It’s a name you may have tried to bury in the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind – a relic of the horrific first wave of the pandemic.
But Dominic Cummins is back – and this time he’s the hunter, not the hunted.
As you may recall, he’s the former government PR spin doctor – and a chief aide to Boris Johnson – who drew controversy in the first lockdown when ghe inexplicably drove to Durham Castle from London to, and this is genuinely true, ‘test out his eyesight’.
For the most part, Johnson and his ministers supported Cummins – perhaps fearing the situation that they are facing up to now: a powerful figure who knows lots of secrets from his spell on Downing Street.
Cummins latterly resigned from his role to ‘clear the air’, although there are many who suspect that actually he was politely asked to leave having shown little remorse for his prior indiscretions.
Having had six months or so to stew, it seems that Cummins is hellbent on getting revenge, and he has been accused of leaking a string of text messages between Boris and vacuum cleaner supremo James Dyson to the press.
In the messages, it appears as though the prime minister agrees to offer Dyson agreeable tax conditions in return for the build of ventilators that would be used to treat Covid patients in intensive care.
The Sun is reporting that Johnson has labelled Cummins a ‘chatty rat’ and has banned all of his staff from conversing with his former PR chief. So, is Dominic Cummins trying to bring down the government?
Who is Dominic Cummins?
At points during the past few years you will have heard prhases such as ‘take back control’ and ‘get Brexit done’ uttered by Conservative politicians prior to the EU referendum and the last general election respectively.
Those slogans were devised by Cummins, a PR expert who has been described as the brains behind Boris’ bluster. Together, they succeeded where previous Tory PMs had failed – not only to secure Brexit, but also to rip apart Labour’s ‘red wall’ in many Northern towns and cities.
Considered a key figure in Boris’ popular first term as prime minister, Cummins’ position ultimately became untenable after that famous drive to County Durham – even if it did take Boris some eight months to finally sack him.
The spin doctor became a figure of PR fun himself when he suggested that the four-hour drive to Barnard Castle, the home of his parents, was merely to test his vision – that came despite the fact he knew he was about to be put into a Covid quarantine.
Breaking the rules – while so many ordinary folk were sacrificing everything to keep each other safe – was a situation that not even Cummins himself could spin his way out of. He ‘left’ Downing Street – ostensibly he was sacked – in November 2020.
What About These Texts Between Boris and Dyson?
At the height of the first wave of the pandemic, the UK needed ventilators – and they needed them fast.
In countries like Italy, some seriously ill people were forced to go without the breathing support apparatus they needed – the results were tragic, as you can guess – and Boris did not want a similar episode unfolding in the UK.
The NHS, criminally under-prepared, did not have enough ventilators to go round, and so ministers set about finding companies who could build them in a hurry.
Dyson, known for their vacuum cleaners and pub toilet hand dryers, had the capability to construct them quickly – and so Boris contacted his old chum James Dyson to give him the green light.
A series of text messages between the pair were leaked to the media – by Cummins, apparently, according to his accusers – in which Dyson seems to ask Johnson to ‘fix’ a better tax landscape with Rishi Sunak.
The full exchange suggests that Dyson is simply ensuring that his staff – some of whom would have to travel to the UK – wouldn’t have to pay two lots of income tax, but again the accusation of ‘cronyism’, given that British-based firms could have built the ventilators, has not been brushed under the carpet.
Politics Betting: How Will This Affect Boris’ Position?
Ordinarily, such a leak would be hugely damaging to the reputation of a man even as seemingly Teflon-like as Boris Johnson.
The betting markets, both at the bookmakers and on the Betfair Exchange, suggested a minor lengthening of the Conservatives price in the Next General Election market, and also a small shortening of Boris’ odds in the Year to Leave – 2021 category.
But then the remarkable incident in which Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, was physically manhandled out of a pub by its furious landlord, essentially levelled out the whole debacle. The markets are now as they were a week or so ago – possibly much to Cummins’ chagrin.