Dominic Cummings has admitted he thought Boris Johnson being Prime Minister was “terrible for the country”, but that he and “a few dozen” backers sought to use his premiership to their advantage.
Mr Cummings, who left No 10 in the autumn after a power struggle, admitted he was now working to bring an end to Prime Minister’s tenure.
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Asked during a BBC interview aired on 20 July whether he was looking to “hasten” Mr Johnson’s departure from Downing Street, he said: “Certainly. The sooner he goes the better, for sure.”
In the hour-long broadcast, Cummings said he had looked to “exploit” the situation the country found itself in after Johnson took power in 2019.
Mr Cummings, asked whether he had agreed to work with Mr Johnson so he could “get him to do what you wanted”, replied: “In part, yes. He didn’t know what he was doing but he did know that he needed help.”
The Vote Leave mastermind added: “I think it is terrible for the country but I keep trying to stress, you’ve got to balance up the different possibilities.
“From a practical matter, all our options were bad, so it was, which is the least bad option? The least bad option seemed to be, exploit the current situation to try and push certain things through and get the country into a better position.”
Asked who was behind the decision to back Johnson on the premise of securing Brexit, he replied: “Me and a network of people – some of us who did the Vote Leave campaign, some of us who did other things. A few dozen maybe.”
What allegations did Cummings make during the programme?
These are the five things we learned from the interview:
– The Prime Minister did not take the threat of Covid “seriously” in the early stages of the pandemic and that it was a “nonsense” scare story.
– Cummings had to talk Mr Johnson out of going to see the Queen in-person only days before a national lockdown was ordered in March 2020, warning him he could give the monarch Covid and kill her - an allegation which Downing Street has flatly denied.
– Mr Johnson argued in September as Covid cases were rising that it was mainly older people who were dying of the virus and that he “no longer bought all this NHS overwhelmed stuff”.
– Mr Johnson fell out with his closest aide because he was “fed up with the media portrayal of him being a kind of puppet for the Vote Leave team”.
– He helped broker a deal between Mr Johnson and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to become prime minister and chancellor respectively after the Brexit result.
Responding to Mr 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”.
Why did Dominic Cummings leave Downing Street?
Cummings’ version of why he left Downing Street in a media storm late last year, which was widely reported at the time, was as a result of figures close to him not being picked for senior advisory or official roles.
Cummings played down suggestions that he was sacked by the PM over a dispute about staffing - in particular the reported pushing-out of Cummings’ ally Lee Cain from the Downing Street operation.
However, he did say that staffing disputes were part of the reason he left, and in particular Carrie Symonds’ role in hiring.
However, beyond these specific disputes, Cummings said that his growing disillusionment with the PM was the primary factor in his decision to leave, as well as his feeling that Johnson was ‘unfit for the job’.