LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who faces calls to resign over a journey made during the coronavirus lockdown, was the architect of Brexit who has become one of the most powerful men in the British government.
Cast, variously, as an anarchist, visionary, Britain’s Rasputin or a political vandal, who is Cummings?
Below are some of his sides.
THE CARDINAL OF BREXIT
Cummings, alongside fellow campaigner Matthew Elliott, drove Vote Leave to victory in the 2016 referendum. He is credited with coining the phrase: Take back control.
Behind his bluster, Cummings believes the elites of the West – and the United Kingdom in particular – are out of touch with voters and have consistently failed their people while bailing out big business.
He scorns the accepted Westminster dress code of a suit and tie, wearing jeans and t-shirts in Downing Street, often accompanied by an ill-fitting woolen hat.
Cummings also likes to scold reporters. In 2019, he told Reuters to stop asking about Brexit: “You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich remainers.”
After Johnson won the top job in 2019, Cummings was brought into government as one of his most powerful advisers.
He helped Johnson navigate the maze of Brexit and provoked parliament into opposing Brexit, setting the scene for Johnson’s victory in the 2019 election.
Johnson won the biggest majority his party has achieved since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 election victory.
Cummings is cast by allies and enemies as a ruthless strategist who cares little for the conventions of traditional British politics.
Known as “Dom” to his friends, who cast him as a visionary, former Prime Minister David Cameron said he was a “career psychopath.”
He has openly questioned the competence of Britain’s civil servants and scolded Conservative lawmakers for what he perceived as their stupidity and laziness.
He provoked a row inside Westminster last year when he sacked a 27-year-old adviser to then finance minister Sajid Javid. The adviser, Sonia Khan, was escorted by armed police from Downing Street without Javid’s knowledge.
He studied under eminent Oxford University historian Norman Stone and graduated with a ‘first’ – the top degree class awarded at British universities. He likes to pepper his eclectic writings with cultural references.
“We need leaders with an understanding of Thucydides and statistical modelling, who have read The Brothers Karamazov and The Quark and the Jaguar, who can feel Kipling’s Kim and succeed in Tetlock’s Good Judgment Project,” he once wrote.
“An Odyssean education would focus on humans’ biggest and most important problems and explain connections between them to train synthesisers,” he wrote.
After leaving university, he went to Russia for three years where he helped set up an airline in Samara. It failed.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Toby Chopra