Dominic Cummings, Brexit architect and Boris Johnson adviser, steps down

Dominic Cummings leaves 10 Downing Street.

Dominic Cummings, the very influential and controversial architect of the Brexit campaign, has stepped down as special adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a government source confirmed early Friday (November 13th).

The special adviser was due to leave before the end of the year, but he was seen leaving Downing Street with his boxes on Friday. A government source confirmed that he would no longer be officially employed as of “Mid-December”.

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The announced departure of this pure brexiter, now weakened by infighting at the heart of British power, has caused the pound to rise, with some traders seeing it as a positive signal for post-Brexit negotiations.

This political strategist had made many enemies, including in the Conservative camp, since his appointment with the arrival to power of Boris Johnson in July 2019. The considerable weight he has taken with the Prime Minister, his combative approach and his desire to want to control everything, according to the British press, has led to a climate of permanent tension within the executive and the conservatives.

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At daggers drawn with the officials

Among other controversies, he is suspected of having been at the origin of a series of sackings of ministerial assistants accused of not defending with enough vigor the cause of Brexit, and even of having caused the departure in February of the Minister of Finance, Sajid Javid, who refused to part with all his advisers in favor of those in Downing Street.

Dominic Cummings is also at daggers drawn with public servants, due to his desire to reshape the public service and to diversify its profiles, including, in his words, with “Twisted” and “Marginal”.

Above all, the one who mocked elitism was accused in the spring of breaking the confinement intended to fight against Covid-19 and of disregarding the rules that apply to all, then of underestimating the anger caused by his behavior.

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In a TV movie, Brexit: The Uncivil War (Brexit, the uncivil war), Dominic Cummings, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is portrayed as an agitator deploying tactics drawn from The art of War, by Chinese master Sun Tzu.

Qualified for “Licensed psychopath” by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, he has also been compared to Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to outgoing US President Donald Trump.

“Dominic Cummings is the chief disruptor: he is strategically resolute and ideologically iconoclastic”, says Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London, in his book The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron.

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‘Vote Leave’ pro-Brexit campaign

Born in Durham (northern England) to a father who was an oil rig project manager and a teacher mother, Dominic Cummings attended a private school, before studying at the prestigious University of Oxford. Russophile, fascinated by Dostoevsky, he lived in Russia after his studies, where he contributed in the 1990s to the launch of an airline – which ultimately did not take off.

Back in the UK, Mr. Cummings cut his teeth in politics by leading several campaigns – against the adoption of the euro, in particular. In 2002 he was appointed director of strategy for the Conservative Party, but he stepped down eight months later, judging “Incompetent” then leader of the Tories, Iain Duncan Smith. He then served as special advisor to then education minister Michael Gove – the latter having meanwhile become Boris Johnson’s right-hand man.

Director of the pro-Brexit ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, Mr Cummings played a decisive role in pushing the UK out of Europe, leading an offensive focused on social media and the collection of personal data. The “Vote Leave” methods have since been called into question, in particular due to the use of misleading slogans and targeted political advertisements.

The success of the referendum for the Brexit camp, which won by nearly 52%, enshrined Mr. Cummings’ status as a strategist, without, however, making unanimity around him.

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The World with AFP


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