Dominic Cummings will leave Downing Street at the end of this year, the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg is reporting. Cummings is one of those rare individuals who has bent the arc of history. He has been crucial, if not indispensable, to several key moments in this country’s recent past. His work at Business for Sterling is one of the things that put Tony Blair off attempting to take the UK into the Euro. Even more importantly, it is hard to believe that Leave would have won the 2016 referendum without the brilliant, heterodox campaign that Cummings devised.
The victory in that Brexit referendum might have come to very little if Cummings had not returned to the fray in 2019. He, after much cajoling, entered Downing Street with Boris Johnson. There he provided a brutal clarity. Under his watch, the Tory party expelled Brexit blockers, reached an agreement with the EU, and then fought a general election campaign on an ‘oven ready deal’ that wrong-footed the Labour party and delivered an 80 seat majority.
For all his campaigning success, Cummings has long been more interested in how government works. His attempts to put his theories into practise have undoubtedly been disrupted by the pandemic. In recent months, he has focused more and more of his energies on Covid. The lateral flow tests, which may well offer this country a quicker route out of this crisis, are only happening because of his interest in the issue. But with Cummings so focused on this question, other bits of domestic policy have slipped through the net. The issue is not that they were his responsibility, but no one else had the authority he had to resolve them — and the number of people who were prepared to be chief of staff with Cummings in the background was not large.
Cummings has his enemies, of course. Many of them are those who’ll never forgive him for his role in the Brexit campaign. He never worked hard enough to rebuild relationships with Tory MPs after the disobliging things he had said about them. He, perhaps, was also guilty of not making allies when he could have and instead chose a path of confrontation.
When Cummings walks out of Downing Street at the end of the year, he’ll leave behind far more of a legacy than most cabinet ministers and even some prime ministers. The simple truth is that Cummings has played an indispensable role in Britain leaving the EU.