Cummings’ final goings


To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to get rid of one political irritant may be fortunate, to get rid of two, seems like good planning.

Barely a week after the US electorate turned out in their millions to send the Joe Biden/Kamal Harris partnership on the path to the White House, and Donald Trump packing, the in-house fighting at the heart of Government finally came to  a conclusion with the resignation/sacking/hissy-fit of the Prime Minister’s chief political advisor Dominic Cummings, shortly after the resignation of the director of communications, Lee Cain.

Although Cummings was, it is said, due to leave his post at the end of the year, it was supposed to have been on his own terms. He it was who pulled of the Brexit referendum and laid it at the feet of the politician most like to pick it up and run with it – Boris Johnson. Likewise, it was Cummings who helped to get Boris that thumping great majority in December on the back of the Get Brexit Done slogan. Just as Take Back Control was probably what pushed the Pro-Leave brigade over the finish line, so the Get Brexit Done was what helped to turn the red wall blue and brought those died-in-the wool Labour supporters over to the Tory bench. For now. Or, rather, for then. I’m not sure it would happen now.

Cummings and his acolytes are superb at campaigning, at electioneering, at slogans, at digging out what really matters to people and using that for their own ends. At being in government? At dealing with the day-to-day drudgery of governing a nation? Not so good at that perhaps.

Is this what happens when a group of people start to believe their own publicity? Possibly. Whatever loyalty the Prime Minister may or may not now feel towards his former advisors, it’s clear that public opinion has turned against them.

To be fair, public opinion turned against Cummings some months ago, probably after that squirm-fest of a press conference in the Downing Street Rose Garden, but he kept hanging in there, helped no doubt, by the fact that his boss was incapacitated for a chunk of the Spring. In my view – and let’s face it, I’m just guessing here – the various things that did for Cummings were: the unfair dismissal case brought by Sonia Khan, a former adviser to the then chancellor, Sajid Javid, which has been settled out of court, the lockdown jaunt to Barnard Castle, his clear contempt for anyone and everyone who wasn’t one of his chosen few, his appalling dress sense (yes, it matters), the whistle-blowing report of Neil Tweedie, the former Department of  Transport SPAD sacked by Cummings which lifted the lid on the culture of toxic masculinity that has grown up around Downing Street this year, the realisation that the Brexit game of chicken with the EU may not be going the UK’s way, and the sacking of Lee Cain, the final Horcrux.

Of course, with Cummings gone, Johnson now has no-one to hide behind, no HeWhoMustNotBeNamed to blame.  It’s time for the government to govern. And sort out the mess, much (but not all) of which is of its own making.

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Don’t think much of this version of the John Lewis Christmas advert. Image: Hollie Adams for Bloomberg




About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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