Cummings says ‘the sooner Johnson goes the better’ as he reveals bid to oust PM after 2019 election

Former Vote Leave leader feared being forced out by PM’s wife Carrie

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 21 July 2021 00:52
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Today's daily politics briefing

Dominic Cummings has said he thought that Boris Johnson being Prime Minister was “terrible for the country” and that he tried to remove him just weeks after helping to him to secure an 80-seat majority in the December 2019 election.

The bombshell revelations came to light in an explosive interview with the PM’s former top adviser by the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg that aired on Tuesday night.

Mr Cummings said that Mr Johnson had “hopeless” traits after his experience working with him during the Brexit referendum, but still agreed to come back and advise him at No10 three years later.

However the former-aide, who left Downing Street in the autumn after a power struggle, admitted he was working to bring an end to Prime Minister’s tenure.

But it was dismissed as fanciful by a senior MP, who said that Cummings would have to have launched a “military coup” to remove a leader who Conservatives thought could “walk on water” after delivering them a landslide election victory.

Asked if he was looking to “hasten” Johnson’s departure from Downing Street, Mr Cummings said: “Certainly. The sooner he goes the better, for sure.”

He added: “Before even mid-January (2020) we were having meetings in Number 10 saying it’s clear that Carrie wants rid of all of us.

“At that point we were already saying, by the summer, either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as prime minister.”

Mr Cummings suggested that he had only helped Mr Johnson to secure his place in No 10 in order to complete the Brexit process, not because he thought he would be a good prime minister.

“He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be prime minister, and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country,” he said.

Mr Cummings gave no indication in the interview of what mechanism he might have used to attempt to remove the prime minister, or of how widely the idea of ousting Johnson was discussed.

And the former vice chair of the Tory backbench 1922 committee Sir Charles Walker told Times Radio,: “There is absolutely no way on Earth a No 10 advisor, or any number of No 10 advisors, have any capacity whatsoever to remove a prime minister unless they can engineer a military coup. I’m serious about that - unless they could have engineered a military coup, they couldn’t have got rid of him.”

But the revelation that officials at the heart of Downing Street were discussing an internal coup will raise further questions about Mr Johnson’s decision to surround himself with veterans of the Vote Leave campaign when he arrived in No 10 in 2019.

Mr Cummings said that within days of the election victory on 12 December, the PM’s then girlfriend began manoeuvres to remove him and other key Vote Leave figures, such as the No 10 director of communications Lee Cain, and replace them with “complete clowns”.

“Carrie’s view was, and is, that ‘the prime minister doesn’t have a plan, and he doesn’t know how Whitehall works; someone is going to set the agenda: it can either be the civil service, or it can be Dominic and the Vote Leave team, or it can be me’,” said Mr Cummings. 

“In 2019, her view was: ‘Better that it’s Dominic and the Vote Leave team than the civil service, because that’s the route to winning and staying in No 10.’

“As soon as the election was won, her view was: ‘Why should it be Dominic and the Vote Leave team?  Why shouldn’t it be me that’s pulling the strings?’

“Within days we were in a situation where the prime minister’s girlfriend is trying to get rid of us and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs,” he continued.

Mr Cummings said his relationship with Johnson was already breaking down “by summer 2020”.

“He was fed up with the media portrayal of him being a kind of puppet for the Vote Leave team; it was driving him round the bend,” said the former adviser.

“I had a plan, I was trying to get things done; he didn’t have a plan… he didn’t have an agenda.

“The prime minister’s only agenda is [to] buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world’s most stupid tunnel to Ireland. That’s it.

“Also, he knew that we basically disagreed about what was happening on Covid, and he knew that I was blaming him for not having acted in September – which I was. 

“And then I thought that his girlfriend was interfering with appointments. She wanted to have people fired, and she wanted to have people promoted, in ways that I thought were unethical and unprofessional. And that also led to a big argument between us.”

A No 10 spokesperson told the BBC: “Political appointments are entirely made by the prime minister.”

‘Dominic Cummings: The Interview’ was broadcast on BBC Two on 20 July at 7pm, and will be available on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds as a podcast

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