Johnson and Cummings’ relationship ‘fell off a cliff’ as Tories ask for ‘reset’

By PA Reporters
·5-min read

Dominic Cummings left Downing Street after his relationship with the Prime Minister “fell off a cliff”, according to a former Cabinet minister.

Mr Cummings left his role after a power struggle that has rocked the administration, amid claims he had briefed against Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds.

Senior Tory MPs have now called on the Prime Minister to use his departure to “reset the Government” following complaints the party and Parliament were not being listened to during Mr Cummings’ time as senior adviser.

It comes after the Daily Telegraph reported Mr Cummings was said to have told colleagues Mr Johnson was “indecisive” and that he and director of communications Lee Cain, who has also announced his resignation, relied on Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove for clarity.

According to the Daily Mail, tensions were raised further when the Prime Minister was shown “hostile texts” briefing against Miss Symonds, which had been forwarded to her.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis told BBC Breakfast on Saturday many within No 10 had “turned on” Mr Cummings.

He said: “It is said… people ranging from Allegra (Stratton) – the new spokesman for the Prime Minister – right through to his (Mr Johnson’s) fiancee, Carrie, turned against him.

“The relationship with the Prime Minister fell off a cliff. And once that’s gone, it’s gone.”

Mr Davis, who was allegedly described as “thick as mince” and “lazy as a toad” by Mr Cummings when in the Cabinet in 2017, also branded the adviser’s style “confrontational” but added the PM had “relied on him” and “there are things he (Mr Cummings) was right about”.

He added the photos of Mr Cummings leaving Downing Street could help “reset Government”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The photograph will last the weekend and people will remember it, but it’s not the key.

“And at one level, as I said, Boris will want to reset Government and in a sense, that photograph does part of the resetting for him.”

Dominic Cummings outside his north London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Dominic Cummings outside his north London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Cummings left his north London home on Saturday afternoon but only spoke to reporters to ask them to move out of his way, and did not answer any questions.

He was seen getting into a Toyota Prius which drove away from the scene.

Earlier, his wife Mary Wakefield came outside and told reporters he “would not come out” in the rainy weather.

The BBC reported Mr Cummings’ departure had been brought forward given the “upset in the team” and that the PM wanted to “clear the air and move on”.

On what could change, Mr Davis told BBC Breakfast: “Well the first thing is there are going to be some new staff in Number 10. He’s going to need a new chief of staff who has got to be fiercely efficient but not fiercely political. He’s got to find someone who doesn’t have their own agenda.

“Secondly, lots of my colleagues in Parliament are hoping for a new relationship with Parliament. More openness, more interaction with Parliament.”

Theresa May’s ex-chief of staff, Lord Gavin Barwell, also said the departure could lead to more harmonious relations between the Prime Minister and Tory MPs.

Referring to Mr Johnson, Lord Barwell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It feels to me that there’s an opportunity here for him to get his Downing Street operation more harmonious and more effective.

Dominic Cummings leaves 10 Downing Street on Friday
Dominic Cummings leaves 10 Downing Street on Friday (Yui Mok/PA)

“To rebuild relations with Conservative MPs, the parliamentary party.

“And, perhaps, to set a less confrontational and more unifying tone, that is maybe more in tune with his natural instincts.”

Some media reports have said Mr Cummings had quit his post with immediate effect.

Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve was scathing about Mr Cummings’ time at the centre of power.

He told Times Radio: “I consider that he’s created mayhem in government.

“The whole of his period in government has been marked by a slide in standards so that the Number 10 press office has been used as a vehicle for distributing smears, untruths and lies which was very obvious in the autumn of last year and the period around prorogation and the run up to the general election.

“This year it’s difficult not to say that he’s created nothing except chaos with the Prime Minister.

“Whether it’s the handling of Covid and his own behaviour, whether it’s the Internal Markets Bill because quite apart from being utterly wrong in violating international law, that has blown up in the face of the Government and led to a massive rebellion in the Commons and the House of Lords and something of a crisis associated with that.”

The PA news agency understands he and Mr Cain will still be employed until the middle of next month, with other reports suggesting Mr Cummings will work from home on projects such as mass testing.

Sir Edward Lister was announced as the interim chief of staff pending a permanent appointment.

The dramatic events have come as Brexit heads to a crucial phase next week, as London seeks a trade deal with Brussels before the end of the transition period on December 31.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, James Slack, who will replace Mr Cain in the new year, insisted Mr Johnson was not being distracted by the row.

“What the Prime Minister and the Government are focused upon is taking every possible step to get this country through the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.