Dominic Cummings’ relationship with Boris Johnson ‘fell off cliff’, says ex-minister
Dominic Cummings left Downing Street after his relationship with the prime minister “fell off a cliff”, a former cabinet minister has said.
Cummings left his role as chief adviser on Friday after a power struggle that has rocked the Boris Johnson administration as Brexit talks head into a crucial phase next week, with London seeking a trade deal with Brussels before the end of the transition period on 31 December.
The prime minister’s official spokesman insisted Johnson was not being distracted by the row and was “focused … on taking every possible step to get this country through the coronavirus pandemic”.
The former Brexit secretary David Davis said Cummings’ “relationship with the prime minister fell off a cliff” and his departure was a chance to reset the government.
And a senior Tory backbencher who supported Cummings over his coronavirus lockdown breaches said on Saturday he had been wrong to do so.
Crispin Blunt said he should not have supported Cummings after his controversial trips to Durham and Barnard Castle at the height of England’s first lockdown were exposed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror. Blunt said the lockdown journeys “stank”.
Blunt was not one of the 45 backbenchers who called for Cummings to go at the time, but speaking on Times Radio he admitted the aide’s behaviour had “gravely undermined” the government’s message on coronavirus.
Asked if he had been right to back the adviser, Blunt said: “With the benefit of hindsight, no. However, you’ve got to make a call about what is seen to be fair and proper in the circumstances, and Boris made a call on that.”
During their visit to the north of England, Cummings drove with his wife and son to the picturesque town of Barnard Castle, 30 miles from his parents’ home, which he said was to check his eyesight was in good order.
Crispin said that while he felt Cummings had done the “right thing for his family”, it had eroded public trust in the government and its messaging over the Covid crisis.
“The politics of it obviously absolutely stank, and once it had been alighted upon by people it was a very bad example and it gravely undermined, obviously because of the huge attention it received, trust in the government’s policy,” he said.
Davis said on Saturday that Johnson had been “very dependent” on Cummings for a long time, and called on the prime minister to “put right” the marginalisation of MPs over the past 11 months.
“The whole attitude to parliament has been pushed, has been sidelined, and similarly, it is said, and I am not in a position to know, but it is said that cabinet has been sidelined too,” Davis told Times Radio.
Davis said Cummings’ decision to leave his job through the front door of Downing Street, when his office was elsewhere in the building and there were several other exits, was “entirely deliberate” as he wanted to leave an “image”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “He could have walked out the back door, which is almost sort of underground, not visible, or he could have walked out of the entrance out of Whitehall; out of the Cabinet Office – either would have been possible.
“He chose to leave that image walking out with a box. He could have perfectly well put his coffee mug or whatever else was in it into his rucksack, but he didn’t.”
Saturday’s papers were awash with claims and counterclaims over the events of the past 48 hours that led to the departure of both Cummings and the director of communications, Lee Cain, ending the grip of Vote Leave’s cabal on Downing Street.