UK Politics

Dominic Cummings: Who is Boris Johnson's senior adviser?

Dominic Cummings Image copyright Yui Mok/PA Wire

The appointment of Dominic Cummings as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson attracted much attention in Westminster.

Previously an adviser to Michael Gove at the education ministry and thereafter campaign director for Vote Leave during the EU referendum, Mr Cummings has a reputation for being extremely quick-witted but also brash and outspoken.

The Oxford-educated 47-year-old is credited with devising the Leave side's winning strategy, including coming up with its hugely resonant "take back control" slogan. He was the main character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in James Graham's TV dramatisation of the campaign earlier this year.

Prior to that, he worked for Business for Sterling, a campaign group formed in the late 1990s to oppose membership of the euro. He was also a key figure in the successful campaign against a regional assembly in the north-east of England.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Vote Leave bus was one of its most notable campaign tactics

Mr Cummings, who is married to the Spectator writer Mary Wakefield, comes with political baggage.

Vote Leave was found to have broken electoral law over spending limits by the Electoral Commission, and Mr Cummings was held in contempt of Parliament for failing to respond to a summons to appear before, and give evidence to, the culture, media and sport select committee. On the few occasions that he has been scrutinised by MPs, there have often been rhetorical fireworks and bad blood on both sides.

At the Department for Education, he railed against the "blob" - the informal alliance of senior civil servants and teachers' unions that sought, in his opinion, to frustrate his attempts at reform. He left of his own accord to set up a free school, having rubbed a number of people in the ministry and in the Conservative Party up the wrong way.

He once described Brexit Secretary David Davis as "thick as mince" and as "lazy as a toad", and so irritated David Cameron that the ex-prime minister once famously described him as a "career psychopath".

Image copyright Channel 4/House Productions
Image caption Benedict Cumberbatch was widely praised for his portrayal of Dominic Cummings in Brexit: The Uncivil War

A prolific blogger, Mr Cummings has criticised the failure of MPs to devise a plan for Brexit and believes the government should have waited longer to trigger Article 50.

While associated in the public mind with senior Tory Brexiteers, Mr Cummings regards himself as being above the fray of day-to-day politics and has been particularly dismissive of the European Research Group of Tory MPs. He insists he has never been a member of a political party.

The BBC's political correspondent Alex Forsyth says that, while he was not regarded by some as a team player or, indeed, being particularly likeable, Mr Cummings was able to marshal a team and take it with him through sheer force of personality and intellectual brilliance.

Utterly convinced of his own rightness, she says he was scathing of the social and economic status quo in the UK and what he saw as the malaise and dysfunction of government and of the civil service.

She says he "latched on" to Brexit as the way of upending traditional political and economic structures, which he believed had contributed to so many people being "left behind".

Mr Cummings has continued his anti-establishment rhetoric in his new role.

After the prime minister was accused of inflaming hatred towards MPs by describing a new law designed to block a no-deal Brexit as the "surrender act", Mr Cummings said it was "not surprising" people were angry with politicians and called on Parliament to respect the referendum result.

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