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As the world burns, Dominic Cummings, the British government’s arsonist, is fanning the flames

Remainers might enjoy the beef between Boris Johnson’s special adviser and the ERG, but they might be surprised to find out whose side they’re on

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Monday 05 August 2019 17:40 BST
Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings claims EU is 'dominated by France' when speaking to Treasury Committee in April 2016

When it first emerged that Dominic Cummings was going to be made Boris Johnson’s chief of staff in 10 Downing Street, it didn’t take long for one particular choice quote to re-emerge.

In an article earlier this year, Cummings said the European Research Group, of which around 80 Tory MPs are members, “should be treated like a metastasising tumour and excised from the UK body politic”.

Cummings ran Vote Leave, and during the referendum campaign said that senior figures in the ERG had been too busy “obsessing over the 8.10 slot on the Today programme” or “shooting, skiing or chasing girls to do any actual work”.

Remainers don’t like the ERG, and so these words, now spiked with the new reality that they’d been said by the No 10 chief of staff, caused no shortage of delight.

But Remainers might find they have a lot more in common with the ERG than they do with Cummings.

Fundamentally, the beef between Cummings and the Tory party’s veteran Eurosceptics was simple. They felt they had been at it for years, they knew how to do it, knew all the arguments about sovereignty. They wanted to rerun the old campaigns, about “Global Britain”, about “out, out and into the world”. Cummings was, not wholly unreasonably, aware that all these campaigns had failed, and so he demanded to do things his way. He got his way. He did things his way. He won.

But his way and no one should be in any doubt about this at all was a straightforward, amoral disgrace. Cummings’ way was to use social media and data analytics to relentlessly target voters who micro-profiling told them would be susceptible to what can only be described as racist messaging.

Cummings’ way was shadowy footprints, sneaking into Britain’s back door, under the straightforward lie of a headline: “Turkey is joining the EU.”

And it was even more cynical than that. Turkey is not joining the EU: the UK has a veto. But it was at the peak of the migrant crisis, in which Turkey played a crucial role. And Michael Gove, as a member of the Privy Council, knew that Turkey had a crucial security relationship with the UK, which meant that David Cameron was prevented from stating publicly that he would always veto Turkish accession to the EU.

The loathing between Cummings and the ERG leadership is mutual. Senior ERG figures, several of whom played key roles inside Vote Leave, will happily confide in private that they were utterly appalled when Vote Leave moved into the blatantly Islamophobic phase of its campaign.

Whether these tactics were necessary to win is a question that cannot be answered. They were used, and they did win.

And three years later, where are we? At the weekend, a police medic was filmed being attacked by a protester on a Tommy Robinson march. Robinson is in prison for seeking to collapse the trial of Muslim grooming gangs, for no greater reason than to boost his own profile.

Anyone who has even the vaguest social link to actual, working-class communities knows beyond doubt that Britain was radicalised by its EU referendum. Robinson and his ilk – the far right – have never had a recruiting sergeant like it. Cummings is far too clever not to know this, not to know the stunningly inevitable consequences of his actions. But he went ahead and did it all the same.

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They were only tactics but, as Cummings so loves to say, actions have consequences.

The world is burning. There is a madman in the White House who has now blamed migrant communities for their own execution.

The UK is struggling to contain forces that have not come upon it by accident, or by inevitable socioeconomic pressure. They were wilfully wished upon it by the players of a degenerate Tory power game who, inevitably, will always be shielded from its consequences.

In Downing Street right now, the man who did more than anyone else to bring us to this febrile place is gleefully scheming as to how to divide the nation yet further. Don’t be under any illusion. No-deal Brexit will be whole orders of magnitude more hellish than anything that has been seen thus far. Lives will be ruined. Rifts will be caused that may take decades to heal.

The world is burning, and the British government is being run by a gleeful arsonist.

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