Dominic Cummings arrived in Downing Street with great plans, and the stated intention to only stay long enough to get them moving. So, what has Boris Johnson’s chief adviser and policy touchstone achieved?
Perhaps Dominic Cummings most resounding quote from No 10, albeit delivered at second hand was the idea of a hard rain landing on complacent civil servants.
Revolutionising a hugely convoluted organisation of more than 400,000 people was never going to be straightforward, especially within a year of a pandemic.
The major changes have been at the top, with a string of permanent secretaries, the lead official in a department, being dismissed, along with Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service.
Verdict: not achieved.
Many of the Conservative MPs who cheered the announcement of Dominic Cummings departure in the hope it will result in a more open No 10 would agree this has happened, but much of the tighter grip has been based on centralising advisers, all of whom had to report to Dominic Cummings, an innovation that led to Sajid Javid’s resignation as chancellor.
Given this revamped operation has presided over a string of misfortunes and U-turns, whether it can be considered a success, or will last, is another matter.
Verdict: yes, but at a price – and could be reversed by a successor.
Another obsession of Dominic Cummings, who, while a history graduate, was known for lamenting the grip of dilettante generalists on government and in an unusual recruitment drive – Dominic Cummings used his blog in January to appeal for data scientists and other various oddballs to sign up.
Government data is yet another area brought into No 10 under Dominic Cummings, and in July it advertised for a data expert to set up a largely autonomous data ‘skunkworks’.
Verdict: some change achieved.
As one of several Vote Leave vets inside No 10, Dominic Cummings had arguably less direct impact here than in other areas, instead being part of a consensus and it’s reasonable to say that his presence helped keep Boris Johnson’s feet to the fire in terms of threatening Brussels over a UK walkout without concessions on a trade deal from the EU, even if the PM’s allies claimed this would have happened anyhow.
Could Dominic Cummings departure see Boris Johnson again achieve a deal by suddenly giving ground but declaring a grand victory? Maybe, but then again, this might have happened regardless.
Verdict: he has played a role in the UK’s tough Brexit stance.
Although I’m not sure if causing a lot of damage can be categorised as an achievement and he’s managed to make the entire country despise him, even though pantomime villains are handy sometimes.
And will he now be compensated by the Government for the termination of his contract – oh, wait a moment, I should have said taxpayers money.
But it’s extremely interesting, don’t you think? Drive to Barnard Castle during the lockdown, potentially violating the law and he gets the maximum support of Boris Johnson, but upset Boris’s fiance and Dominic Cummings gets the chop – must be the power of pillow talk.
However, he was hardly any mastermind – it’s hardly a work of intellectual to lie to the nation, but the work of genius is making people believe it, but then I don’t suppose it’s easy reducing a country to a third rate nation.
He’s also achieved a breakdown in people’s respect for authority by ignoring the rules in lockdown, but Boris Johnson brought him in and protected him, knowing full well that what he’d done undermined the constraints put in place by his Government, which is unforgivable.