An archetypal rebel: how Johnson’s chief adviser is driving Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson has misplaced no time in making his mark as British prime minister. In two weeks, he has toured the nation telling Britons a spending squeeze will finish and they’ll depart the European Union on Oct. 31 it doesn’t matter what.

FILE PHOTO: Dominic Cummings, particular advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seen at Downing Street in London, Britain August 2, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

His strikes bear the hallmark of 1 man who has stayed behind the scenes since Johnson grew to become prime minister on July 24 however has a significant position — senior adviser and de facto chief of employees Dominic Cummings.

Cummings, the architect of the ‘Vote Leave’ marketing campaign within the 2016 Brexit referendum, says little in public. Yet feedback by two sources who labored with him at Vote Leave, his essays, blogs and experiences from insiders over the previous few years recommend a coverage of transferring quick and bypassing others in pursuit of a purpose.

The two sources, one supporter and one critic, say the specter of a no-deal Brexit is a plan by Cummings designed to drive the EU to compromise on the departure deal agreed by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, and to pin the blame on the bloc if no new settlement will be reached.

Parliament rejected that deal as a result of some lawmakers feared it might bind Britain to EU guidelines it might not have any say over, resulting in a “Brexit in name only”.

But Johnson’s insistence that the federal government will, if it has to, pursue a no-deal Brexit, has weakened the pound as traders guess Britain, already susceptible to recession, might see a disruptive departure.

Making a splash with pledges to voters in pursuit of Brexit is additionally a part of Cumming’s plan, the sources mentioned, constructing on an identical technique which swayed Britain’s 2016 referendum on continued EU membership.

The 47-year-old strategist, who didn’t reply to a request for remark for this text, has dismissed assertions by critics that he places ideology earlier than the pursuits of the economic system or inhabitants.

“I’ve never been a party person. I’m not Tory (Conservative), libertarian, ‘populist’ or anything else. I follow projects I think are worthwhile,” Cummings wrote of himself on his weblog in early 2017.

His need to maneuver quick is born partly out of a call, which he later regretted, to take time without work after the Brexit referendum victory.

Cummings mentioned in his weblog the federal government then “screwed it up” and instructed supporters to not fear about any “permanent” commitments made by May’s authorities within the Brexit negotiations. He described these commitments as being the product of “officials and their bullshit ‘legal advice’”.

His driving philosophy – in accordance with the articles on his weblog – appears to be that a lot of Britain’s system of presidency has been taken over by “groupthink”, unable and ill-equipped to cope with the issues of modern-day statehood.


On Monday, lower than two weeks after Johnson took over from May, Johnson introduced a money injection of 1.eight billion kilos ($2.2 billion) into the struggling public well being system, which recurrently ranks among the many high considerations for voters.

He had already promised to ease the purse strings on a tour of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England – areas laborious hit by an virtually decade-long spending squeeze by his Conservative Party.

The opposition Labour Party has questioned the motives of Johnson’s spending guarantees, saying he is making ready to name an election to strengthen his authorities’s majority of 1.

The central message of the victorious “Leave” marketing campaign masterminded by Cummings was departure from the EU was a chance to “take back control” and spend extra at dwelling.

It outflanked critics who questioned the place the cash will come from, significantly if Britain leaves the EU – its largest buying and selling companion – with out a deal to easy over the disruption that will trigger.

The two sources mentioned Cummings knew “Vote Leave” slogan promising further funds for the well being service as a substitute of sending cash to the EU might trigger an outcry in the course of the Brexit marketing campaign, however that this was a part of the plan.

The public questioning of the determine of 350 million kilos, which was emblazoned on the facet of a marketing campaign bus, gave it prominence and the message bought by means of to voters quite than the scepticism round whether or not Britain would even have that quantity to spend.

“In a way this is rather typical of Cummings’ approach. It was effective but rather cynical,” a supply who labored with, and is essential of, Cummings on the depart marketing campaign mentioned on situation of anonymity.

Cummings has dismissed such characterizations. “Some people now claim this was cynical and we never intended to spend more on the NHS. Wrong,” he mentioned in one other weblog in early 2017.

He mentioned he had instructed Johnson on the time: “on day one of being PM (prime minister) you should immediately announce the extra 100 million pounds per week for the NHS is starting today and more will be coming – you should start off by being unusual, a political (politician) who actually delivers what they promise.”

He quoted Johnson saying: “Absolutely. ABSOLUTELY. We MUST do this, no question, we’ll park our tanks EVERYWHERE.”

Cummings as soon as beneficial readers of his weblog to learn a e-book outlining the political type of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adviser, Vladislav Surkov, who Russian political analysts say is an professional in diverting public consideration from urgent points with political theater.

An in depth colleague at Vote Leave and Cummings supporter mentioned the now senior adviser to Johnson makes use of “Soviet propaganda techniques” in pursuit of his objectives.

Yet that colleague and the opposite one who spoke to Reuters on situation of anonymity mentioned Johnson’s menace to depart the EU with out a deal is a calculated technique, not a reckless one.

“I think it’s a high risk strategy but I think it’s probably right,” one in every of Cummings’ former colleagues mentioned.


Cummings is prone to stay secretive and maintain his workforce small, as he did in the course of the Vote Leave marketing campaign.

His appointment compares with Steve Bannon’s key position within the early days of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration after serving to him to energy or that of Martin Selmayr, adviser to Jean-Claude Junker earlier than and after he grew to become President of the European Commission.

The complete workforce at Britain’s Vote Leave marketing campaign headquarters numbered round 40 to 50 folks, whereas Cummings’ core workforce amounted to 10 to 15 folks, his former marketing campaign colleague mentioned.

“He was very hands on. He had tight control over everything, he was very disciplined in his approach and people, you know, just had to stay in line,” the supply mentioned.

It is a modus operandi constructed up whereas working as a particular adviser to minister Michael Gove, one other Brexit supporter who is now in control of no-deal planning, on the schooling division between 2011 to 2014.

After he left that job, he sharply criticized then-Prime Minister David Cameron and others in authorities. Cameron described Cummings as a “career psychopath”. In flip, Cummings mentioned of Cameron: “I do not hate Cameron. I do not respect him, which is different.”

Cummings mentioned in his weblog he saved three timetables to make sure his plans didn’t get railroaded by Downing Street or others.

One contained “the real plan” to be shared with fewer than 10 folks; one other excluded delicate issues however wouldn’t be shared with Number 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s workplace; and a “‘No. 10 friendly’ plan with everything important removed in order to keep them in the dark”.

For many Brexit supporters, Cummings – as a lot as Johnson – is the person that may unlock the Brexit disaster, which has slowed financial progress and has diminished Britain’s standing, and ship its departure on Oct. 31.

But Cummings alienated many individuals whereas operating the Vote Leave marketing campaign, and shall be in no rush to befriend negotiators in Brussels or most of the lawmakers who should vote for any deal for it to be authorized, the essential Vote Leave supply mentioned.

Several lawmakers are additionally rallying round to attempt to discover methods to forestall Britain from leaving the EU with out an settlement.

“I think this may be the danger,” mentioned the supply. “… which is he’ll finish up with a sort of iron control over a whole range of people who in the end will buckle down and work very hard for him, but at the expense of alienating a whole lot of other people he really needs to keep on board.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; modifying by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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