Katja Hoyer Katja Hoyer

Dominic Cummings’s Bismarck complex

(Getty images)

‘One’s enemies one can count on — but one’s friends!’ Otto von Bismarck quotes have mostly gone out of fashion since the middle of the last century. But perhaps not as far as Dominic Cummings is concerned. 

Cummings describes Germany’s first chancellor — and the man responsible for the country’s unification in 1871 — as a ‘monster’. He says in his 2017 blog that ‘the world would have been better if one of the assassination attempts had succeeded’. But it is clear that Cummings seeks inspiration from the Iron Chancellor for his own political doings. When Cummings writes that Bismarck ‘understood fundamental questions better than others’, it’s hard not to think that he might, at least partly, also be talking about himself.

Cummings quotes Bismarck extensively in his articles, and is given to musings as to what ‘Bismarck’s advice would be’ regarding current affairs. For a political advisor in 21st century Britain to seek guidance from a Prussian aristocrat may be unconventional, but in this regard at least, the Iron Chancellor would probably approve. At the end of a long political career during which he triggered seismic changes in German and European history, Bismarck reflected, ‘You cannot make history, but you can learn from it how to guide the political life of a great nation.’ Cummings agrees.

One obvious parallel between the two political lives sprang to mind over the last few weeks. Cummings’s fall from grace followed a rather similar trajectory to the Bismarckian one. Both were once deemed indispensable fonts of political wisdom. Both drew the ire of powerful enemies. Both left their office as embittered men with giant political axes to grind.

Like Bismarck, Cummings ran into conflict with the first lady at court

Bismarck vented his spleen from his private estate where he penned sharply-worded press pieces criticising the policies of Wilhelm II, which he regarded as foolish and misguided.

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