Press offers differing views of Dominic Cummings’s Downing Street departure

By Benjamin Cooper, PA
·2-min read

Stories about the departures of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain from Downing Street dominate the nation’s papers on Saturday, with differing versions reported of the events that led to their exits.

The PA news agency understands the architects of Vote Leave will still be employed until the middle of next month and will work from their homes.

Contrasting stories have emerged, however, about exactly what took place between the two men and Boris Johnson inside the official residence on Friday.

The Times says the Prime Minister told senior adviser Mr Cummings and communications chief Mr Cain to quit amid fears they would “poison the well” if they were allowed to stay in their positions any longer.

A senior Tory, speaking anonymously, expressed concerns Mr Cummings could attempt to “settle scores” on his way out, while senior figures told the paper there could be instability if aides appointed by the two advisers quit or were dismissed.

“The whole way decisions are made in Downing Street is going to change,” a source told The Times.

The Financial Times reported the PM held a 45-minute meeting with the two men on Friday in which he accused them of destabilising the Government amid tense talks with Brussels.

Lee Cain resigns
Dominic Cummings (left) and Lee Cain engineered the Vote Leave campaign (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Mr Johnson also alleged they had briefed against him and his partner, Carrie Symonds, and showed them text messages which he said proved the allegation.

The FT said Mr Johnson then told the pair to get out and never return.

A source with knowledge of the conversation described that version of events as “horseshit”, according to Mr Cain’s former employer, the Daily Mirror.

The Mirror also ran a photograph showing a grinning Mr Cain alongside the PM with both wearing boxing gloves inscribed with the message “Get Brexit Done”. The paper reported an unidentified source had said the photo was taken hours after Mr Johnson had ordered Mr Cain and Mr Cummings to leave Number 10.

The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, says Mr Cummings called his former boss “indecisive” as he departed Downing Street, but a source told the paper the complaints of dithering were simply “the occasions when the PM won’t do what he wants him to”.

The paper’s editorial says the departure was “probably just as well, because there can be no ambiguity at the top of Government”, adding: “The next few weeks could define (Mr Johnson’s) premiership.”

The Guardian reported special advisers were delighted by Mr Cummings leaving Number 10, with the PM “immediately urged to appoint an MP as his permanent chief of staff to help heal deep divisions with backbenchers amid warnings that his parliamentary party risked becoming ungovernable”.