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TOM BOWER: Boris Johnson will fight to the end for Dominic Cummings

TOM BOWER: Why Boris Johnson will fight to the end for maverick Dominic Cummings

The tumbril is ready and the guillotine is glistening for Dominic Cummings. 

The Left cannot wait for their hate figure – and most dangerous enemy – to be thrown into a cart and led off for a public execution.

It is no coincidence that news of Cummings’s ‘lockdown bust’ was broken by two Labour-supporting newspapers: the tabloid Mirror, which has described him as the PM’s ‘posh weirdo misfit adviser’, and the self-righteous Guardian, whose high priestess Polly Toynbee calls him ‘Downing Street’s dark lord’.

For Cummings represents the biggest threat to public sector incompetence, and to the cosy Whitehall Civil Service establishment, that has been a dead weight on Britain’s development for years and which has let us down so badly during the pandemic crisis.

The Left cannot wait for Dominic Cummings, their hate figure – and most dangerous enemy – to be thrown into a cart and led off for a public execution, writes TOM BOWER

The truth is that defending this monolith – which Cummings called ‘the Blob’ in specific reference to the education Establishment because of its resistance to change – is a religion for the Labour Party and trade unions. 

His removal would ring-fence the cosy, well-paid, gold-plated pension culture of those who run Britain.

Yet for Boris Johnson, this country’s prosperity depends on his chief adviser’s genius for creative destruction. That is why Johnson will fight to save Cummings.

For his part, Cummings could argue that, as a man who prides himself on breaking rules, he was merely acting in character in breaking lockdown guidelines. 

But, in fact, he could explain that, as the deputy chief medical officer made clear, family support could be sought in ‘exceptional circumstances’ if parents were too unwell to look after a child.

The pandemic, and the subsequent economic rescue emergency, means Britain needs Cummings’s skills more than ever.

To him, nothing cannot be reformed or is immune from the axe.

Before the virus, his first target had been the Ministry of Defence. Over-staffed with unsackable officials, he felt it was wasting billions of pounds on unusable equipment.

Now, with experts saying it could take five years or more to repair our economy, everything is on the table.

It is no coincidence that news of Cummings’s ‘lockdown bust’ was broken by two Labour-supporting newspapers

Without doubt, the incompetent executives running Public Health England and the Department of Health are in Cummings’s gun-sights.

However, as well as his enemies on the Left, there are many Tories who would stand and cheer along the route to his execution.

Among other unpleasantries, Tory MPs have called the 48-year-old ‘an unelected foul-mouthed oaf throwing his weight around’, a ‘political anarchist’ and an ‘aggressive bully’.

Undaunted, Cummings sees these as badges of honour. He revels in his public image and in being seemingly engaged in perpetual warfare with colleagues. 

He enjoys shocking people with his attire of scruffy jeans and trainers. 

He relishes telling of his wrecking ball approach to policy. 

Typical was earlier this year when, in a blog, he wrote about the ‘super-talented weirdos’ he wanted to recruit as young Downing Street staff.

For Boris Johnson, this country’s prosperity depends on his chief adviser’s genius for creative destruction. That is why Johnson will fight to save Cummings

He said: ‘What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity. 

We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought themselves out of an appalling hell hole…’

The son of oil rig project manager brought up in Durham, it is ironic that Cummings himself studied a ‘humanities’ subject (history) at Oxford.

He first emerged as a public figure during the Brexit campaign, coming up with the winning slogan Take Back Control.

However, equally significant was his talent for alienating those he sought to influence. 

His abrasive personality deterred many veteran Tory Brexiteers from joining Vote Leave’s campaign, among them Iain Duncan Smith, who fought the battle independently.

Previously, Cummings had been hired by Michael Gove when he was Shadow Education Minister – helping challenge the Left-wing educational establishment which they felt were using schools for social engineering rather than teaching excellence.

Previously, Cummings had been hired by Michael Gove when he was Shadow Education Minister

When Gove became Education Secretary, the pair ran the department as an autonomous wing of the Government, re-designing curriculums, planning more academies and setting up free schools.

Daily exposure to incompetent and lazy civil servants turned Cummings into an excoriating critic of Whitehall’s sclerotic management and ‘dodgy accountancy’.

It was inevitable he would make one enemy too many. In this case it happened to be the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who called Cummings a ‘career psychopath’ and he was fired.

Cummings’s appointment as Johnson’s key No 10 official, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories. 

To them, Cummings – infamous as bombastic, volatile, aggressive and a depressive – was a huge risk.

But for Johnson, ambitious to use Brexit to revolutionise and modernise Britain, having a rule-breaker on board was vital.

Johnson’s initial offers to Cummings to join him in Downing Street were rejected. 

So Johnson cycled across Islington in North London to Cummings’s home to hear what he described as a list of ‘terrorist demands’.

Johnson quickly conceded and once he became PM, made Cummings his key staffer.

Ever the strategist, Cummings placed himself in the corner of the hall in No 10 so he would be filmed by the cameras as Boris Johnson made his triumphant first entry after seeing the Queen.

As Cummings intended, many Tory Brexiteers were horrified. ‘If we’d known that Cummings would come,’ said Bill Cash, ‘it would have caused a lot of angst. I was against Vote Leave because of Cummings.’

Cummings’s appointment as Johnson’s key No 10 official, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories

Cummings took aim at Whitehall’s senior officials who he believed lacked the skills to run a modern government. 

The Civil Service, headed by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, was staffed, he had long thought, by incompetents unable to manage, procure equipment or implement good policies.

Next, he demanded personal loyalty from every political assistant. ‘If you don’t like how I run things,’ he shouted at one meeting, ‘there’s the door. F*** off!’

Some were sacked. One was Sonia Khan, a Treasury media adviser, who was escorted by armed police from Downing Street after a confrontation with Cummings over her contact with those close to the former chancellor Philip Hammond.

Cummings’s priority was to Get Brexit Done. Britain, as his boss pledged, would be out of the EU by October 31, 2019. ‘Nothing will stand in the way of that,’ Cummings vowed.

In the crash-and-burn tactics devised by him, the No 10 svengali was happy to see a political and constitutional crisis if it achieved a disorderly Brexit, and then hold a General Election to win a Tory majority under the banner of ‘People v Parliament’.

What followed was Cummings’s high-risk strategy of Johnson controversially proroguing Parliament, 21 Tory MPs losing the whip and others in open conflict with Downing Street.

Characteristically, Cummings said the Tories’ 80-strong Commons majority meant there was ‘little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems’

When Tory MP Greg Clark, a Remainer, called Cummings to discuss a truce, he was told: ‘When are you f****** MPs going to realise, we are leaving on 31 October? We are going to purge you!’

With Cummings urging Johnson ‘Hold your nerve’, the tactics paid off. Britain left the EU – and the Tories won their biggest Commons majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1983.

Characteristically, Cummings said the Tories’ 80-strong Commons majority meant there was ‘little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems’.

Loyalty to his close allies has become one of Boris Johnson’s hallmarks. As London Mayor, he regretted bowing to the Leftist mob and agreeing to the resignation of key staff.

He will fight to the end for Dominic Cummings because without him, he fears his ambitions will evaporate.

Tom Bower’s biography of Boris Johnson will be published in October.

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