The former Number 10 adviser has been vocally criticising the government since he left his role last year, particularly on Boris Johnson and the government’s record on coronavirus, but also because of how power operates in general in the country.
Last night, he was interviewed by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg in which he laid out the world as he sees it – covering a number of themes including Brexit and the future of politics.
Here are the key takeaways:
Cummings – as expected – gave a scathing review of the Prime Minister. He said Johnson has a “self-aware mode” which he said is “rare” among politicians and that he knows it is “ludicrous” he is in that position.
He also said Johnson “didn’t know what he was doing” and that he needed a huge amount of support when he became the leader of the Conservative Party.
“He didn’t have an agenda. The Prime Minister’s only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes, and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland, that’s it.”
Ok well it’s been hard but my favourite quote is that Boris Johnson wanted to “build the world’s most stupid tunnel… https://t.co/tt1gnMfeIp
Responding to Cummings’ criticism of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, Downing Street said the Prime Minister had “taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice”.
Networks of power
Cummings said there were people in the Vote Leave campaign who influenced who the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister should be.
“The party system throws up people who don’t know what they’re doing,” he said, and did not deny that it was he who helped call the shots in Downing Street.
“Both of us were using each other,” he said.
Cummings agreed he wanted to “rewire” Whitehall and that possible solutions were making a new political party, or taking over an existing party to bend it to operate in a certain way.
Dominic Cummings just admitted a ‘network’ of a dozen or so people literally conspired to take over the country, an… https://t.co/ofcNMDCQZW
Cummings said he discussed ousting Johnson within days of the Conservatives winning the December 2019 election. Describing the discussions, he said: “He [the prime minister] doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be prime minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem not because he was the right person to be running the country.”
Asked whether he was looking to “hasten” Johnson’s departure from Downing Street now, he said: “Certainly. The sooner he goes the better, for sure.”
He added he was “terrible” for the country,
Cummings also alleged the PM’s now wife Carrie Johnson had tried to influence government appointments.
He said there was a power struggle between him, her and the civil service because Johnson could not make his own decisions.
“That led to a big argument between us,” he said.
Downing Street deny these claims and say political appointments are “entirely made by the Prime Minister”.
As he did while giving evidence to parliament, Cummings described the pandemic as a “disaster movie”.
Johnson “didn’t take it seriously”, he alleged. He thought it was like “swine flu”, he said.
When pushing for new restrictions in Autumn 2020, Johnson said “we should never have done the first lockdown”, according to Cummings, in part because he didn’t want to admit that “Starmer had been right.”
Johnson’s attitude was a “weird mix of... partly ‘it’s all nonsense and lockdowns don’t work anyway’ and partly ‘well this is terrible but the people who are dying are essentially all over 80 and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80’”, Cummings said.
He added that “many” people had heard the PM make these claims and that Johnson was “putting his own political interests ahead of people’s lives”.
Cummings also said that Johnson wanted to continue having weekly meetings with the Queen last March and that he had had to persuade him not to, as she could have died if she had caught Covid. Downing Street have denied this.
“If you go and you give her coronavirus and she dies... you can’t do that.
“He obviously hadn’t thought that through.”
Cummings discussed driving to Durham during the first national lockdown and repeated his claim that there were security reasons – that he had not mentioned initially when he gave a press conference defending the decision – as to why he felt compelled to leave London,
He said that Johnson initially suggested they should ignore the story and then changed his mind leading to the press conference.
He admitted the situation was handled badly and that he should have either “resigned” or told the whole story.
“The whole thing just became a huge mess,” he said.
Cummings said people cannot be sure about whether policies like Brexit are “definitely right”.
“Questions like ‘is Brexit a good idea’ – no-one on Earth knows what the answer to that is,” he said.
“I think anyone who says they’re sure about questions like that has got a screw loose, whether you’re on the remain side or our side.
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say Brexit was a mistake and that history will prove that – of course it’s reasonable for some people to think that.
“I honestly don’t know what sort of person you’d be if you didn’t have a view like that.”
He then added, however, that he personally still supports Brexit and blamed the opposition and those who didn’t accept the result for division in the country that followed the referendum
Cummings also said the Brexit campaign promise to give the NHS an extra £350 million per week if the UK left the European Union “drove everyone crazy” because it was “true”.
He said the figure, which was emblazoned on campaign buses, was used as a “trap” for the Remain side as it exposed the “true balance sheet” of EU membership.
Critics have argued the figure was misleading as it did not take into account the rebate the UK received from Brussels.
Kuenssberg said he was “distorting reality” to help the campaign, and also pointed to assertions Vote Leave made that Turkey was joining the EU imminently. Cummings implied that was the nature of political campaigns and said it was “more honest” than many other campaigns.
Dominic Cummings tells @bbclaurak that you’d have to be mad to say Brexit was a good idea moments before saying Brexit was a good idea
Responding to the claims, a No 10 spokesperson said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the Prime Minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
“The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
“The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.”