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The POV: Dominic Cummings

As the Covid Inquiry continues to reveal the horrifying level of Government incompetence, mismanagement and toxic infighting during the COVID pandemic, it shines an even greater light on the conduct of the shady, Machiavellian figure of Dominic Cummings. Behind the scenes, Cummings flipped the country upside down and waged a war against the foundations of the British Government. 

This article will use the accounts of senior Government Ministers and Civil servants as revealed by the eye-opening documentary "State of Chaos" by Laura Kuennsberg as a starting point from which it will explore how Dominic Cummings, unchecked, came to rule Downing Street with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, so often unaware of the decisions made by his mighty right-hand man. 

So, who's up for turning the country upside down?

1999-2007 The Eurosceptic activist

Cummings first emerged in British politics in 1999, becoming campaign director for Business for Sterling, the campaign against the UK's adoption of the euro. He then went on a frustrating 8-month stint as Iain Duncan Smith's Director of Strategy during IDS's uninspiring leadership of the Conservative Party. In proper Cummings fashion, he left, labelling his boss "incompetent".

Following his departure, he founded the eurosceptic think tank New Frontiers Foundation in 2003. In its two years of life, it published articles condemning the "ever closer Union" pursued under PM Tony Blair, sought reform of the Civil Service and called for the abolition of the BBC, suggesting bloggers and talk radio shows with more explicit political leanings replace it - this seems to have coincided with the remarkable growth of social media, and the popularisation of political podcasts and shows. 

One could argue that the media grows increasingly polarised by the day, exhibiting the classic populist tactics of pursuing exaggerated headlines that beckon to the tempers of ordinary people and then it's a dogfight for who can publish the most ghastly and outrageous stories. 

Even at the very start of this political career, Dominic Cummings was ahead of the curve, envisioning what would become the Post-Brexit Trumpian world, where the middle ground would be torn apart, and campaigns were won with divisive slogans, even when founded on lies. 

2007-2014 Special Advisor to Michael Gove

Not his most exciting period, to be honest.

Cummings worked for Michael Gove in many Opposition and Government roles, rising to Chief of Staff at the Department for Education. He was critical of politicians such as Nick Clegg and even brexiteer David Davis. David Cameron alluded to a "career psychopath" in a speech in 2014, meaning Cummings. 

His highlight at the DfE was a £25,000 payout to a female civil servant due to a bullying case against Cummings - similar to the incident during the Johnson administration - even after the departure of his former chief advisor. 

 2015-2019 Campaigning for Brexit

Now, here's where the story really gets going.

Dominic Cummings was appointed to lead the Vote Leave campaign in October 2015. 

Cummings is the man behind Vote Leave's powerful slogan, "Take back control", and I am certain that a bus with an abject lie on the side of it would not have made its glorious appearance without the chief's approval. 

Who knows, maybe £350 million a week for the NHS might just drop from the heavens into treasury coffers; I am sure of one thing: the National Health Service desperately needs funding. 

Once Boris Johnson decided to join the Brexit band, Cummings had a formidable poster boy; Nigel Farage didn't make the cut. 

Alongside his former boss, Michael Gove, Boris and a load of other Conservative MPs, Vote Leave ruptured the Conservative Party; the awkward squad smelled blood and set loose the dogs of Party infighting. 

On the 24th of June, the country woke up to the most complex and catastrophic news: terrible news for the economy, for the world of British politics, for the Union, for peace in Northern Ireland, and for the UK's relationship with Europe. 

As Dominic Cummings gave his speech at headquarters, he smashed a tile from the roof, the perfect symbol of this man's ambitions.

Whilst gridlock and toxic rhetoric boiled over in the Houses of Parliament – a global laughingstock – Dominic Cummings advised Babylon Heath on communications strategy and recruitment until September 2018. This was just two months after Boris Johnson flipped the table on Theresa May's Chequers deal when he resigned as Foreign Secretary in protest. 

Furthermore, just months before entering Downing Street with Boris Johnson after Theresa May's nails finally gave out (vacating the job she'd lost in 2017), the privileges committee found Cummings to have been in contempt of Parliament after he failed to show up to the Culture Committee to face questions over the false news and information he branded during the referendum campaign, something all too similar to the following years of Tory rule. 

 2019-2020 Chief Advisor to PM Boris Johnson

Prorogation, chaos for Christmas, COVID, and war on the Civil Service, above all else, were on Dom's agenda when he took his place at Johnson's side. 

Laura Kuenssberg's "State of Chaos" provides phenomenal insight into the period. 

In late August 2019, ministers like Matt Hancock and Brandon Lewis were stunned to see Jacob Rees-Mogg - as Leader of the house - at Aberdeen Airport as it only meant one thing: they would see the Queen. They were going to ask that Parliament be prorogued to disrupt opposition to a no-deal Brexit. 

Ministers had been given assurances by Cummings himself that prorogation would not take place, and yet here it was, happening before their very eyes. It is an excellent example of how Cummings operated at Downing Street: deception and destabilisation. 

Such a call would not have been taken lightly. Yet, the then Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, found out just before the rest of the cabinet was informed by telephone that the legal controversy was deliberately shoved to the side. 

Luckily for us, the law caught up with them. On the 24th of September 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that prorogation was "unlawful". While JRM accused the highest court of having acted in a "deeply politicised" manner, many others, like Tony Benn, noted that it was an example of our constitution working to maintain checks and balances on the Government. 

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were not happy, to say the least. In retaliation, twenty-one of the most respected Conservative Party MPs, including Ken Clarke, Phillip Hammond, Rory Stewart and even Churchill's grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, were ejected from the Party for opposing the Government on a three-line whip on a no-deal Brexit. This was when the centre of the power Party slid towards the right.

As Phillip Hammond, Former Chancellor, Foreign and Defence Secretary noted, it was an "incredible hypocrisy" on the part of Boris Johnson, who had serially undermined Theresa May, most notably resigning over her Chequers deal.

What does our antagonist, Mr Cummings, say? According to senior civil servant at Number 10 Helen Mcnamara, the man did not care if Johnson was taken away in handcuffs for a no-deal Brexit, which had now been passed as unlawful by Parliament. In fact, it gave him the perfect talking point: Brexit, voted for in a referendum, was being blocked.

In December 2019, it seemed the toxic Trumpian rhetoric - that the world was against the chaos they wanted to unfold - worked like magic, as the Conservatives won a thumping majority. 

In early 2020, after the "oven-ready deal" clearly hadn't been taken out of the freezer, a tangled and messy deal was brought together, declaring Britain's adventure into the abyss a reality. And yet, just before Brexit could fully set in, the COVID pandemic trumped it. 

As usual, Boris Johnson's government scrambled for a plan of action, and the PM was furious that he had to announce a lockdown, leaving it till the last possible moment. 

Our anti-hero, who believes no laws apply to him, broke COVID rules outright, exposing the issue with populist figures. Populists don't give a damn about ordinary people; they simply play to their emotions to whip up a storm. 

2020-2023 Downfall and revelation 

Most will remember Dominic Cummings leaving through the front door of Downing Street deliberately to catch the eye of photographers and news crews; after all, this man is the meister of media storms. 

Boris Johnson had finally had enough of his traitorous Chief advisor, not because he sent British politics into the abyss, but because he undermined him. Sajid Javid, the man who resigned over what likely was Cummings' decision to let go of his advisory team at the Treasury, pointed out to Boris Johnson, whom he had warned about Cummings, that he had caused a real mess.

After blatantly denying any wrongdoing, Cummings finally appeared to Boris Johnson as a loose cannon and was sacked. 

During Cummings' appearance at the COVID inquiry and in Kuenssberg's documentary, a disturbing truth came to light: Dominic Cummings was Boris Johnson's puppet master. Cummings gave Boris the keys to Downing Street and, in return, received mute complicity. Javid, who served as Chancellor and Health Secretary during Johnson's premiership, noted that it was like having two Prime Ministers. To add to this, Cummings acted like a tyrant inside the Government, insulting and degrading ministers and civil servants, making misogynistic comments, calling ministers useless, and firing off at his own Prime Minister - whom only he could stop from saying something stupid. 

This man wrecked Britain's political system and disturbed the foundations of our Government; he deserves to be lambasted for it.

Image: Sky News

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