December 4, 2020

Dominic Cummings may be leaving Boris Johnsons side, but his impact on UK will be felt long after hes gone – Sky News

https://news.sky.com/story/dominic-cummings-departure-of-top-aide-signals-new-era-for-boris-johnson-12131542

When the UK fully leaves the European Union on 31 December – the shape of that trade deal or no deal to be decided in the coming days – the man who was so instrumental in making Brexit happen will be leaving too.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, was the architect of the Vote Leave campaign that won the 2016 referendum and then returned to Downing Street in 2019 to drive through Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

It was Mr Cummings who masterminded the “Oven Ready Brexit” general election win that delivered the biggest Conservative majority since the Thatcher years.

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‘He’ll be missed’ – Cummings to leave No 10

While he is leaving Downing Street, his impact on Britain will be felt long after he’s gone.

But while Mr Cummings has played a vital role in this country’s Brexit journey, his unparalleled power and brutal way of doing politics – (remember the expulsion of 21 Conservative MPs including former chancellors Sir Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond at the height of the Brexit wars?) – has over time corroded Mr Johnson’s relationship with his party, with Whitehall and the media.

Mr Cummings badly damaged the prime minister’s relationship with the public too after that mid-lockdown trip to Durham which resulted in national scandal and Mr Cummings becoming a household name, for all the wrong reasons.

The prime minister expended a huge amount of political capital saving an adviser that many of his own MPs and members of the public believed should go.

If the rot set in around the Durham and Barnard Castle debacle, the leaks over the second lockdown, U-turns and policy failures over COVID, wrapped up in an abrasive style of operating have finally proved fatal.

“The PM is the best analyst there is, he sees the problems,” is how one Number 10 insider put it to me this week on the changing of personnel at the heart of the Number 10 operation. “The PM wants to change the mood.”

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Cummings ‘would always ask why’ – Shapps

Out with the confrontational style and back to a more conventional, conciliatory Number 10. The big question is how will this change the emphasis of the Johnson administration and his policy goals?

One figure tells me there are conversations taking place about reshaping the Policy Unit with talk of the PM’s current policy chief, Munira Mirza, moving to the House of Lords and being replaced with a new face – names mentioned include MP and former head of Policy Exchange Neil O’Brien, adviser Henry Newman or perhaps even Oliver Lewis.

The PM is also keen to improve the links between the policy unit and the parliamentary party – something MPs will no doubt welcome.

These shifts are part of a wider push within Downing Street to dial down the “culture wars” that has characterised this Number 10 – be it on Brexit, reform of the BBC and wider media wars, or trans issues.

“He wants to focus more on the issues that matter to him,” says one person inside Number 10. “The environment, the welfare of women and girls, big infrastructure and crime.”

The most immediate and critical policy decision the PM faces is whether to strike a free trade deal with the EU before the transition period ends on 31 December.

Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, was “very unhappy” about the departure of his friend Mr Cain and briefly considered resigning but is staying on to see out the talks, which have stalled in the past week as the deadline for a deal slips further into November.

Number 10 has insisted that the Biden win has not affected their negotiating strategy but cabinet sources believe the shift in power has changed the impetus for getting a deal and maintaining a harmonious relationship with the EU.

No Deal without Trump in the White House suddenly seems very much against the zeitgeist and global interests of Great Britain.

Beyond Brexit, the PM’s policy of levelling up will be recast as “Building Back Better” – the question is whether he can put a new team around him that will attack his policy goals with the fervour and determination of Mr Cummings and Mr Cain.

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That agenda will be, in part, taken on by the PM’s new press secretary Allegra Stratton, who allies say cares too about this agenda, having spent years reporting from around the country as ITV’s national editor before moving into government.

A year that has brought us the most severe global pandemic in living memory and will be punctuated with Brexit, the biggest shift in Britain’s foreign policy in decades; it ends with the prime minister deciding he needs a reset.

Mr Johnson is sometimes accused of dithering but this week he has been anything but, deciding that the two advisers who were once his best assets are now liabilities instead.

A new year will usher in a new era for Mr Johnson’s Number 10.