returns. And the issue for him is from the polling it doesn’t seem to be cutting through.’
A senior Conservative told MailOnline of the interview: ‘The consensus is he did badly. This is a man who lost his job and is bitter about it.’
The source said it was stretching credibility to blame Carrie for all the things that were going wrong. ‘He wouldn’t know, because he is out of the loop now…
‘It is possible to say she has more influence than most spouses, but that is because she is a political animal.’
Another former adviser told MailOnline: ‘The dude is just delusional… the PM had just come back with an 80-seat majority in 2019, in what world are they going to replace the PM?
‘Cummings does this thing a bit like John Lennon, the idea that he stands up for the little people and the common man. But much like John Lennon he’s actually an elite. It is a disguise that he puts on to do things that make him look important. He has no respect for the office of PM. He only thinks of himself.’
The plugged in ex-aide added: ‘Neither of them are f***ing great. She obviously is princess Nut Nut. Between them they have f***ed us all.
‘They have fights about her appointing her friends to something. Meanwhile the whole country is on fire. The discussion on who has got what job in No10 – it doesn’t matter.’
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins hit back on Carrie’s behalf today, after the PM’s wife was compared to Lady Macbeth.
She said: ‘I think Mrs Johnson is married to the Prime Minister and she’s a person in her own right.
‘I feel very uncomfortable when some people delve into description, such as what you’ve just used [Lady Macbeth].
‘She’s a professional woman in her own right, she happens to be married to the Prime Minister and I think we should just get on with the job of being married to the Prime Minister’.
In his first television interview, the architect of Brexit told the BBC that Carrie Johnson – the Prime Minister’s partner and now wife – wanted ‘rid of all of us’.
Mr Cummings said she believed then and now that Mr Johnson didn’t ‘have a plan’. She was determined to ‘pull the strings’ and fire her enemies and appoint her favourites, he said in the hour-long interview.
The ex-adviser claimed that this meant that he and his Vote Leave colleagues would be trying to get rid of and replace Mr Johnson by the summer, or have been sacked themselves.
‘Before even mid-January we were having meetings in Number 10 saying it’s clear that Carrie wants rid of all of us,’ he told the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg.
‘At that point, we were already saying by the summer either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister.’
Carrie Symonds posted this picture to announce her engagement to the Prime Minister in February 2020
Mr Cummings carried his belongings out of No10’s famous front door in a cardboard box in November
Dominic Cummings ‘took revenge on Dilyn the dog for humping his leg’
Carrie Symonds was so incensed by the story in the Times about Dilyn that she took to Twitter to claim it was ‘total c**p’
Boris Johnson’s dog Dilyn was the unwitting victim of an increasingly bitter feud between rival factions in his Downing Street ‘court’ – a canine caught in the crossfire between the allies of ousted adviser Dominic Cummings and the Prime Minister’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds, it emerged last month.
Mr Cummings was accused of being behind allegations that the dog cocked its leg over a No 10 aide’s handbag, and chewed on antique furniture and books at the Prime Minister’s countryside retreat – inspiring Mr Johnson to call for someone to ‘please shoot that f****** dog’.
Earlier this year it was claimed in The Mail on Sunday that Mr Cummings harbours a grudge against Dilyn because the dog once ‘humped his leg’ during a No 10 away day at Chequers. It was asserted he was using Dilyn to fight a proxy war against the PM’s fiancee.
Ms Symonds is said to have played a pivotal role in November’s ousting of Mr Cummings and Lee Cain, the director of communications and a fellow member of the Vote Leave faction.
Stuck in the middle of all the drama was said to be Dilyn. As the feuding has intensified, increasingly negative stories have appeared about the dog’s behaviour. Reports suggested Mr Johnson had been left with a four-figure repair bill for the damage at Chequers.
An insider said: ‘I was at a meeting where Dilyn darted under the PM’s feet with an old book in its mouth. The PM shouted, ‘For God’s sake, I’m going to get another £1,000 repair bill! Someone please shoot that f****** dog!’ Luckily, Carrie wasn’t around to hear him.’ They added: ‘I don’t think he meant it literally.’
It followed another story about ‘Dilyn’s Watergate’, which saw him cock a leg over the handbag of aide Katy Lam – who then left No 10.
It was reported that Ms Symonds was ‘very angry’ with the reaction from Miss Lam. One Tory source pointed the finger at Mr Cummings, and traced the animosity back to an away day at the Prime Minister’s Buckinghamshire home.
One said: ‘Cummings was chatting away to his friends when Dilyn ran up to him and mounted him, leaving him absolutely furious. He was raging as he tried to get the dog off of him’.
The extraordinary revelation is one in a series of claims made in the hour-long interview, including that Mr Johnson had wanted to see the Queen in person at the start of the pandemic. Mr Cummings said he had to persuade the PM not to have his weekly audience with Her Majesty in case he infected and killed her. Number 10 denied the allegation.
Mr Cummings – who left Downing St last autumn following the power struggle with the then Carrie Symonds – also told Ms Kuenssberg that Mr Johnson was not the ‘right person’ to run the country. He suggested Mr Johnson had only been selected to lead the Conservative Party and the country to resolve Brexit.
‘He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be Prime Minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem not because he was the right person to be running the country,’ he said.
Soon after the December 2019 election, the former adviser said that he realised Mr Johnson’s then partner Carrie was going to be a problem.
‘Carrie’s view was – and is – the Prime Minister doesn’t have a plan and he doesn’t know how Whitehall works,’ he said.
He outlined what he thought were her thought processes: ‘Someone is going to settle the agenda, it can either be the civil service or it can be Dominic and the Vote Leave team, or it can be me.’
Mr Cummings continued: ‘In 2019, her view was: ‘Better that it’s Dominic and the Vote Leave team than the civil service because that’s the route to winning and staying in Number 10.’
‘As soon as the election was won, her view was: ‘Why should it be Dominic and the Vote Leave team? Why shouldn’t it be me that’s pulling the strings?’
‘The situation we found ourselves in is that within days we were in a situation where the Prime Minister’s girlfriend is trying to get rid of us and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs.’
Reflecting on the end of his relationship with Mr Johnson, he said it had already started to fracture by summer 2020. He said that his former boss was furious that he was being cast as a ‘puppet’ for the Vote Leave gang.
‘First of all, he [Boris Johnson] was, he was fed up with the media portrayal of him being a kind of puppet for the Vote Leave team. It was driving him round the bend,’ he said.
‘I had a plan. I was trying to get things done. He didn’t have a plan, He didn’t have an agenda, you know.
‘The Prime Minister’s only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland, that’s it.’
He said that the pair fell out over Covid and he accused the PM of ‘not having acted’ in September last year when the second wave of cases began.
Disagreements over Mrs Johnson also came between them, he said.
‘I thought that his girlfriend was interfering with erm, appointments,’ he said.
‘She wanted to have people fired and she wanted to have people promoted in ways that I thought were unethical and unprofessional. And that also led to a big argument between us.’
A Number 10 spokesman told the BBC: ‘Political appointments are entirely made by the Prime Minister.’
CARRIE AND THE COUP: CUMMINGS PLOTTED TO OUST BORIS AS HE LOST POWER BATTLE TO PM’S PARTNER
The most explosive claim Mr Cummings made was against the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie, who he lost out to in a power struggle last year.
He said she wanted him gone as soon as Mr Johnson was elected in 2019 and wanted to replace him with ‘clowns’.
He said: ‘Carrie’s view was and is – the PM doesn’t have a plan and doesn’t’ know how Whitehall works. In 2019 her view was better that its Dom and Vote Leave team than civil service.
‘But as soon as election was won it was, why should it be Dom and Vote Leave team, why shouldn’t it be me.’
Mr Cunmings continued: ‘Literally immediately after the election it was already clear that this was a problem. We were having meetings in No 10 saying that Carrie all wants us gone.
‘The situation we found ourselves in is that the PM’s girlfriend wanted to get rid of us and appoint clowns to certain key jobs.
‘We actually have some pretty good judgement about who is competent and who isn’t competent.’
He said: ‘There was a whole official process gone through to hire an excellent young woman, and after months of this process happening it was all just thrown in the bin, and the person who the prime minister’s wanted to be appointed was just suddenly appointed.
‘Me and others said ”this is just a completely hopeless way for things to be run” and that led to a lot of tension.’
He also said he was looking to oust Boris Johnson as Prime Minister only weeks after helping him secure an 80-seat majority.
Mr Cummings, who left No 10 in the autumn after a power struggle, accused Mr Johnson of not having a plan and said he ‘doesn’t know how to be Prime Minister’.
He also laid bare the extent of the fractious relationship between former Vote Leave officials and Carrie only weeks after the landslide win.
‘Before even mid-January we were having meetings in Number 10 saying it’s clear that Carrie (Johnson) wants rid of all of us,’ said the former de facto chief of staff.
‘At that point we were already saying by the summer either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister.’
Mr Cummings claimed that in 2019, ahead of the election, Mrs Johnson was happy to have Vote Leave officials working in Downing Street, but this later changed.
He said: ‘As soon as the election was won her view was, ‘why should it be Dominic and the Vote Leave team?’ Why shouldn’t it be me that’s pulling the strings?”
Ms Kuenssberg accused him if he saw himself as superior in his relationship with the Prime Minister.
He said: ‘I think that I had a plan and I was trying to get things done. He didn’t have a plan and didn’t have an agenda.
‘You know the Prime Minister’s only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland — that’s it.’
Earlier in the interview Mr Cummings admitted he thinks other people see him as ‘generally a nightmare’.
EVEN ‘HOPELESS’ BORIS THINKS IT’S ‘LUDICROUS’ HE’S PM: CUMMINGS LAUNCHES HATCHET JOB ON OLD BOSS
Mr Cummings was also quick to continue to unleash his fury on his old boss the Prime Minister.
He said Mr Johnson thought it was ‘ludicrous’ he was PM after he took over in Downing Street and said he calls the Daily Telegraph his ‘real boss’.
The former chief adviser said the he also made the comment about his old university friend and fellow leader David Cameron’s time in office.
He claimed Mr Johnson has an ‘odd self awareness mode’ and ‘hopeless’ traits and he knows he should not be in his position in his latest bombshells about his old boss.
In a fresh assault on his ex-boss, Dominic Cummings said he had to persuade the PM (pictured right) not to have his weekly audience with the monarch in case he gave her the fatal virus
Mr Cummings said: ‘He’s a very complicated character. He’s unusual in a lot of politicians in having a sort of odd, self awareness mode.
‘He kind of knows in all sorts of ways that it’s ludicrous for him to be in that position.
‘He said that to me a few times before the referendum, he said that on the 24 June, the day after the referendum in 2016.’
He added the PM said: ‘It’s ludicrous that Dave [Cameron] was prime minister, it’s ludicrous that George [Osborne] wants to be prime minister. The whole thing’s ludicrous.’
In one of the more shocking allegations tonight, he claimed the PM still refers to the Daily Telegraph as his ‘real boss’ and said it was ‘hard to tell’ if he was joking.
Mr Cummings added the Prime Minister was being ‘driven round the bend’ by the idea in the media he was a puppet for Vote Leave bosses.
CUMMINGS SAYS COVID WAS ‘LIKE A DISASTER MOVIE’ AND BORIS ‘PUT POLITICS ABOVE PEOPLE’S LIVES’
In other parts of the interview the journalist pushed him on the government’s coronavirus response.
He claimed the Prime Minister thought Covid would be a passing ‘fad’ like Swine Flu was and added it was ‘like a disaster movie’.
Mr Cummings also claimed the PM was reluctant to tighten Covid restrictions last autumn because ‘the people who are dying are essentially all over 80’.
He told the BBC: ‘It was like a disaster movie but it was real. even in the first week of march [BJ] said ‘business as usual’, he didn’t take it seriously. his view was that it was like swine flu and that he had seen these sort of scares before.’
He painted an image of the Prime Minister flip-flopping over whether lockdowns were a good idea.
Over whether to bring in a second lockdown, he said Sir Keir Starmer had called for it so Mr Johnson thought it would be political suicide to be bounced into one.
He said; ‘He had a bunch of Tory MPs screaming at him, some of them similarly with Brexit had lost their minds and were saying all kinds of complete fake news about Covid.
‘And third he had the Telegraph, who he referred to as ”my real boss’. So he had those three things all pushing him not to act.’
Mr Cummings also revealed the government’s plan of herd immunity was questioned by a ‘very, very smart physicist’.
He said they spoke to him ahead of lockdown and said: ‘Look it doesn’t seem this has been thought out, has any of this been properly checked?’
And he said they asked him if they could look into another solution to beating the pandemic.
‘I SHOULD HAVE QUIT OR COME CLEAN OVER BARNARD CASTLE’: CUMMINGS SAYS HE DIDN’T TELL FULL TRUTH
Mr Cummings was probed on the Barnard Castle fallout, which saw him issue a rare speech from Downing Street.
He had driven with his family from London to Durham to his parents’ home despite having Covid symptoms.
But he slammed the way the government decided to handle the incident as ‘extremely chaotic’.
He said: ‘I’d had repeated security problems at my house going back to 2019, these problems had re-emerged… I’d said maybe I’d just move to my Dads farm in Durham.
‘My wife was kind of ill but not with all the right symptoms.
‘The situation was extremely chaotic… the plan was when I discussed it with the PM – he agreed we should just say nothing about it.
‘What then happened is that he suddenly changed his mind and said we can’t stick with the initial plan.
‘I said I’m not going into the security stuff and the whole thing turned into a whole mess.
‘Everything I said in the rose garden was true but i didn’t go into all the security concerns in the background.
‘There’s also no doubt that the way we handled the whole thing was wrong – what I should’ve done is resigned, or spoken to my family and said we’re just going to have to come clean about the whole thing.’
NO APOLOGIES OVER BREXIT: CUMMINGS SAYS £350m NHS CLAIM WAS MORE TRUTHFUL THAN MOST SLOGANS
The interview also saw him grilled by the journalist about Brexit and the infamous NHS figure he had plonked on the side of a red bus.
He refused to apologise for it but said people are entitled to oppose Brexit and think it was a mistake.
He smirked when asked about the £350million figure on the Brexit bus after the journalist said it was ‘not the truth’.
He said: ‘We were using true figures… if the worst that can be said about a political campaign is that they used real figures but it needed more context – then you can say ‘vote leave has been more honest than any other political campaign’.’
He added: ‘I don’t think we won on false pretences – the arguments we made about the weaknesses, costs about the EU were vindicated.’
He also said he thought world events had justified Britain leaving the European Union.
Mr Cummings said: ‘I obviously think Brexit was a good thing. The way the world has worked out since 2016 has validated Vote Leave.’
But he was open to people criticising Brexit and says anyone who thinks they know the answer ‘is a complete idiot’.
He said: ‘I don’t know what sort of person you’d be if you didnt think Brexit was going to go down as a massive mixtake.’
‘YOU CAN’T SEE THE QUEEN – WHAT IF SHE DIES?’ PM HAD TO BE TALKED OUT OF MEETING AT START OF PANDEMIC
In a fresh assault on his ex-boss, he said he had to persuade the PM not to have his weekly audience with the monarch in case he gave her the fatal virus.
He told the BBC: ‘I said ”what are you doing?” and he said ”I’m going to see the Queen”, and I said, ”what on earth are you talking about, of course you can’t go and see the Queen”.
Cummings claimed he told Boris Johnson that ‘of course he couldn’t go and see the Queen’ at the start of the pandemic (file photo)
‘[The PM] said, ”ah, that’s what I do every Wednesday, sod this, I’m gonna go and see her”.’
The former chief adviser alleged he warned the PM that there were already people in No 10 who were isolating and told him: ‘You might have coronavirus.’
He added: ‘I just said, ”if you… give her coronavirus and she dies what are you gonna do, you can’t do that, you can’t risk that, that’s completely insane”.
‘And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through, he said, ”yeah, holy s***, I can’t go”.’
Mr Cummings also claimed that Mr Johnson repeatedly said ‘we should never have done the first lockdown’.
‘I’M TALKING TO PEOPLE’: CUMMINGS SAYS THE FUTURE OF POLITICS IS A NEW PARTY (OR TAKING OVER ONE)
Mr Cummings also weighed in on what he hopes will change in British politics in the future.
He said the country should be ‘very, very aggressively’ trying to get ‘very rare people’ into power because they are ‘times 1,000 smarter than the norm’.
He said: ‘If you’re trying to do very hard things, especially in a pandemic… or the institutional mechanism for war, and dealing with terrorism, things like that, then my view is we should be very, very aggressively trying to get into position these very rare people who are times 100, times 1,000 smarter than the norm.’
He added one option for change would be a new party to take over from the current major opposition.
‘THIS ISN’T ABOUT REVENGE’: CUMMINGS ON WHY HE’S SPEAKING OUT AND WHY IT’S GOT SO PERSONAL
BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg asked Mr Cummings how he thought he was seen by others.
He replied: ‘Generally as a nightmare.’
Mr Cummings was also asked about whether all his recent attacks on the government have been revenge for being booted out of No 10.
He said: ‘The reason I’m speaking out is I want people to be thinking about these questions: How are we governed? How is power actually exercised in No 10? What sort of things should be more transparent? How should these power structures be opened up?’
Ms Kuenssberg asked: ‘Does it have to be so personal?’
‘It doesn’t matter if it’s personal. It doesn’t matter if people are upset. All these MPs or ministers or officials or whoever … We need more difficult conversations in this country. More people upset.
‘A lot of people have a pop at me but you don’t see me crying about it.’
On whether he is still in contact with the PM, he added: ‘Last time I spoke to him was the Friday I left No 10.
‘He texted me a few days later asking if I’d speak to him and I said no. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other [if I speak to him again].’
In reply to Mr Cummings’ claims, Downing Street said: ‘Since the start of the pandemic, the prime minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
‘The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
‘The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.’
SARAH VINE: Brutal, disloyal and obsessive… My old friend Dom seems hellbent on destroying his former boss – whatever the cost
by Sarah Vine
Hard to imagine anyone quite as destructively attention-seeking as Prince Harry, who this week announced the publication of an ‘intimate’ memoir, no doubt detailing the full horror of growing up never having to worry about where the next penny was coming from or how to put food on the table (except, of course, when it’s the servants’ afternoon off).
And yet such a person does exist, and I’m afraid to say his name is Dominic Cummings, former adviser to the Prime Minister, now full-time thorn in Boris Johnson’s side.
I have known Dom on and off for many years, almost two decades, in fact. He is a man of great political passion and possesses a brilliant mind. Too brilliant, sometimes.
Intellectually, he can throw shade on almost everyone he encounters: you have to be seriously on the ball to keep up with him, even when he’s half a bottle of wine down at dinner.
If you don’t know him, his direct manner can sometimes be mistaken for aggression. It’s not, actually; but it’s true, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I have no doubt it was this, coupled with an unnerving and very unclubbable habit of telling people the truth about themselves, that made him such a Marmite figure at No.10 and which, ultimately, cost him his job.
I have known Dom on and off for many years, almost two decades, in fact. He is a man of great political passion and possesses a brilliant mind. Too brilliant, sometimes
David Cameron disliked him intensely, famously calling him a ‘career psychopath’, which I always sensed Dom took as something of a compliment (there was no love lost between those two men).
In fact, when Cameron was elected Prime Minister, he didn’t want Dom — who had worked hard in opposition alongside my husband to devise Cameron’s education strategy — to join the Department for Education.
At the time, I couldn’t really see why — but with hindsight, perhaps he had a point. Ultimately Dom’s absolute refusal — or inability — to contemplate even the slightest compromise has made him a very awkward cog to insert into the machine of government.
That said, Dom’s saving grace, I always felt, was that he stayed away from front-line politics, preferring to get his hands dirty in the engine-room of power and leave the shiny Sir Humphrey stuff to others. But something about the past few years, in the aftermath of Dom’s Brexit triumph and the ongoing psychodrama between him and the Prime Minister, seems to have changed all that.
Put it this way: the Dom of old would never have dreamt of doing a sit-down interview with the BBC, Meghan and Harry style. He would have considered it an act of spectacular idiocy.
But then power, or closeness to power (or even worse, loss of it), does funny things to people’s heads, and this Dom is a very different man from the one I knew.
Having watched the whole thing, perhaps the most damaging part of the interview is the revelation of a WhatsApp message thread from Boris to aides, sent on October 15 last year
He claims he is not motivated by a desire for revenge; but there’s no denying he seems hellbent on bringing down his former boss — whatever the cost.
Perhaps that’s because, as last night’s interview made crystal clear, he never really considered Johnson his boss in the first place, merely his chosen vessel in the pursuit of power.
Let’s face it, this is one political bromance that’s gone very sour indeed. In fact, there’s something a little alarming in the paranoid — even brutal — way Dom seems to obsess about the new Mrs Johnson, whom he claims supplanted him in the Prime Minister’s affections.
‘Before even mid-January we were having meetings in No. 10 saying it’s clear that Carrie wants rid of all of us,’ he tells Laura Kuenssberg in the interview.
‘At that point we were already saying by the summer either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister.’
It all rather brings to mind that Taylor Swift song: ‘We used to have mad love/but now we’ve got bad blood’, the video for which involved Swift and her chums tearing chunks out of each other. This is, quite honestly, a similarly less-than-edifying spectacle for all parties involved. But it is also more than just a jilted adviser boiling the metaphorical bunny.
Dom has always had an anarchic edge to his character. Properly channelled, it gives him an electrifying edge. But tinged as it now seems to be with resentment, it’s an altogether more toxic kind of energy. He is not only trashing his former boss, he is also undermining the very institution of government — in much the same way that Harry’s recent outpourings devalue the monarchy.
David Cameron disliked him intensely, famously calling him a ‘career psychopath’, which I always sensed Dom took as something of a compliment (there was no love lost between those two men)
Like Harry, Dom is not content to simply turn his back on No. 10 — he wants to burn it to the ground. And all for what? Because it’s hard to see how any of this benefits the nation, or leads us any closer to defeating Covid. It’s just one man and his ego, on the rampage.
Having watched the whole thing, perhaps the most damaging part of the interview is the revelation of a WhatsApp message thread from Boris to aides, sent on October 15 last year, in which he observed: ‘I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82-81 for men, 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 pc) and of those virtually all survive.’
He goes on. ‘And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks, I think we may need to recalibrate. There are max 3m in this country over 80. It shows we don’t go for nationwide lockdown.’
Dom is no fool. He knows the explosive nature of these messages, and he knows that, taken out of context, they appear cruel and callous. He also knows that in the current climate of blame across feverish social media platforms, they will play into the narrative of Johnson as a man who puts politics before people — indeed he said as much last night — and who will pursue a populist agenda at the cost of anything, even human life.
The reality, of course, is far more complex. Because unlike Dom, who as an adviser enjoyed all the trappings of power without any of the responsibility, the buck stops with Johnson. It is not only his job, but also his duty, to weigh up the pros and cons of his actions — even, yes, to the point of questioning the wisdom of sacrificing the interests of the vast majority to protect a small minority.
Far from being in denial about the situation, as Cummings implies, it seems to me the Prime Minister was facing down the realities of Covid, asking the cold, hard questions that needed asking. The real problem, from Dom’s point of view, was that he wasn’t doing as he was told any more.
Johnson’s job during the pandemic has meant he had been forced to make some very unpleasant calculations, of which the above is just one. He has had to balance the lives of those who are clinically vulnerable to Covid in the short term with those destined to die in the medium term because of untreated diseases such as cancer and heart disease (currently thought to be in the region of 150,000), with an NHS backlog now estimated at 13 million.
Dom is no fool. He knows the explosive nature of these messages, and he knows that, taken out of context, they appear cruel and callous
Then there are the long-term effects of lockdown on future generations, debt, the economy, people’s livelihoods, society, mental health and so on.
And he has to do so under extreme pressure, in the most hostile of circumstances and with vast amounts of conflicting and constantly changing data.
For Johnson, there were never any good solutions, only less bad ones. Whatever he did, whichever path he chose, some form of catastrophe was always inevitable; either way people were going to die, whether they be an 85-year-old in a care home or, like my friend whose delayed cancer diagnosis means she will probably not see Christmas, a mother in her early 50s.
Weighing up those choices is a hard process and it means exploring all the options and seeing the problem from all angles. You also have to be able to say the un- sayable, to contemplate the unthinkable, and trust that your mental modelling will not be taken out of context and used against you at a later date.
Dom may say, as he does, that Johnson was never suited to the job, and that ‘we only got him in there [note the narcissistic nature of that phrasing] because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country’.
But in fact, I doubt whether anyone else would have done much better. Certainly not Theresa May, queen of indecision; and definitely not Jeremy Corbyn.
For Johnson, there were never any good solutions, only less bad ones. Whatever he did, whichever path he chose, some form of catastrophe was always inevitable
There is a wider issue here, too, one of personal conduct. Because if a Prime Minister facing the worst of situations can’t trust his closest aides, the very people — like Dom — who are supposed to help him carry this huge and frankly unfathomable burden of responsibility, what is he to do? In times of national and global crisis, those unlucky enough to find themselves holding the reins of power are forced to make choices no one should ever have to make. The closest analogy to this pandemic is World War II, in which thousands of able-bodied young people gave their lives to protect the freedom of the country as a whole.
The Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, faced similar impossible choices, albeit in relation to troop deployment and military strategy. Some of them turned out to be the right ones. Others turned out to be huge mistakes which cost many lives. But desperate times require desperate measures, and sometimes — as we have seen with the vaccine rollout — the boldest risks do pay off. But you can’t take risks if you are constantly having to anticipate a potential witch-hunt.
In Churchill’s day, the ideas fizzing around in his head would have been debated in a bunker under Whitehall, or in memos fired off to colleagues. Today, a digital message dashed off on WhatsApp — so easy to save and expose later to damaging effect — is the incendiary equivalent.
What makes Dom’s revelations even more of a betrayal — and forces us to question his motives even further — is that in the end, as we all know, Johnson did ultimately choose to protect the older generation at the expense of the younger one. He did lock up the country to save a fraction of the population, and he did it at huge political cost.
He may not yet be paying the price, since the true after-effects of lockdown have barely begun to show; but in a few years’ time, when the financial realities bite, when the mental and physical toll starts to show, there will — as there was for Churchill, who lost the post-war election to Clement Attlee — be a reckoning. Until then, it seems the Domshells will continue to rain down.
Narcissism central, chateau-bottled sour grapes – and a palpable porkie… HENRY DEEDES watches Dominic Cummings’ sit-down interview
In his tumultuous time at the heart of government, nothing pleased the Prime Minister’s former right-hand man more than setting off explosions all along Whitehall.
Since his departure last December, he’s been pulling out more pins than a cheroot-chewing revolutionary. Barely a day passes when Cummings doesn’t take to Twitter or his blog to tap out another bile-coated rant aimed at the PM. Loud, mushroom cloud-shaped kabooms going off everywhere.
Last night, we saw him do a sit-down interview with the BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg. Yet it wasn’t quite the pyrotechnics show Mr Cummings might have hoped for.
Most of his gripes sounded like nothing more than chateau-bottled sour grapes. Narcissism central.
The former chief adviser alleged he warned the PM not to visit the Queen last year as there were already people in No 10 who were isolating and told him: ‘You might have coronavirus’
By the end, it was hard not to conclude that this was someone tantalisingly close to being off his rocker.
Mr Cummings wore a crisp new shirt. You could still see the crease marks from the wrapping. Probably had a few pins still stuck in it.
For any other interviewee, such detail would be unnoteworthy except that Cummings’ usual style lends itself to bohemian barge folk.
Kuenssberg lobbed a gentle opener. ‘How would you describe Boris?’ she asked. Cummings shot a look of confusion. ‘Wh- how d’ya mean?’ he spluttered. You’d think she’d asked him to knock her up a bearnaise sauce.
He mentioned something about Boris having a grasp of the absurd. He had told Cummings before being elected that the idea of him being PM was obviously ridiculous. Cummings assumed he meant it.
That he didn’t recognise that remark for the self-deprecating joke it was is telling. We heard a series of marginally interesting vignettes. How he stopped Boris from infecting the Queen with Covid. How Boris went around saying he regretted the first lockdown.
Oh, and Cummings admitted handling the whole Barnard Castle thing badly. Though he stood by the eye test baloney. Kuenssberg winced. A palpable porkie.
Cummings implied he had taken a job with Boris because that’s how he could get to control him.
‘Don’t you think that sounds unbelievably arrogant?’ asked Laura K.
Cummings ran an index finger down one cheek. The thought clearly never occurred to him.
Kuenssberg put it to him that he was the cause of much of the division that engulfed Westminster after the referendum.
‘No,’ Cummings replied. Others were to blame too.
Did he consider himself the PM’s superior? ‘I don’t see myself as a better person,’ he replied nonchanantly.
Kuenssberg, by the way, was excellent. Never once did she try to flatter her subject. Instead, her reactions to these megalomaniac rantings was a picture.
Last night Downing Street denied that the incident where the PM and Mr Cummings discussed visiting the Queen took place but Cummings said in his interview that others witnessed it
Sometimes she flicked her hair awkwardly, at other times she simply grimaced in horror.
She reminded me of Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect interrogating some particularly unpleasant specimen.
Fast forward to the Conservatives’ landslide election victory in 2019. No sooner had Boris got his tootsies back under the Downing Street desk than Dom and his cohorts were apparently trying to get him ejected.
Boris ‘wasn’t the right man to running the country’, opined Cummings. Says who? Dom of course.
Presumably all those millions people who’d just voted for him could go swivel. This was just deranged. I’m no Che Guevara, but I’m sure staging a coup requires support.
Aside from a few unelected misfits and weirdos he’d hired from the Vote Leave campaign, Cummings had fallen out with pretty much everyone. Even Dilyn the dog hated him.
Kuenssberg was horrified that Cummings could help get someone elected whom he considered the wrong man for the job. ‘What kind of con had you just pulled off on the British public if that’s what you think?’ she asked.
Cummings shot her a toothy grin. ‘Well, I’d say that’s politics,’ he said.
What next? He was considering setting up a new party. He wanted to ‘rewire the whole system’.
Would he ever speak to Boris again? ‘It doesn’t bother me one way or the other,’ he smirked.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s what happens when you let the loonies take over the asylum.
Source: Daily Mail UK