Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Dominic Cummings’ fury at MPs laid bare as Brexit ‘mastermind’ leaves No 10

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Mr Cummings left Downing Street for the last time on Friday after internal battles spilled into the mainstream. His friend and political ally Lee Cain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Director of Communications, had announced a day earlier that he would be leaving his post. Mr Johnson, meanwhile, is said to want to “clear the air and move on” from the debacle.

One senior Conservative MP said the departure would give Mr Johnson an opportunity to “reset Government”, according to the BBC.

Mr Cummings has been described as the “mastermind behind Brexit”.

He spearheaded the successful Vote Leave campaign, a career highlight as a life-long Eurosceptic.

So controversial were his efforts that his manoeuvres were serialised as part of the Channel 4 drama, ‘Brexit The Uncivil War’, which paid particular attention to his role in covering a bus with the disputed £350m-a-week figure, arguing that the cash could be used to fund the NHS.

Following this, Mr Cummings played an influential role in Government, appearing to form a fence around Mr Johnson.

This was despite his not being elected, or, in fact, a member of the Conservative Party, according to the Financial Times.

Mr Cummings focused his ire on what he dubbed the political “elite” – those in the so-called London bubble, who he said were out of touch with the country’s needs and wants.

This frustration was displayed in public at the end of last year, as Mr Cummings attended a book launch of a prominent Vote Leave supporter and businessman Stuart Wheeler.

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It came amid Mr Johnson’s “inflammatory” language around the “surrender act” bill and furious scenes over the Government’s stance on Brexit in the House of Commons – with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accusing the Prime Minister’s language of encouraging people to behave in a “disgraceful and abusive way”.

When Mr Cummings was asked if he blamed MPs for the abuse, he said: “The MPs said we will have a referendum, we will respect the result and then they spent three years swerving all over the shop.

“It is not surprising some people are angry about it.

“I find it very odd that these characters are complaining that people are unhappy about their behaviour now and they also say they want a referendum.”

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He added: “If you are a bunch of politicians and say that we swear we are going to respect the result of a democratic vote, and then after you lose you say, we don’t want to respect that vote, what do you expect to happen?”

Then asked if MPs have themselves to blame for the abuse, he replied: “That’s the way you’re putting it. I am using my language.”

Mr Cummings’ allies believe his no-prisoners approach to Brexit was vindicated.

A deal to take the UK out of the EU was, in the end, struck with Brussels, although a trade agreement is yet to be seen.

And, the Tories won a landslide victory in the 2019 election, with Mr Johnson holding the biggest majority of any Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher.

However, it is this dogmatic style of discourse that has ended up with Mr Cummings in many people’s bad books.

As the FT notes, it was his plan to prorogue Parliament for five weeks; a move which prompted widespread outrage.

He was also behind the move to kick 21 rebel Tory MPs out of the party for supporting Parliamentary mechanisms to undermine Brexit.

This, many at the time noted, was extremely significant, as Mr Cummings, in political reality, had no such mandate.

Meanwhile, those under Mr Johnson’s leadership have largely noted their “relief” at Mr Cummings’ departure.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said Mr Johnson had taken “decisive action” in removing his aide.

The PM’s spokesman said Mr Johnson was not distracted by the row and was “focused” on tackling coronavirus.

Others were more sceptical.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Government to “focus on the job in hand” rather than “squabbling” in No 10.

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