What’s next for ‘career psychopath’ Dominic Cummings?


‘Career psychopath’ Dominic Cummings’ spell as Boris Johnson’s top aide is expected to be over by Christmas with the Vote Leave campaign maestro tipped to run one of his Government ‘pet projects’ or ‘make a fortune’ as a consultant.

Boris Johnson’s most senior official announced yesterday that he will resign after Carrie Symonds reportedly blocked the promotion of his right-hand man Lee Cain following months of civil war in No 10.

The Prime Minister plans to ‘reboot his premiership’ by removing the Vote Leave cabal lead by Mr Cummings, clearing the stage for more ‘liberal’ policies with a focus on green issues championed by the PM’s fiancee.

Whitehall sources today claimed that Mr Cummings could soon be offered the job to lead Britain’s first £800million defence research agency. The proposed body, based on the American Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is described as one of his ‘pet projects’.  

One source told the FT: ‘One expectation among Whitehall mandarins is that Mr Cummings may leave Number 10 to become the first head of his pet project: a new high-risk, high-reward scientific research body based on the Darpa agency in the US’. 

The past 48-hours of Downing Street tumult and intrigue cap an astonishing rise and fall for a man once seen as untouchable and with the almost exclusive ear of the Prime Minister.

Less than a year-and-a-half ago he was relatively unknown outside Westminster but was thrust into the public consciousness with his combative nature, his desire to take on the Establishment and his ill-fated decision to bend the rules in the first lockdown to travel north from London with his ill family. 

Mr Cummings’ 16 months in Downing Street will also give him the chance to earn millions of pounds as a consultant advising businesses on Brexit, the coronavirus crisis and gaining access to Whitehall. His current special adviser salary is between £95,000 and £99,999. 

Another insider told MailOnline: ‘Dom has been driving reform of the civil service –  he could make a fortune as a consultant’. 

The 48-year-old father-of-one, who is married to Spectator journalist Mary Wakefield, the daughter of baronet Sir Humphry Wakefield, could also choose to write a book about his time in Government, which could secure him a publishing deal of between £500,000 and £1million. 

Dominic Cummings, pictured today, is being tipped to run a defence research agency, described as one of his ‘pet projects’ at No 10, or become a consultant

Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds watch the 2019 Election results come in at No10 Downing Street with Dominic Cummings in the background when the Tory PM secured a huge majority

Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds watch the 2019 Election results come in at No10 Downing Street with Dominic Cummings in the background when the Tory PM secured a huge majority

Mr Cummings kisses his wife Mary Wakefield, the daughter of baronet Sir Humphry Wakefield, in Green Park last year. The couple have a young son

Mr Cummings kisses his wife Mary Wakefield, the daughter of baronet Sir Humphry Wakefield, in Green Park last year. The couple have a young son

Mr Cummings with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove when he ran Vote Leave.

Mr Cummings with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove when he ran Vote Leave.

Dominic Cummings poses with a cigarette when he was campaign director at Business for Sterling in 2001 having quit the Tories blaming Iain Duncan Smith's 'incompetent' leadership

Dominic Cummings poses with a cigarette when he was campaign director at Business for Sterling in 2001 having quit the Tories blaming Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘incompetent’ leadership

Brexit mastermind who splits Tory opinion 

Before rising to become the Prime Minister’s top aide, Dominic Cummings worked as  director of strategy for the Conservative Party in the early 2000s. 

He was appointed special adviser to Conservative politician Michael Gove in the Department of Education from 2007, before being dismissed by David Cameron, who once referred to Cummings as a ‘career psychopath’, in 2014. 

He quickly became known for his blunt style and his criticism of other senior politicians, once referring to Nick Clegg’s proposal on free school meals as ‘Dreamed up on the back of a cigarette packet’. 

In 2012, during his time as special adviser to Gove, a senior female civil servant received a payout of £25,000 in a bullying case she took against Cummings and a senior member of Gove’s team. 

From 2015, Cummings was the power behind the Vote Leave campaign that propelled Britain towards backing Brexit in 2016. 

While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were in the limelight the 47-year-old remained in the shadows pulling the strings.

He over saw a campaign that totally outflanked Remain and which is widely credited with leading to the 52-48 result in favour of quitting.

Such was his central role he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War last year.

He is also expected to restart his blog, where he wrote about Brexit, education reform and even claimed to have predicted the coronavirus pandemic. Last year he also extolled the virtues of a DARPA-like agency for Britain, which some claim he could soon run. 

His resignation yesterday came just six months after the Prime Minister refused to sack his Svengali despite his controversial 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown causing irreparable damage to the public’s trust in Government. 

Mr Cummings also drove 30 miles to the popular tourist spot Barnard Castle to test his eye sight, risking passing the infection to others at a time where Mr Johnson was telling 66million Britons not to leave home unless it was absolutely essential.

But Mr Johnson stood by him, despite widespread calls for Mr Cummings to be fired and prosecuted. The decision saw the Prime Minister’s popularity with the public plummet, especially after his aide’s press conference in the Downing Street garden where he denied he had done anything wrong.

Last night he was understood to have handed the Prime Minister his resignation and will leave his role before the New Year. 

Mr Cummings pointed the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg to a January blog post in which he expressed a wish for his job to be ‘redundant’ by the end of the year.

But a Downing Street insider said he ‘jumped because otherwise he would be pushed soon’ amid claims his Vote Leave team were just ‘in it for themselves’. 

The maverick Brexiteer has pulled the levers of power at the heart of Government as Mr Johnson’s most influential adviser – but he has also been accused of ‘looking like a bully’ at times.

Mr Johnson is said to be looking towards life after Mr Cummings and building a ‘more liberal, global Britain’. A senior Tory told The Times: ‘He [Mr Johnson] has been frustrated at the way these guys have operated at times. They can do things in stupid ways’. Another said of Mr Cummings’ abrasive style: ‘There is an acknowledgement that we need to reset relationships’. 

The developments mark the end of the Vote Leave clique’s iron grip on government, which has been the cause of a mounting backlash from senior Conservatives frustrated at their aggressive approach, ‘incompetent’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, and clumsy U-turns on issues such as free school meals during the holidays.   

Tory MPs have called the 48-year-old ‘an unelected foul-mouthed oaf throwing his weight around’, a ‘political anarchist’ and an ‘aggressive bully’. Undaunted, Cummings sees these as badges of honour. He revels in his public image and in being seemingly engaged in perpetual warfare with colleagues.    

A friend of the PM said recently: ‘Boris and Dom are like brothers…. Boris is not a great thinker, he is a broad brush person. Dominic is the brains and details man.’

Cummings, son of an oil rig project manager and a special needs teacher, was educated at Durham School where yearly fees rise to £35,000.

As a teenager he helped an uncle run the city’s notorious Klute nightclub, a venue once said to be ‘Europe’s worst’.

Boris Johnson had initially offered to promote communications Lee Cain to become chief of staff. But he dropped the plan following objections from his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured with Mr Johnson)

Boris Johnson had initially offered to promote communications Lee Cain to become chief of staff. But he dropped the plan following objections from his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured with Mr Johnson)

Boris Johnson (pictured leaving Downing Street today) is believed to want to 'reset' his government with a new 'softer' image

Boris Johnson (pictured leaving Downing Street today) is believed to want to ‘reset’ his government with a new ‘softer’ image

Mr Cain, pictured yesterday, an ally of Mr Cummings, quit on Wednesday night after Mr Johnson's change of heart. He was Mr Johnson's director of communications

Mr Cain, pictured yesterday, an ally of Mr Cummings, quit on Wednesday night after Mr Johnson’s change of heart. He was Mr Johnson’s director of communications

The web of connections in Downing Street, which has been reeling from factional infighting during the coronavirus crisis

The web of connections in Downing Street, which has been reeling from factional infighting during the coronavirus crisis

After Oxford where he read Ancient and Modern History, Cummings spent three years in Russia where he attempted to set up an airline, before being appointed director of Business for Sterling which campaigned successfully to keep Britain out of the Euro.

Before rising to become the Prime Minister’s top aide, Dominic Cummings worked as director of strategy for the Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith in the early 2000s.  

Treasury special adviser Sonia Khan is set for up to £100,000 settlement with the government after she was sacked by Dominic Cummings and marched by armed police out of Downing Street 

A Treasury aide sacked by maverick No10 chief Dominic Cummings and frogmarched out of Downing Street by police is to receive a ‘five-figure’ pay-off.

Sonia Khan was dramatically axed in August 2019 after being accused of staying in touch with people close to her former boss, Philip Hammond.

An extraordinary showdown with Mr Cummings in No10  ended up with the Chancellor’s adviser being walked out of the building, still protesting her innocence.

Mr Cummings apparently demanded to inspect both Ms Khan’s phones before immediately firing her.

In a damning slight to then Chancellor Sajid Javid, who kept Ms Khan on at No10 after taking over from Mr Hammond, he was only told after the dramatic events. 

There has been a huge exodus of advisers from Whitehall since Mr Johnson installed Mr Cummings as his chief aide, with sweeping powers to mobilise the government machine to secure Brexit.

One former adviser told MailOnline at the time that Mr Cummings increasingly ‘looks like a bully’, and said his conduct raised questions for the PM. 

Ms Khan had earned a reputation as a good operator in Westminster since joining Mr Hammond in 2018. She previously worked for ex-Cabinet minister Liam Fox and the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group.

But he quit after eight months in frustration at his boss’s ‘incompetent’ leadership. Cummings then led the successful 2004 campaign against the establishment of a North-East regional assembly, winning with 78 per cent of the vote. 

He was appointed special adviser to Conservative politician Michael Gove in the Department of Education from 2007, before being dismissed by David Cameron, who once referred to Cummings as a ‘career psychopath’, in 2014. 

He quickly became known for his blunt style and his criticism of other senior politicians, once referring to Nick Clegg’s proposal on free school meals as ‘Dreamed up on the back of a cigarette packet’. 

In 2012, during his time as special adviser to Mr Gove, a senior female civil servant received a payout of £25,000 in a bullying case she took against Cummings and a senior member of Gove’s team. 

When Mr Gove became Education Secretary, the pair ran the department as an autonomous wing of the Government, re-designing curriculums, planning more academies and setting up free schools. 

From 2015, Cummings was the power behind the Vote Leave campaign that propelled Britain towards backing Brexit in 2016. 

He first emerged as a public figure during the campaign, coming up with the winning slogan Take Back Control. 

While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were in the limelight the 47-year-old remained in the shadows pulling the strings. He over saw a campaign that totally outflanked Remain and which is widely credited with leading to the 52-48 result in favour of quitting.

Such was his central role he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War. In the 2020 revival of Spitting Image, he is portrayed “as a creepy alien with a pulsating head who drools at the prospect of eating Boris Johnson’s baby’.

Mr Cummings was appointed as Johnson’s key No 10 official when he became PM in July 2019, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories. 

For Johnson, ambitious to use Brexit to revolutionise and modernise Britain, having a rule-breaker on board was vital.

Johnson’s initial offers to Cummings to join him in Downing Street were rejected. So Johnson cycled across Islington in North London to Cummings’s home to hear what he described as a list of ‘terrorist demands’.

Johnson quickly conceded and once he became PM, made Cummings his key staffer.

Ever the strategist, Cummings placed himself in the corner of the hall in No 10 so he would be filmed by the cameras as Boris Johnson made his triumphant first entry after seeing the Queen.

As Cummings intended, many Tory Brexiteers were horrified. ‘If we’d known that Cummings would come,’ said Bill Cash, ‘it would have caused a lot of angst. I was against Vote Leave because of Cummings.’

When Tory MP Greg Clark, a Remainer, called Cummings to discuss a truce, he was told: ‘When are you f****** MPs going to realise, we are leaving on 31 October? We are going to purge you!’

Cummings’s priority was to Get Brexit Done. Britain, as his boss pledged, would be out of the EU by October 31, 2019. ‘Nothing will stand in the way of that,’ he vowed.

In the crash-and-burn tactics devised by him, the No 10 svengali was happy to see a political and constitutional crisis if it achieved a disorderly Brexit, and then hold a General Election to win a Tory majority under the banner of ‘People v Parliament’.

What followed was Cummings’s high-risk strategy of Johnson controversially proroguing Parliament, 21 Tory MPs losing the whip and others in open conflict with Downing Street.   

In a blog, he dubbed the fervently anti-EU European Research Group ‘narcissist delusionals’ and ‘useful idiots’ whose intransigence ‘has helped only Remain’.

‘During the referendum, so many of you guys were too busy shooting or skiing or chasing girls to do any actual work,’ he added.

‘You should be treated like a metastasising tumour and excised from the UK body politic.’

With Cummings urging Johnson ‘Hold your nerve’, the tactics paid off. Britain left the EU – and the Tories won their biggest Commons majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1983. 

Since his return to frontline politics, Cummings has had civil servants in his cross hairs, from proposals to abolish the Department for International Development, to axing the Justice Department and removing procurement responsibilities from the Ministry of Defence.   

And every one of his utterances, blog-postings or tweets has been pored over by a Whitehall contemptuous of his determination to ‘professionalise’ the advice given to ministers. 

Last year he posted a bizarre job advert in which he calls for ‘super-talented weirdos’ to apply to work at Number 10.

Writing on his personal blog, Mr Cummings sets out plans for a Downing Street shake-up in which maths and physics PhDs would mingle with ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’ and people who ‘fought their way out of appalling hell holes’. 

Mr Cummings warns recruits that he will ‘bin you within weeks if you don’t fit’, adding: ‘Don’t complain later because I made it clear now.’

Cummings has demanded personal loyalty from every political assistant. ‘If you don’t like how I run things,’ he shouted at one meeting, ‘there’s the door. F*** off!’

Some were sacked. One was Sonia Khan, a Treasury media adviser, who was escorted by armed police from Downing Street after a confrontation with Cummings  over her contact with those close to the former chancellor Philip Hammond.

She is set for a £100,000 payout, it was reported today.  

David Cameron branded him a ‘career psychopath’ after an interview in which Cummings shredded the competence of the Department of Education while blaming a Tory PM who ‘bumbles from one shambles to another without the slightest sense of purpose’.

He was even ruder about Cameron’s aides, calling spin doctor Sir Craig Oliver ‘just clueless’ and describing chief of staff Ed Llewellyn ‘a classic third rate suckup, kick-down sycophant presiding over a shambolic court’. He was no kinder to Tory MPs; former Brexit secretary David Davis was ‘thick as mince’.

Mr Cameron was asked about Mr Johnson’s top aide in September and said: ‘I did sack him twice but he kept coming back. We didn’t necessarily hit it off but he’s a man of great, I mean he’s very clever, he is very able.’.   

Who’s who in the civil war between Cummings’ Brexit Boys and the ‘Carrie Symonds crew’ 

Cummings pictured outside Downing Street in one of the outfits that has made him an unlikely style icon

Cummings pictured outside Downing Street in one of the outfits that has made him an unlikely style icon 

TEAM CUMMINGS 

Dominic Cummings 

Age: 48

Official title: Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister 

Boris Johnson’s maverick Svengali, who gained national notoriety for his lockdown-breaking trip to Barnard Castle to ‘test his eyesight’ before a trip back to London. 

The former Vote Leave director backed his former campaign staffer Lee Cain to take over as the PM’s chief of staff – prompting a bitter wrangle with Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who warned it would be a ‘mistake’. 

Cummings, who is known for his acerbic demeanour and preference for hoodies and ‘slob’ style jackets over suits, eventually lost the vicious tug-of-war, prompting Cain’s resignation and speculation that he could follow. 

He is known to have a difficult relationship with Symonds, with reports earlier this year suggesting she was opposed to his aggressive approach to politics and tendency to ‘pick unnecessary fights’ which could harm the PM’s image. 

Mr Cummings was born in County Durham and is married to Mary Wakefield, a senior journalist with the Spectator magazine, a Tory bible that Boris Johnson once edited. 

 

 Lee Cain

Boris Johnson 's top aide Lee Cain  (pictured arriving for work today) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 's chief of staff

Boris Johnson ‘s top aide Lee Cain  (pictured arriving for work today) has announced he is quitting amid rumours Carrie Symonds was trying to block his promotion to Number 10 ‘s chief of staff

Mr Cain, Number 10’s director of communications, has been one of Mr Johnson’s closest allies in Westminster since he first started working for him back in 2017. 

One ally said Mr Johnson ‘regards Lee as his man on earth’ and his exit from the Government will represent a significant changing of the guard among the PM’s inner circle. 

Mr Cain is a Vote Leave veteran and a staunch loyalist of Mr Cummings, with the latter credited with having masterminded the strategy which propelled the Brexiteer campaign group to an unexpected victory at the 2016 EU referendum.

The former journalist dressed up as the Daily Mirror’s general election chicken and pursued David Cameron on the campaign trail back in 2010. 

But he has recorded an impressive rise since then, establishing himself as one of the biggest beasts in Whitehall.

The 38-year-old, who often sports a heavy morning shadow and likes to relax watching boxing on TV, is a comprehensive school boy from Ormskirk in Merseyside. 

Mr Cain and Mr Johnson first worked together during the Brexit referendum campaign with the former serving as a communications chief while the latter acted as Vote Leave’s public face. 

He has been by Mr Johnson’s side since 2017 when he left Theresa May’s Downing Street operation to work for him at the Foreign Office. 

Mr Cain then followed Mr Johnson and continued to work for him when the latter quit Mrs May’s Cabinet over Brexit in 2018. 

He helped orchestrate Mr Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign before joining his Government as director of communications.  

 

Cummings ally Cleo Watson seen outside No10

Cummings ally Cleo Watson seen outside No10 

Cleo Watson 

Age: 31

Official title: Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns

It has become a familiar ritual in Downing Street: photographers clamour to take pictures of elegant Cleo Watson as she strides towards the No 10 door with a dishevelled Dominic Cummings, the pair looking, as one wag put it, like ‘a gazelle with a pit pony’.

Watson is Cummings’ special adviser and the pair share a close relationship, with one Whitehall source describing her as ‘the Cummings whisperer’ because she is one of very few people who can calm him down when he flies into a rage.

Watson is one of five high-achieving sisters from an extraordinary family whose story could come from a Jane Austen novel. Indeed, she is the second of her siblings to work closely with a Tory leader. Her sister Annabel, 41, known as Bee, was Theresa May’s Chief of Staff. 

Watson worked with Vote Leave during the 2016 EU referendum, before landing a top job in the policy unit in No 10 during May’s premiership. 

She remained at the heart of Government under Johnson and now boasts the title of ‘Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns’. 

Oliver Lewis is another Vote Leave member to now work in No10

Oliver Lewis is another Vote Leave member to now work in No10 

Oliver Lewis (nickname ‘Sonic’) 

Age: Late 20s

 Official title: Brexit policy adviser

A former Vote Leave staffer, Brexit policy adviser Oliver Lewis is a close ally of Cummings – who is known to address him by the nickname ‘Sonic’. 

Oxford-educated Lewis has been working closely with Michael Gove on No Deal preparations, and was inspired by Cummings’ love of science to construct an enormous spreadsheet to model difference scenarios styled on techniques used by NASA. 

He has also worked closely alongside chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, and earlier this year was accused by EU sources of repeatedly trying to shut down negotiations, according to The Sun. 

After backing his mentor in his quest to install Cain at the top of Downing Street, Lewis has also become embroiled in the ugly fallout following Symonds’ victory. 

Reports today suggested he was also ‘seriously considering’ his position.  

CARRIE’S CREW  

Carrie Symonds - seen at a Remembrance Day service in Whitehall on Sunday - has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Downing Street

Carrie Symonds – seen at a Remembrance Day service in Whitehall on Sunday – has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Downing Street 

Carrie Symonds

Age: 32

Official title: NA

Boris Johnson’s fiancee and a former Conservative Party head of media, Symonds has emerged as a force to be reckoned in No10. 

She is known to have a difficult relationship with Cummings and blocked his bid to install his ally Lee Cain as the PM’s chief of staff, insisting this would be a ‘mistake’ given how the campaign against the pandemic had gone so far.

A brutal stand-off ensued before Symonds emerged as triumphant – with Cain announcing his resignation and Cummings said to be also considering his position. 

Symonds grew up in west London and attended Godolphin and Latymer School, an independent day school for girls, and the University of Warwick. 

She worked for the Tory party from 2009, before hitting the headlines when her affair with Mr Johnson, 56, came to light. 

A passionate conservationist, she had a direct impact on government policy after a badger cull in Derbyshire was called off, a move that saved thousands of the animals. 

Allegra Stratton is poised to become the face of Boris Johnson's new US-style TV press briefings

Allegra Stratton is poised to become the face of Boris Johnson’s new US-style TV press briefings

Allegra Stratton

Age: 39

Official title: No10 Press Secretary 

Allegra Stratton, the former journalist poised to become the face of Downing Street’s first US-style televised press briefings, was the cause of the power struggle that erupted. 

After her appointment, she insisted she would be answerable to the PM only, not Cain. With the former Daily Mirror journalist fearing he was about to be side-lined, Boris offered him the role of chief of staff.

That’s when Stratton and her allies stepped in, determined to prevent that happening.

Stratton is a respected former journalist for the Guardian and ITV among others, and helped Chancellor Rishi Sunak craft his public image before being poached by No10. 

Stratton is a fully paid-up member of the metropolitan elite who was educated at Latymer Upper School in London (fees, £21,000 a year) and studied anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge. She is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of the Spectator.

Interestingly, while Cain has been mocked for dressing as a chicken to stalk former Tory leader David Cameron in the 2010 election, footage has recently emerged of Stratton also dressed as one, dancing at a high-spirited Westminster party where veteran political pundit Andrew Neil led the conga. 

Munira Mirza is the phenomenally-bright head of No10's Policy Unit

Munira Mirza is the phenomenally-bright head of No10’s Policy Unit 

Munira Mirza

Age: 42

Official title: Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit

Munira Mirza is the highly respected and phenomenally bright head of the Downing Street policy unit. 

A long-time Boris aide dating back to his time as London mayor, she prefers to work away from the limelight, but is also said to have made her opposition to Cain’s appointment clear. 

The Oldham-born academic is a popular figure around No10. ‘She has a huge brain but wears it lightly. Boris listens to her,’ according to one source.

Mirza’s family came to Britain from Pakistan, with her father finding work as a factory while her mother taught Urdu part time. 

She attended Breeze High School and Oldham Sixth Form College, where she was the only pupil to gain a place at Oxford, where she  studied English Literature. 

A former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Mirza is now one of the members in Johnson’s circle, and was named by the PM as one of the five women who have shaped his life.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk