Dominic Cummings has launched an unprecedented and extraordinary attack on Boris Johnson, alleging the prime minister tried to quash a leak inquiry as it implicated an ally.
A day after anonymous No 10 sources said Cummings leaked texts between Johnson and the billionaire James Dyson, the prime minister’s former chief aide denied the charge, also claiming Johnson had tried to have Tory donors pay for renovations to his Downing Street flat.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” Cummings said in a post on his personal blog.
Such a damning intervention by the man who was Johnson’s key ally and ideological inspiration will alarm the prime minister and his aides, not least in case Cummings chooses to make any more claims.
Cummings, who left Downing Street in November, dismissed the accusation in the anonymous briefing to several newspapers on Thursday – which he said was done by a No 10 staffer “at the PM’s request” – that he had leaked the Dyson texts.
Cummings said he had checked his phone and had not been forwarded the messages, but that he had been told by Downing Street officials that Dyson’s office emailed screenshots of his exchanges with Johnson to a series of officials, including some at the Treasury, and that this was what had been leaked, but that he was not copied into this.
“I am happy to meet with the cabinet secretary and for him to search my phone for Dyson messages,” he wrote. “If the PM did send them to me, as he is claiming, then he will be able to show the cabinet secretary on his own phone when they were sent to me.
“I am also happy to publish or give to the cabinet secretary the PM/Dyson messages that I do have, which concerned ventilators, bureaucracy and Covid policy – not tax issues.”
The briefings on Friday identified Cummings as a serial leaker known as the “chatty rat”, who had also allegedly leaked news of another Covid lockdown last year.
In the most explosive allegation in his blogpost, Cummings alleged that in a meeting after the leak the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, told him and Johnson that “all the evidence” pointed to Henry Newman, then an adviser at the Cabinet Office, and since moved to No 10. Newman is known to be close to Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s fiancée, seen as central to Cummings’ removal from his job.
Cummings wrote: “The PM was very upset about this. He said to me afterwards, ‘If Newman is confirmed as the leaker then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends … [pause] perhaps we could get the cabinet secretary to stop the leak inquiry?’
“I told him that this was ‘mad’ and totally unethical, that he had ordered the inquiry himself and authorised the cabinet secretary to use more invasive methods than are usually applied to leak inquiries because of the seriousness of the leak.
“I told him that he could not possibly cancel an inquiry about a leak that affected millions of people, just because it might implicate his girlfriend’s friends.”
Cummings said he then warned some officials about Johnson’s plans, saying they would give evidence under oath to an inquiry, adding: “I also have WhatsApp messages with very senior officials about this matter which are definitive.”
Finally, Cummings said he had warned Johnson about renovations to his flat, saying: “I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended.”
Cummings said the issues needed to be handled by “an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the government’s conduct over the Covid crisis”.
He concluded: “Issues concerning Covid and/or the PM’s conduct should not be handled as No 10 has handled them over the past 24 hours. I will cooperate fully with any such inquiry and am happy to give evidence under oath.”