Dominic Cummings leaks drama: Who’s who of the leading players in the saga of Downing Street and the ‘chatty rat’

Sophia Sleigh
·5-min read
<p>Clockwise from left: Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson, Henry Newman, Michael Gove, Jack Doyle, Simon Case, and Dominic Cummings</p> (ES Composite)

Clockwise from left: Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson, Henry Newman, Michael Gove, Jack Doyle, Simon Case, and Dominic Cummings

(ES Composite)

Dominic Cummings

The Brexit mastermind and former head of Vote Leave campaign is no stranger to controversy.

As Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser, he devised the risky strategy of pushing for a general election and hit the headlines over his notorious Barnard Castle eye test.

The PM stood by his maverick spin doctor until he was ousted in a purge of Vote Leave staffers in the middle of a briefing war.

Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds is claimed to have played a pivotal role in Mr Cummings’s early departure.

Mr Cummings now stands accused of leaking texts between Boris Johnson and the billionaire Sir James Dyson which sparked a series of lobbying stories.

However, Mr Cummings is said to be able to prove his innocence. He is also accused of being the so-called “chatty rat” who bounced Mr Johnson into a second lockdown.

But in his bombshell blog on Friday afternoon, Mr Cummings hit back, claiming that the official investigation into the matter had suspected that former Gove aide who now works in No 10 Henry Newman is the chatty rat.

Henry Newman

A good friend of Ms Symonds, a former protégé of Michael Gove and worked on the Vote Leave campaign.

Mr Newman’s elevation to a senior adviser of Mr Johnson was reportedly influenced by Ms Symonds.

In his dynamite blog post, Mr Cummings alleged that the Prime Minister had been informed that “all the evidence” points towards Mr Newman as the chatty rat whose leak forced the PM to rush out the second lockdown announcement.

Mr Cummings went on to allege that the PM felt it would cause “very serious problems” with Ms Symonds if the adviser were fired because the pair were “best friends”.

Mr Cummings claims the PM wanted to cancel the inquiry into the leak for that reason.

No 10 denied the accusations, stating: “The PM has never interfered in a government leak inquiry.” Mr Newman has denied being the chatty rat.

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds

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PA Archive

According to reports, the Prime Minister personally picked up the phone to newspaper editors on Thursday to blame Dominic Cummings for leaking stories against him.

The move was seen as an attempt to head off bombshell revelations the adviser is expected to make when he gives evidence at an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic next month.

Today, Mr Johnson’s enemies briefed the Daily Mail that he allegedly said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown. No10 has strongly denied the claim, insisting it is “just another lie”.

Tied in with all this briefing war is the extraordinary allegation by Mr Cummings that Mr Johnson wanted “donors to secretly pay for the renovation” of the Downing Street flat he shares with Ms Symonds.

Mr Cummings said he warned that the move would be “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules”.

The Mail claims the PM was “shamed” into paying for the expensive refurbishment after they exposed how the Tory Party initially settled the bill.

Interior designer Lulu Lytle is said to have been involved in the upgrade spearheaded by Ms Symonds. Mr Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

Jack Doyle

Former Fleet Street journalist Jack Doyle was accused by Mr Cummings of making “a number of false accusations to the media”.

The PM’s new director of communications was accused of having been the No 10 source who briefed newspapers on Thursday night that Mr Cummings had been responsible for a series of damaging leaks.

Michael Gove

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PA

It has long been speculated that pro-lockdown “doves” such as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove or Health Secretary Matt Hancock or their advisers could have been behind the chatty rat leak which bounced the PM into lockdown.

However, extraordinary details emerged at the weekend that claimed MI5 had examined records of WhatsApp messages sent from the Cabinet room in No10, where lockdown had been discussed, which pointed to Mr Cummings.

Simon Case

Prince William’s former private secretary Simon Case launched an investigation into the chatty rat leak inquiry, which led to the security services swooping on the homes of ministers and their aides to seize their phones.

The Cabinet Secretary was due to appear in front of MPs this afternoon in which he is expected to be grilled over the leaking saga as well as the Downing Street flat scandal.

Despite Mr Cummings’s protestations, Whitehall sources told The Times Mr Case had not cleared him of being the chatty rat.

Lord Brownlow

A leaked memo obtained by the Daily Mail appears to show that Tory Party chief Ben Elliot knew that a £58,000 donation was earmarked for Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

Tory peer Lord Brownlow apparently wrote to the party’s head of fundraising last October saying he was making a donation, including £58,000 to cover the payments the party had “already made” on behalf of the soon to be formed “Downing Street Trust”.

Cabinet ministers have insisted the PM paid for the renovations “from his own pocket”. But questions remain over whether the money originally came from another source — and the Mr Johnson then paid it back.

Allegra Stratton

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PA Archive

As No 10 faced a barrage of difficult questions over leaks and lobbying stories, it became increasingly clear to advisers that TV briefings were a bad idea.

Former journalist Allegra Stratton was the first casualty in the crisis, with her TV briefings scrapped before they even started. Instead she will lead communications on the COP 26 climate change summit.

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