The violent and unexpected door slam this Friday of Dominic Cummings, the closest adviser to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, precipitated a crisis within the British Government that highlights the enormous tensions that are going through Downing Street.
To the British, Cummings was much more than just an adviser. He was the shadow brain, the man who got the UK to vote for the Brexi, a Rasputin who pulled the strings and even made the decisions for a hesitant Johnson.
Cummings’ last hours in power combine the essential ingredients for a good Shakespearean tragedy: there is betrayal, stabbing, tearing, and some characters affected by the conspiracy.
It was known since Thursday night that the super-advisor would leave his post at the end of the year, but something must have broken earlier so that, after 5:00 p.m. GMT (6:00 p.m. Spanish peninsular time), he packed his things and left the number 10 Downing Street between the flashes of the photographers.
For the conservative press – key piece in any palatial plot in the United Kingdom -, Cummings’ rambunctious box march is actually the triumph of Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, former head of communication for the Conservative Party.
Symonds and his entourage referred to Cummings’ team as the “mad mullahs,” according to the newspaper. The Times, and pressed for the exit this week of the hitherto Downing Street communications director, Lee Cain, who triggered the crisis.
According to the British media, Cain aspired to fill the vacancy of Johnson’s chief of staff, but his failure to do so resulted in his resignation and, eventually, that of his supporter.
But aside from personal disputes, in the departure of Cummings and his faithful there is an underlying swerve in the direction of the country, an ideological shift towards positions – at least a priori – closer to traditional conservatism.
Among the ‘Tory’ deputies and many of the executive ministers, the joy at the news could hardly be hidden. The old conservative guard had long been warning that Johnson had been “kidnapped” in their eyes by an apparatus outside the party’s control.
“This is the opportunity for the prime minister to have a heavyweight as an adviser to do the job conscientiously and carry us forward. When the adviser becomes the news, it is time for him to leave. Historically, it has always been that way.” said the influential Congressman Roger Gale, one of the least bitten his tongue.
Cummings and his family were the heart and head of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in favor of leaving the EU, and they promised not to give up until the Brexi was a reality.
The United Kingdom is already, since last January 31, outside the EU, but perhaps the most complicated part is still missing: defining what the relationship will be post-brexit with the community bloc after the transition period, which expires in just seven weeks, at the end of 2020.
The sudden departure of the chief adviser casts doubts about the future of the negotiations with Brussels, which remain entrenched and are on the verge of failure.
In the eye of the hurricane
But Cummings didn’t want to wait. This time he has not withstood the pressure, as he did last May. And that then the storm was even stronger. What has changed? Probably no longer enjoying Johnson’s unconditional backing.
Six months ago, the prime minister came to the rescue of his adviser through thick and thin after it was revealed in March that he I had violated confinement to drive more than 400 kilometers from London to Durham (North of England) with his wife and son.
She did so, she said, to seek the help of her family in caring for her four-year-old., because his wife had symptoms of Covid-19 and he was afraid of catching it.
The fury of public opinion, the opposition and his own party did not get Johnson to let him down, even at the cost of great damage to his own image and on the basis of flimsy explanations.
Cummings was the man the UK loved to hate. His figure made his way into British homes as a result of Dominic Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him in the hit movie Brexit: The uncivil war.
Now, details about the macho and ruthless culture that he had imposed on Downing Street continue to emerge in the media. The vendetta it can be long and painful.
The movement of pieces in the Government, if what the conservative newspapers publish is confirmed, will end with a formidable irony: the return, as chief of staff, of the former Minister of Economy, Sayid Javid, who precisely resigned in February when Cummings wanted to impose on his advisers in the Ministry.