Dominic Cummings: the maverick who helped Johnson deliver Brexit

Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor
·2-min read

Dominic Cummings has thrown Downing Street into turmoil after accusing Boris Johnson of telling aides to make a series of false accusations about him in the media.

– Why was Mr Cummings so important to Mr Johnson?

Mr Cummings was credited as the “maverick genius” behind the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum which Mr Johnson fronted.

Boris Johnson with the Vote Leave battlebus
Dominic Cummings was seen as the architect of the Vote Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

When Mr Johnson became Prime Minister in 2019, he controversially brought him into Downing Street as his top adviser.

In No 10, he was seen as the architect of the strategy which broke the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit and resulted in a crushing general election victory for the Tories.

– Why was he such a controversial figure?

From the start, Mr Cummings made clear his impatience with the traditional ways of Whitehall, promising to bring down a “hard rain” on the Civil Service.

One aide suspected of leaking was marched out of Downing Street by armed police on his orders while he appealed for “weirdos and misfits” to shake up No 10.

Lee Cain resigns
Dominic Cummings takes a press conference in the No 10 rose garden following his trip to Barnard Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

However it was his infamous trip to Barnard Castle in County Durham, in an apparent breach of lockdown regulations, which sealed his notoriety with the wider public.

– Why did he fall out with Mr Johnson?

There were reported strains last autumn with Mr Cummings said to be frustrated with Mr Johnson’s delay in ordering a second lockdown in England.

Matters came to a head when the Prime Minister chose the former TV journalist Allegra Stratton to take planned new televised daily press briefings.

Dominic Cummings leaves Downing Street, for the final time
Dominic Cummings leaves Downing Street for the final time (Yui Mok/PA)

The appointment led to the resignation of No 10 communications director Lee Cain – a close ally of Mr Cummings from their Vote Leave days.

Mr Cummings himself then dramatically departed after losing out in what was seen as a bitter internal power struggle with Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

– What happens now?

Mr Cummings is due to give evidence to MPs investigating the Government’s response to the pandemic on May 26.

He has already blasted the performance of the Department of Health and Social Care – saying it had been reduced to a “smoking ruin” – and there is likely to be plenty more in that vein when he returns to Westminster.