Labour MPs celebrated on social media as Dominic Cummings was seen leaving Number 10 carrying a cardboard box after another day of political intrigue at Downing Street.
With suggestions he might have begun clearing his desk following Thursday’s resignation by colleague Lee Cain, sources subsequently said Boris Johnson’s chief adviser would remain employed until mid-December, but may work from home.
The latest wranglings were keenly followed on Twitter, where #DominicGoing was the top UK trend early on Friday evening, with opposition MPs tweeting their pleasure at the prospect of Mr Cummings leaving.
Shadow Lord Chancellor David Lammy tweeted: “Donald Trump defeated and soon out of the White House.
“Dominic Cummings carrying boxes out of Number 10.
“The crisis we are living through is catastrophic, but my god, it is good to feel hope once again.”
Cummings may have gone, but let's never forget that the worst part of the whole Barnard Castle affair was the way Conservative ministers shamelessly lined up to defend him saying 'it's what any loving father would have done' while millions made huge sacrifices by staying at home.
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) November 13, 2020
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the departure was “not before time”, while one of his predecessors, Tim Farron, focused on the aftermath of Mr Cummings’ much-publicised trip to Barnard Castle.
He wrote: “Cummings may have gone, but let’s never forget that the worst part of the whole Barnard Castle affair was the way Conservative ministers shamelessly lined up to defend him saying ‘it’s what any loving father would have done’, while millions made huge sacrifices by staying at home.”
Mr Cummings visited the town in May in an apparent breach of lockdown rules, subsequently claiming he was testing his eyesight after recovering from coronavirus symptoms at a family home near Durham.
Labour MP Bill Esterson joked: “Cummings leaving early to beat the traffic to Barnard Castle.”
Cummings leaving early to beat the traffic to Barnard Castle.
— Bill Esterson (@Bill_Esterson) November 13, 2020
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson’s senior advisers were “abandoning the Prime Minister like rats on a sinking ship”.
He added: “It tells you everything you need to know about this arrogant, incompetent and self-serving Tory Government that they are ditching their responsibilities – at the exact moment their reckless decisions are causing the maximum damage to people across the UK.
“If the Prime Minister had a shred of integrity he would pack his own bags and go with them.”
If the Prime Minister had a shred of integrity he would pack his own bags and go with them.
His tenure has been beset by abysmal failure, utter incompetence, and the alienation of Scotland and the other devolved nations.
— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) November 13, 2020
The developments came after a power struggle which led to the resignation of No 10 communications director Mr Cain.
Both Mr Cummings and Mr Cain worked as part of the Vote Leave campaign, and their impending departures led Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage to speculate about a “sell-out”.
He tweeted: “It is well documented that I have never liked Dominic Cummings but he has backed Brexit.
“Seeing him leave Number 10 carrying a cardboard box tells me a Brexit sell-out is close.”
Big moment: Boris now has an opportunity to get a more harmonious, effective Downing Street operation (like he had at City Hall); improve relations with the Parliamentary party; and lead a less confrontational, more unifying government that better reflects his own character
— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) November 13, 2020
Gavin Barwell, former chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Theresa May, tweeted: “Big moment: Boris now has an opportunity to get a more harmonious, effective Downing Street operation (like he had at City Hall); improve relations with the parliamentary party; and lead a less confrontational, more unifying government that better reflects his own character.”
Meanwhile, others speculated a seat in the House of Lords could be on the cards for Mr Cummings in the future – something Tory MP Michael Fabricant described as a “wonderful thought”.