Good morning. Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, is set to leave No 10 by the end of the year. The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg got the story last night. As always with Cummings, nothing is every straightforward and Cummings has not said yet on the record that he is going. He just said, for quoting, that his position had not changed since he said in January that he wanted to make his position largely redundant by the end of the year. But Kuenssberg has also had a conversation with a “senior No 10 source” who said that Cummings would be out by Christmas, and this news is being widely reported this morning, including by journalists known to be close to Cummings.
Why does this matter? Well, when Boris Johnson ran for the Conservative party leadership, he ran as a relatively mainstream Tory. The only real policy difference between himself and Jeremy Hunt, his main rival, was that Johnson said the UK would leave the EU on 31 October 2019. (It didn’t.) Johnson said nothing about hiring Cummings, the combative and controversial Vote Leave campaign director. Indeed, some MPs were even told that Cummings would not get a job in a Johnson administration.
But, then, when he became PM, Johnson promptly installed Cummings as the most powerful aide in No 10, and appointed a large number of Cummings’ Vote Leave colleagues to run policy, and everything else, in Downing Street. In many respects it was a Vote Leave administration more than a Conservative administration.
This worked brilliantly for Johnson in the 2019 general election, which he won handsomely with Cummings’ “Get Brexit Done’ campaigning focus. But, in administrative terms, the Vote Leave record has been rather different. Even its supporters admit that this team has struggled at times to govern effectively. Its critics say it has been a disaster.
Which is why the departure of Cummings, following the announcement of his ally Lee Cain’s resignation on Wednesday night, is important; it is likely to mark a reset moment for the government, transforming it into something a different. Or you could call it “shapeshifting”, as they say in the US.
Here is our story on Cummings’s departure.
And this is what Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told Sky News about it this morning.
As [Cummings] wrote right at the beginning of the year in his own words, he planned to make himself largely redundant this year with the big thing that he worked on, of course, which was Brexit, coming to an end at the end of the transition period, which is 31 December.
Of course, the other big thing is helping to ensure we have the roll-out mass testing to defeat this virus. Both these things are on the near-term horizon now.
He will be missed but then again we’re moving into a different phase and Brexit will be, we’ve already left Europe, but the transition period will be over and things move on and advisers do come and go.
I will be covering all the reaction to Cummings’ departure this morning.
But it’s an important day for coronavirus news too, and I will be covering that as well here. At 12pm we will get the ONS’s latest Covid surveillance survey, and we will also get the government’s latest estimate of R, the reproduction number, and the growth rate.
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