Dominic cummings

How has the Conservative party’s ‘Dr No’ escaped everyone’s notice for so long?

The reason conspiracy theories are so resilient, reproducing themselves from one generation to another, is that they are unfalsifiable. Evidence against them, however solid, has obviously been faked. Anyone who tries to demonstrate that Americans did land on the moon or that J.F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald is obviously in the pay of people who stand to benefit. If you ask who those people are, since there seems to be no evidence of their existence, the answer is always the same: they are very good at concealing themselves. And so the theory finds credulous punters. To save time, I should probably point out that The Spectator, which

Enjoyable and informative but where’s the drama? Political Currency reviewed

The first episode of George Osborne and Ed Balls’s new podcast, Political Currency, opened with an old clip of the pair arguing across the despatch box. Osborne had described his latest Budget as ‘steady as she goes’ and Balls was having none of it. ‘What kind of ship does he think he’s on, the Titanic?’ If producers hoped that the duo would bring something of this, er, biting dynamic to their podcast, they were in for a surprise. The opening number saw little in the way of sparring between the former opponents. Seated in a studio in east London, they spent most of the time doing what so many in

The secret truth about Dom: The Play

‘Who wrote it?’ asks the Times, of Dom: The Play. I’ll let you in on a secret: it was me. If you’re selling a product, you need to advertise what you’re flogging, rather than its creator. That’s why, when my satire about Dominic Cummings launched at The Other Palace in Victoria this week, I withheld my name from the poster and the programme. Simple reason: my name doesn’t shift tickets. And a poster without the waffle is likely to cut through better. As a result, our poster has the show’s emphatic title in crimson letters beneath three shots of Dom’s face taken from different angles. This has a decent chance

Johnson’s new hire goes for Cummings

Well, that didn’t take long. Scarcely had Boris Johnson announced two new hires to join his depleted Downing Street team, then Dominic Cummings began attacking one of them on Twitter. The Svengali of special advisers reacted badly to the news that Guto Hari, a former Johnson aide during his mayoralty, was to be brought back into the fold as director of communications. Cummings claimed that the ‘message from No. 10’ is that ‘Our new boss is a pro-Remain lobbyist who’s said the PM is ‘sexually incontinent’, ‘hugely divisive’, ‘destructive’, ‘dragging the country down’, & picked ‘wrong side’ in referendum’ GREAT’. Is firing off angry tweets at your nemesis really a sign that

Did Johnson mislead the Commons?

Boris Johnson had hoped to move attention this week from parties — with a series of policy announcements planned as part of ‘Operation Red Meat’, his fightback plan. Nadine Dorries this afternoon told MPs in the Commons of plans to freeze the BBC licence fee for two years while No. 10 plan to bring the military in to tackle the channel crossings — a move that led MPs to congratulate the government on the Tory WhatsApp group. Yet as No. 10 waits for Sue Gray’s report into Partygate, the situation is moving. This afternoon, Boris Johnson’s former aide turned tormentor-in-chief Dominic Cummings published a blog on his Substack in which he made new allegations

Portrait of the year: Lockdown, protests, parties and Matt Hancock’s kiss

January The United Kingdom found itself in possession of a trade agreement with the EU. Coronavirus restrictions were tightened. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was administered with authorisation for the first time; retired doctors could not vaccinate before undergoing ‘diversity’ training. To prevent vaccines being exported from the EU to Northern Ireland, the EU prepared to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but soon changed its mind. The Capitol in Washington, DC was overrun by weird people, one with horns, supporting President Donald Trump, despite his electoral defeat. Joe Biden was inaugurated as President a week later. February The government promised to legalise the drinking of coffee by two people

Cummings throws a spanner in the Brexit works

Is Dominic Cummings about to derail the government’s plans for a new Northern Ireland protocol? That’s the concern inside government as Boris Johnson’s former adviser shows that he still has the ability to change the political weather from afar. On Tuesday night, there was renewed hope that a solution could be found between the UK and EU on the Northern Ireland protocol. David Frost’s speech in Lisbon was less confrontational than expected and had received cautious praise from diplomats for its more constructive passages. However, as the European Commission prepares to present its proposals for easing the current checks on businesses trading across the Irish Sea, a spanner has been thrown in the works in the

‘I’m plagued by worries of disaster’: Dominic Cummings interviewed

I’ve been waiting over a year to meet Dominic Cummings. Any time Mary Wakefield asked me to interview someone for The Spectator, I said: ‘I’d rather interview your husband.’ And she promised he would do it, one day. I began to lose faith, but at last the day dawns. On the way to see him I run into Mary and their son Ceddy outside their home in north London and she takes me to the kitchen to meet Dom. He is friendly, hospitable, takes me to sit in the garden to talk, and gently shoos Ceddy indoors. The one thing everyone, friend and enemy alike, agrees about Dominic Cummings is

What Dominic Cummings gets wrong

Anyone who thinks Boris Johnson lacks statecraft should pay attention to Dominic Cummings’s attacks on him. They often to seem to show the opposite of what Dom intends. Cummings now reveals that, in January 2020, he and his allies were 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 [Johnson] and get someone else in as prime minister.’ In fact, neither happened. By November, however, Cummings was (to use Mr Pooter’s joke) going; Boris stayed. The winner of the then still recent landslide election victory presumably discovered about his adviser’s seditious conversations and, reasonably, did not

Why Dominic Cummings’s attacks on Boris Johnson backfire

Anyone who thinks Boris Johnson lacks statecraft should pay attention to Dominic Cummings’s attacks on him. They often to seem to show the opposite of what Dom intends. Cummings now reveals that, in January 2020, he and his allies were 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 [Johnson] and get someone else in as prime minister.’ In fact, neither happened. By November, however, Cummings was (to use Mr Pooter’s joke) going; Boris stayed. The winner of the then still recent landslide election victory presumably discovered his adviser’s seditious conversations and, reasonably, did not like

Cummings reveals the Unionist heart of darkness

Like Walter Kurtz, Dominic Cummings had immense plans but was tripped on the threshold of greatness by the weaknesses of his superiors. Now he holds court from his fortress temple of Substack where, in the fashion of Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard, subscribers receive his glum musings on Covid strategy, systems management and judicial review. Cummings is sometimes regarded as a brilliant sociopath and while I sway back and forth on whether the emphasis belongs on the adjective or the noun, his insights into how government really works are immensely valuable to understanding policy-making, implementation and the impotence of power. I have come to the view that, if you want to

What does the latest ‘Dom bomb’ mean for Matt Hancock?

When Dominic Cummings gave seven hours of evidence to a Commons inquiry into the government’s Covid response, it was Matt Hancock who received the most criticism. The former No. 10 senior aide’s accusation that the Health Secretary was negligent – the most serious charge being that Hancock had misled the government over testing and care homes – led to questions over Hancock’s position. But it quickly became clear No. 10 had no plans to fire Hancock. The Prime Minister opted to rally round his minister rather than cast him out. So, does the publication of WhatsApp messages allegedly showing the Prime Minister heavily criticising Hancock change things? In a new blog on

Dominic Cummings still needs to back up his allegations

When Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former chief advisor, gave evidence to the Covid-19 ‘lessons learned’ joint select committee last month (over the course of seven hours) his revelations seemed explosive. Specifically, Cummings alleged that the health secretary Matt Hancock was guilty of incompetence, interference and repeated lying. He told the committee: ‘The Secretary of State should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly.’ ‘In the summer, he [Matt Hancock] said that everyone who needed treatment got the treatment that they required. He knew that that was a lie because

Isabel Hardman

Keir Starmer fails to use the ‘Dom bombs’ at PMQs

Keir Starmer was back on his home turf at Prime Minister’s Questions today, attacking Boris Johnson for what he said was a lack of competence in containing the spread of the Delta variant. The Labour leader focused on the delay in putting India on the red list, turning one of the Prime Minister’s stock phrases against him, saying: ‘While the NHS was vaccinating, he was vacillating.’ Starmer said that if Johnson had acted quickly enough to put India on the list, ‘we wouldn’t have had the Delta variant here’, later adding: ‘The British people don’t expect miracles but they do expect basic competence and honesty.’ He asked why anyone should

James Kirkup

Cummings’s messages aren’t a ‘bombshell’ revelation

On days like this, I despair of the media-political village where I’ve spent most of my adult life. Because that village is going to get very, very excited about some things that the Prime Minister said about one of his ministers on WhatsApp – even though it doesn’t really matter. By now, you know that Boris Johnson wrote ‘totally fucking useless’ in an exchange with Dominic Cummings, and also said things about possibly removing Hancock from his job as health secretary in the early stages of the pandemic. You know that because several thousand political journalists, tweeters and others have shared it, often with words like ‘bombshell’ and ‘dramatic revelation’.

What the Covid contract ruling against the government really means

The High Court’s ruling that Boris Johnson’s government broke the law by awarding a Covid contract worth £560,000 has been loudly celebrated by campaigners. ‘The Government’s handling of pandemic procurement was a kind of institutionalised cronyism,’ said Jolyon Maugham, from the ‘Good Law Project’, which brought the case. But this isn’t quite the victory it is being made out to be. It’s true that judges did decide that the contract handed to Public First, a communications firm, was unlawful because of a risk of apparent bias. But the Court rejected two of the three things the Project complained about. It also refused to quash, or end, the contract. So was the

What Dominic Cummings could learn from Xenophon

On the subject of leadership, the Athenian soldier, historian, biographer and essayist Xenophon (c. 430-354 BC) had much to say, having led the retreat of 10,000 Greek soldiers from Cunaxa (Iraq) through hostile territory back to Greece. Had Dominic Cummings paid more attention to him when he studied ancient and modern history at Oxford, his time in government might have been more successful. The key to Xenophon’s thinking was that the good leader had a positive relationship with his men, calculated to be of mutual benefit to everyone: the image of friendship between leader and men was never far away. In his life of the Persian leader Cyrus the Great,

Boris Johnson has defied the pro-lockdown groupthink

Should the name of Dominic Cummings ever make it into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, there’s one Cummings phrase our successors are sure to see. ‘Weirdos and misfits’ were what he valued. He said so in his blog, describing his preferred applicants for a job with his team at No. 10. I like the phrase. Such misfits can so often light the pathway where more timid minds and characters lose their nerve or their way. Cummings has always valued disruptors; always railed against Orwell’s ‘groupthink’; always rated the kind of people who question the conventional wisdom, the nostrums of the hour. And good for him. He’s one of them,

Portrait of the week: Boris Johnson’s wedding, bitcoin blackouts and a £140m tomato ketchup factory

Home Freelance scientists urged the government not to end coronavirus regulations on 21 June, for fear of a third wave. Fewer than 900 people remained in hospital with Covid, compared with 39,249 in January. Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, said ‘very, very few’ Covid patients in hospital had received two coronavirus vaccinations, and usually had additional conditions. Heathrow got round to using a separate terminal for passengers arriving from countries with a high risk of Covid. The government considered compulsory Covid vaccination for NHS staff. The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine was approved for use. By the start of the week, 47.3 per cent of the adult population

Is Britain prepared for a different corona disaster?

Amidst the drama of Dominic Cummings’s appearance in front of MPs last week, perhaps the most important thing the PM’s former adviser said was almost entirely ignored. As well as slating his former boss, Cummings criticised the UK’s disaster planning. The pandemic has shifted attention to how Britain would deal in the future with another respiratory virus, but arguably a bigger threat to this country – and, indeed, the world – has been forgotten. When it comes to dealing with solar flares, Cummings’s said, ‘the current Government plan is completely hopeless. If that happens then we’re all going to be in a worse situation than Covid’.  Cummings is right to be worried: the worst effects of a