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Dominic Cummings: “I don’t like parties” The former adviser on Partygate, Russia and therapy

"Everything is going down the fucking toilet". Credit: Frank Augstein-WPA Pool/Getty Images

"Everything is going down the fucking toilet". Credit: Frank Augstein-WPA Pool/Getty Images


May 31, 2022   15 mins

Recently I was arranging a charity auction for JK Rowling’s Lumos Foundation and I cheekily asked Dominic Cummings to contribute. I have never met him and did not expect an answer. But he said that I could auction an hour of “Ranting about Brexit at Cummings”. He needed no details, just reassurance that I would not be spending the money on weapons. I then asked to interview him — and he agreed.

We talked about everything, from Partygate and his relationship with Boris Johnson, to the deep state and whether he needs a therapist. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Were you surprised by the Sue Gray report?

Some of it is a bit brazen: where she says she stopped investigating the party in the flat because the police got involved — even though the police didn’t then investigate it. So basically, they have sort of just said: “Fuck this. We’re not going to get involved with the after-party on the night of 13th.”

You mean the party in the Downing Street flat on 13th November 2020?

It was reported a few days after I’d gone, in Metro weirdly. Somehow the story got out but because we were in extreme lockdown it got no coverage. The media was so happy that I’d gone, no one wanted to talk about it.

Dozens of people downstairs could hear it, so all the police had to do was interview any one of them to find out. You don’t have a work meeting, at the top of Number 10, where the music is so loud that you can hear it in the fucking press office.

Why aren’t people angrier? Why is nothing happening?

The Tory party itself is quite rotten now and the sign of that is that they can’t think of anyone better than Boris, who’s clearly just completely shot. They are collectively saying, “if we get rid of him, we might get somebody worse”. It says a lot about the state of the Tory party. And they actually could get somebody worse: Liz Truss would be even worse than Boris. She’s about as close to properly crackers as anybody I’ve met in Parliament.

Do you ever feel bad that you helped him win the election?

I don’t know. I don’t feel bad about it. Because I think the reasoning at the time was pretty simple. Various people from Vote Leave were attracted to the idea of just staying out of it and letting the Tory party collapse.

When was this?

June 2019. But there were two basic problems. One was that if we didn’t go in and sort it out, Brexit wouldn’t happen, and there would be a second referendum, which we thought would be very bad for the country indeed. And the second was Corbyn. It’s one thing to stand back and let the horror of the Tory party blow up, it’s another thing to let Corbyn take over.

So we reluctantly thought: the downside is we save the Tory party, but the upside is we can crush a second referendum. Kick Corbyn off the stage. And there’s a chance, with Boris being as lazy as he is, that we’ll be able to set the country on a new path — hence me making various terrorist demands of him when he came round to the house — but even then, we thought: there’s a reasonable chance that this goes tits up.

Why?

Carrie.

We had worked with Boris during the referendum. Then, of course he was with Marina who was a stabilising force. She’s intelligent. She was good at calming him down. Carrie was obviously the opposite. She was sort of injecting more craziness into the whole situation. She basically supported us until 10pm on election night, simply because she thought, as she put it to me in July: “He has no clue how to get through this. He doesn’t have a clue how it all actually works.” Carrie was supportive of Vote Leave from the day we came in to help with the 2019 election. She personally called me and said “Please do this”.

And if we hadn’t, you’d have had that completely wrecked Parliament colliding with Covid in March 2020. God only knows what would have happened. Possibly with Corbyn as prime minister. Even more people killed. Fuck knows what.

You keep saying ‘we’: who do you mean?

My team from Vote Leave.

But what was going wrong?

The way that the Tories went about Brexit on every level was a total disaster. Starting the whole formal process before they even knew what the hell they were trying to do. Using EU citizens as negotiating chips, which we’d said should never happen. We should have passed unilateral legislation immediately to guarantee their rights.

They just fucked up, all the way down. People kept saying, “why does everything have to be so aggressive?” But it wasn’t Vote Leave that drove the country crazy. The Tory party and Whitehall spent three years cocking it up.

By summer 2019, something had to break: there’s no clean way of getting out of that situation. A second referendum would have been very bad. Smashing through things, the way that we did, had downsides, but staggering on just unable to resolve the issue would have been a disaster as well.

What did you think about a second referendum?

Back in 2015, I floated the idea of having two referendums, and said that maybe the way to do this is: you have a referendum on the principle and then you negotiate a new deal. Then you have a second referendum on the actual deal. Everybody said, “no way”: the Prime Minister, the Tory party, the Labour Party, the official Remain campaign, the CBI. Everybody said, “Absolutely not. One referendum, it’s got to resolve this for a generation.” And then they spent three years dicking around, only to say, “you know what? Fuck it, we actually can’t do this, because it’s unsolvable. You shouldn’t have voted like this.”

Do you still think it was right to leave Europe?

A lot of people, especially the centre-Left in London, thought joining the Euro would be a success. Now we know we are best off out of it. When the Euro came under pressure it completely wrecked the Greek economy.

That took the blinkers off for me.

Especially now, when you look at how history worked out, and knowing that Covid was coming, it’s very hard to make the case that things could have been different. We know that Whitehall was completely unprepared for Brexit; we know that the whole thing was a complete shitshow; we know the original plan had to be ditched. And we know a bunch of us had to steer it, while dealing with him. And on top of that, we had a non-functioning government with no parliamentary majority. I mean, my God, imagine how much worse the whole thing could have been.

Was there a time when you did get on with Johnson personally?

We are both really odd characters. In the second half of 2019, he was just completely desperate. He knew that he had only been put in there because no one could think of anything else to do. He sort of did as we told him and at that point Carrie wasn’t causing chaos. She was basically saying: “Listen to what they say.” So as far as anything can be with him, it was reasonably stable, if chaotic for the country. He was reasonably focused because he knew he was not far from being booted out.

So, you got on with him on the basis that he took your advice. And then he stopped?

He trolleyed around a bit, obviously, but in terms of big things he mostly listened. But as soon as he came back in January from his holiday, you could see immediately that the whole thing was going to be a disaster.

That quickly?

Immediately after the election. The election happens; there’s five or so days and then he’s sauntered off to some sort of billionaire island; and then at the beginning of January she immediately was on at him about firing all of us, which obviously is not a great way of starting a new government.

Perhaps not.

But also, from the start we had completely different attitudes. My attitude was: okay, we’ve won the election, we’ve got a supermajority, now we have the chance to solve a whole load of fundamental problems. 2020 is the year to do the hard things: things like planning reform, which no one dares touch, decade after decade, because it’s so politically difficult. Fuck that. It’s time to do it. Ignore the press. Focus on this.

And he didn’t share this view?

His attitude was: I’ve done the hard thing, which was the election. Now it’s time to enjoy myself. And so very quickly, there was this clash of basic ideas.

Because you want systemic change in almost every part of the state. You had been talking about planning for procurement, reforming the civil service, nuclear weapons, pandemics: is that because you are all doom and gloom?

Some people would say that. But in the last couple of years, I’ve thought: “What did I say about pandemics?” Now, we’re all talking about nuclear war and Putin. But with nukes, for example, it’s incredibly complicated. The timelines are very long. The budgets are huge. For any PM, it’s very tempting to continue the cycle of: “Keep everything extremely secret and punt the bills off to the next poor sucker.”

And then in 2019, I came along and started poking around, trying to get all the real figures. I was sitting down with the deep state saying: “Open the books.” And they’d say, “Can I just tell the truth?”

What do you mean by the “deep state”?

I mean the set of officials who actually control Whitehall — people like the Cabinet Secretary, those who run the intelligence services, certain crucial people in the Cabinet Office. These people who have a lot more power than basically any ministers — apart from, nominally, the Prime Minister.

Certain conspiracy theorists use the phrase “deep state” in America.

I think to some extent Trump does use the phrase as a conspiracy — but that doesn’t mean I do. I am talking about something entirely real. I’m not talking about any kind of conspiracy.

But to some extent, Trump had a point, right? In the sense that there was obviously a whole set of people, particularly around the intelligence community, who did hate Trump and would attempt to cause trouble. And I know people who were going to be appointed who were shut down, like scientists who were going to get jobs who were then frozen out. The FBI simply refused to vet them for 18 months.

Trump obviously talks a whole load of shit but as a lot of the Russia stuff showed, there actually was a conspiracy against him in parts of the system.

Do you mean the machinery of government then? I ask because it seems to me that you pitted yourself not just against Johnson but against that machinery.

The irony of the situation is that of all the different players in Westminster — the political parties, the media, Boris, the Tory MPs — the people who we, the Vote Leave team, got on with best was the deep state. There was a kind of alliance in a lot of ways. We both wanted to sort out some of these problems: the shitshow around nuclear weapons, procurement, bringing technology into Number 10.

The media presented us as Vote Leave psychopaths, at war with everyone, but that wasn’t true. Our relations with the Tory party were extremely bad. But our relations with the deep state were obviously variable, depending on exactly who you’re talking about.

When you say Vote Leave, you’re not talking about Nigel Farage?

No. That’s why there was the coup in January 2016. To try and get rid of me. Because Bernard Jenkin-type people wanted to merge the whole thing together with Farage. I refused. He’d always said to me “I’m a general but I shouldn’t be overall Commander. Everyone will have their role. I’ve got 15% — maybe 20% — of the country’s support and my job should be to mobilise them.” But around July 2015, suddenly his attitude changed. It was: “I’ve got to run the whole thing.” He’s a bit like Boris: he has some communication gifts but he’s also a total organisational shambles.

You’ve written a lot about the kind of people who go into politics, and you’ve been criticised for your attitudes to work/life balance — and yet you’ve also been promoting women around you.

It’s not really contradictory.

Some people would say it is, because if you want people in the office 16 hours a day, and you want this buzzy start-up feel, how do people go home and put their kids to bed?

Number 10 is obviously big enough that you could have, say, some young woman who’s just had kids and only wants to work three days a week. But my basic point is that if you’re in Number 10, there are huge responsibilities. And it’s your job to be trying, all the time, for millions of people — a lot of whom have got fuck all and have very desperate lives. Your job is not to be thinking, “well, how do I have a nice life and get home for bath time?” There has to be a core of people who are there, demented, working extremely hard — because that’s the nature of it, this constant chaos.

When you put your call out for “weirdos and misfits”, people interpreted that as you wanting employees who would be totally dedicated to you.

Partly. But it was also a call to Whitehall and Westminster. They’re full of very similar people who did very similar degrees at very similar universities. My view is that you need different kinds of people around. I think the Covid inquiry will show that groupthink was a very serious problem.

I put out that blog about “weirdos and misfits” in January 2020 and it became the foundation for recruiting. It did bring in some excellent women. By summer, 29-year-old women were sitting at the Cabinet table, saying to Matt Hancock, “you just said that it’s not growing exponentially and you’re wrong. Here’s the actual graph. Here’s what’s happening.”

A lot of people didn’t like what I had done, but I thought: “this is now working as it should”. You’ve got smart people, who know what the fuck they’re talking about, telling either ministers or senior civil servants who don’t know exponential growth from a hole in the ground: “Here’s the actual facts.” So, I’ve radically improved how decisions are taken. The advice to the Prime Minister, though he could still trolley around and fuck things up —which he did, obviously — was at least much better.

Have you ever had therapy?

I’m not interested in my own emotional state.

Why not?

Never have been.

But you’re interested in other people’s emotional states?

I’ve got no interest in my own emotional state. Or myself. I find my own emotional state the most boring subject I could think of.

Isn’t one of your gifts being able to interpret other people’s emotions? I’m surprised to hear you say that you’re not interested in your own. It sounds like denial to me, but a lot of people in politics are like this.

Most people in politics are recruited based on whether they can stand up and speak. I noticed that a long time ago, with Boris and Gove: we’d all be exhausted, arriving somewhere where one of them was speaking, and I would always think “my God, the idea of standing up and speaking right now is just completely horrific”, but they feel the exact opposite. They both love speaking and they’re both energised by it, whereas I would be driven catatonic at the thought of it. Then there are the 1,000-yard stares among the likes of Hancock and Truss. Rolling news and social media encourages more of the narcissists to get involved as a sort of low-grade alternative to being a celebrity.

Do you still have contact with people there? Is Johnson staying?

As far as we know. The fact that Rishi blew himself up makes it much more likely that Boris will somehow survive. I don’t want to say “no chance”, but I think Rishi is out of the running. They’re going to be thinking who can win the next election. Whatever you might think of Michael Gove’s abilities, he is not a loved character. There are some very junior people who I like, who I won’t curse by naming — if I name them then everyone will hate them. But it’s a very, very poor Cabinet.

You said you thought Labour should be led by a woman from the North like Lisa Nandy?

Yeah, because Starmer is pretty rubbish.

What about the trans stuff?

The  last thing we should be doing is giving a desperate Tory Party that has been a fiasco for years a wedge issue — the chance to say at the next election, you can’t define a woman. Labour is stupid. The more they try to fudge it, the worse the problem gets.

You’re not in the Tory party. Do you want to be in another party?

I’m not a joiner by nature. I don’t like parties. “Parties” or parties. I don’t like going to parties.

Were there journalists at the parties?

Carrie is friends with a lot of them and it was persistently stated that they were hanging out with her and him. But obviously the police and Sue Gray decided not to investigate that — or to investigate Chequers either.

Were there parties at Chequers?

So people say.

There are a lot of rumours about Carrie now.

Nothing would surprise me. She can’t be happy with the situation now. Obviously it’s all blowing up in her face. And then there’s all of his money stuff.

Did he talk about all this with you?

That was an important part of the whole disaster with Covid, because he was literally in the process of trying to finalise his divorce. He was broke. He was having to find money to pay Marina, and at the same time, he had Carrie doing this insane renovation of the flat with Lulu [Lytle, the interior designer] running up these huge bills. In January, he said: “You’ve got to help me get money to pay for this stuff. She’s upstairs, she has spent ÂŁ100,000. All this gold wallpaper and stuff. And I’m fucked with my divorce. I can’t pay for it.”

I said: “Go to Coutts. Get one of your rich friends to take out a loan.”

“No, fuck that. I want to get donations in to do it. But obviously it’s bad PR so I have to keep it quiet.”

I said: “That’s illegal. What the fuck are you talking about? You idiots. The Prime Minister can’t get secret donations.” But his mindset was very much: “Fuck that. I’m going do what I want.” He’s always been like that: famously turns up at places and then just leaves and lets everyone else pay the bill.

What do you do for fun?

I had a child three months before the referendum. So either I’ve been doing the referendum and then Number 10, or I’ve just been hanging out here reading and playing with him. That’s about it.

Do you like music? Do you like film? Do you watch telly?

I watch telly. I used to watch a lot of movies. Not much really. I just hang around, read, go for walks.

Do you like cooking?

Not really.

I know you like Russian literature. Do you speak Russian?

I could speak basic Russian, when I lived there 20 years ago.

Must have been a fascinating time to live there.

Russia is such a fucked-up place. It’s not Europe. It’s a dark place. There are some wonderful people there — some of the best-educated people you will ever, ever meet in your life.

Did you know about the Lebedev peerage?

I can’t remember when he got the peerage formally, but I was there when the decision was made. I was in the room when other people said, “Prime Minister, you shouldn’t do this.” And I said to him: “You shouldn’t do this.” One of the many, many battles after the election that I didn’t win. I suspect they’ll just keep all that quiet until Boris goes. Unless the deep state people decide to leak it, which they might do.

He always thinks he can get away with it. And now?

You never know. He goes through those funny moods. I suspect he’s thinking if they don’t put him out before August, he’s got a reasonable chance of swinging the election. And he’ll be thinking: “Oh, I’m still here. I was close to disaster but just escaped”. Also, he will be looking at Starmer and rightly thinking, “He’s rubbish”.

But remember, he doesn’t really want to be there very long. All he wants to do is not be a loser and not be put out in disgrace. He’s not actually interested in the job. Even in January 2020, he was saying to me, “God, you know these people who say they want to do this job and go on and on? Well I want to write my Shakespeare book.”

The election was on 12 December. By mid-January he was whinging about what a difficult job it is. I said: “You are Prime Minister and if you want to sit upstairs in the morning and do a bit of writing, that’s up to you, but I wouldn’t run around the building telling everyone that you are finding the job boring. Otherwise, you might find it hard to get people to do what you want”.

He must have trusted you to tell you that.

He’s very odd. He does overshare but also at the same time never trusts anybody. Also, part of the oversharing is to see what then turns up in the newspapers to see if you’re leaking.

You’ve been accused of leaking.

I have been accused of all sorts.

I don’t have any sort of personal relationship with someone like Laura Kuenssberg. It was just a professional relationship. And it was important particularly when Covid kicked off. The Mail started to report things like tanks on the streets, rumours that London was going to be locked down and people wouldn’t be allowed to leave. She would call me and I would be able to say to her: I guarantee you that is not true. The BBC is the national broadcaster. Do not put that on the news because you’ll cause chaos.

The BBC political editor is going to have a relationship with the Prime Minister’s main political adviser. That’s just a fact of life. To think I have been criticised for that: it’s just crazy. People thought there was “Dom’s dark web”. Johnson thought: “He wants to cut me and my friends off from dealing with the media, so that everything goes through his secret network”.

Okay, what’s your secret network?

The irony was that in 2020, I was barely speaking to the press. But he never believed it. I stopped speaking to the press in November, before the election. I talked to Laura, sometimes [Robert] Peston. That’s about it. I would tell Lee [Cain] what was happening.

12 March 2020 was the most insane day of the whole thing, and probably the most insane day in Number 10 since 1945. The day started with me trying to bounce the system towards much more radical action against Covid. Trump then tried to get us to engage with a bombing mission — to fly over and bomb a load of people in the Middle East. That was never revealed at the time — it only came out when I mentioned it to the MPs last year.

Bomb who?

I can’t say who — but okay, mostly people in Iraq.

So, I say to Boris: “Listen, this idea of us cancelling all these Covid meetings because we’re going to start bombing the Middle East with Trump, it’s fucking crackers. We’re going to have thousands of people dead here in the next few weeks. We’ve got to sort out Covid.”

And he says: “This fucking Times story about Dilyn. It says the whole place is chaos. And me and Carrie are living like students with Dilyn shitting everywhere and the staff, the cleaners, all going mad. I want a fucking inquiry. I want to know who briefed it. Carrie thinks it’s you.”

We’ve got meetings on bombing. We’ve got meetings on Covid. Everything is going down the fucking toilet. But he’s getting texts from her about whether he’s started the inquiry into the Dilyn leak.

That’s what we’re dealing with.

It feels like no one is in charge.

It definitely feels like the institutions are all kind of crumbling.

Is this what you wanted? This disruption?

There are a lot of people who think that. It’s partly why a lot of people voted for Brexit. It’s partly why a lot of people were happy at the thought of the Vote Leave guys going into Number 10. They thought, rightly, that we would shake that shit up and things would be very different. People like me say: all these things are rotten. They say: we are going to cause chaos.

Looking at what happened with Covid, our fears were vindicated, right? The whole fucking thing did fall apart like a deck of cards. And from our point of view, it vindicates our basic idea: that we should do Brexit.

But that’s the start. You then have to go through these institutions and they need to be ripped up and rebooted in all sorts of ways. It needs new people coming in, new ideas. It needs new incentives. Or we just keep going with the closed shop of the old lobby, the old parties, the old boys’ club in Whitehall. Then we’re going to get the same old results, which is a shitshow: stagnant economy, terrible public services, no fucking A&E. It’s totally imploded in large parts of the country. Unless some force actually starts to rejuvenate these things, then


What do you think of people who don’t vote?

Most people just think: “What’s the point? They’re all a bunch of wankers.”

 

This interview is adapted from Suzanne Moore’s Substack, Letters from Suzanne.


Suzanne Moore is an award-winning columnist and journalist. She won the Orwell Prize in 2019.

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Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

A fascinating read. Well done Suzanne Moore !
Isn’t it curious how often people do better when they’re released from an earlier career and stop needing to be tribally loyal ? Suzanne seems to have improved. Michael Portillo has thrived. Even Ed B…s (Yvette Cooper’s husband – this seems to be a forbidden word here). Edwina Curry and David Mellor become bearable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter B
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I felt like a new woman when I left regular employment and the attendant office/presence culture to go self-employed. Paradoxically, I needed to remove myself from the collective in order to get on with it better. I still don’t deal well with parties, smalltalk or office politics and need to be on my own a lot – but then really enjoy socialising when I can choose it.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Isn’t it curious how often people do better when they’re released from an earlier career and stop needing to be tribally loyal ? 

The best thing that happened to Suzanne Moore’s writing was all those nutters at the Guardian ganging up on her. But some has-beens are best ignored. Tony Blair and John Major seem to rise from their crypt every now and again, each time more decomposed, with sonorous and vacuous pronouncements of doom.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Fascinating interview and the following line speaks to my very soul:
“I’m not a joiner by nature. I don’t like parties. “Parties” or parties. I don’t like going to parties”.
YES. Exactly.
On the other hand – even though I feel Dominic Cummings was/is a pivotal figure and could have made some really positive changes…he does not help himself. The disinterest in his own emotional state seems to go hand in hand with an extreme lack of self-reflection (or willingness to reflect on himself and his actions). Therefore, the open mood which I started to read this interview with gradually withered through all the “I did X to achieve Y…I did this, I did that because Z, I, I, I…” into “oh do pipe down, man!”
At the end, I’m left with a dreadful sadness that the country I grew up in and still love dearly is being piloted by such a ship of feckless idiots with no improvement in sight.
But I will say again what I have been thinking for several years and it chimes in with what Cummings says here: Britain desperately needs a meteoric shake to reform itself right from the bottom. Brexit delivered that bombshell – happily in a democratic way instead of the chaos of a revolution.
The lack of ability to deal with Brexit or its consequences will means that the reform process is going to be so much more painful for the people in Britain than it has to be and there will be a lot of anger about that – I’m glad I’m not there tbh. But things will change – because there is no other way. Stuff collapsing will not be pleasant, but only if that happens will new stuff take its place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
John 0
John 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would say that he is autistic. Hence disconnection to his own emotions – but very able to see the issues and speak about them bluntly.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 year ago
Reply to  John 0

autistic doesn’t mean ‘disconnection with emotions’. Also, he only said that he wasn’t interested in verbalizing his emotions
The idea of being ‘interested in my own emotions’ seems more like an autistic disconnect, if anything

Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
1 year ago
Reply to  John 0

Interestingly 21st century to feel that having no interest in ones own emotions is some form of diagnosable mental illness. Actually it’s just being old skool. Being able to put oneself in some sort of perspective rather than seeing everything through the prism of one’s own wants and needs. Mind you, that being said, he does come across as a total ego-maniac. And he was as wrong as you can get over Covid, which I note he still doesn’t admit. There is no evidence that one single thing we did saved one single life. And it may yet prove the case that we did serious harm.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

It’s sliding slightly off piste but around Covid I think Britain was (still is) so stuck in the Brexit referendum frozen conflict that we had a split society, which meant taking any contrarian actions was particularly high risk. So when Italy was broadcasting the images from Bergamo hospital and everyone across Europe was closing down, our own attempt to go with herd immunity ( an infelicitous phrase) like Sweden was howled down by many across the political spectrum and media.
Indeed for a year or so our *slowness* in locking down was frequently criticised in the strongest terms as *causing* deaths.
I think this meant we abandoned that and went with the flow, not as hard as France or maybe Germany, but harder than some.
I think recent reappraisals of the Covid death toll and suchlike show the UK now dropping ‘down’ the table of fatalities, although that doesn’t seem to affect the early established *Plague Island* narrative.
I think had we tried to be more like Sweden we would not have seen the same willingness that Sweden found with their people, and media, going along with it.
That doesn’t absolve the government, or Cummings, and we will see what a proper enquiry will bring, but if we got it wrong, then so did many other countries across Europe.

Philippe W
Philippe W
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s nice to be reassured, even in the form of Dominic Cummings, that parties are a form of punishment for having acquaintances. I even flinch at the mere sight of the noun and feel like I need a sit down when someone uses it as a verb.

And I truly believe a majority of people secretly don’t enjoy them. I recall one poll (yes, okay, I know) during that period in which the largest group of respondents reported that the most obvious benefit of lockdowns had been… not having to attend parties.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Philippe W

Yes, it was quite a relief in some ways. My other half was delighted about the aspect of social distancing which advised against kissing people on both cheeks as a greeting (we live in continental Europe where that is usual). He could never stand it and has the perfect excuse now not to!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I don’t know Dominic Cummings at all but I did cover the NE assembly thing early this century and he and John Elliott took on about as big as opponent as is possible to get in UK politics (Every other party nationally and regionally, unions, and virtually every charity and quango)…
Elliott the campaign figurehead would joke at pressers that *the* had Blair, Brown, Howard, Kennedy, and so o0n …. and I have a big inflatable white elephant I have to blow up with a pump before every interview I give.
But the Cummings/Elliott side could jump on a gaffe quicker than a chameleon hitting it’s lunch..and the *Geordie* Parliament that keps getting mentioned by Blair etc was a huge one (weird when Blair was famously a NE pit village area constituency MP in County Durham).
That crystallised the idea that the yes side wanted to set up another talking shop in Newcastle..which is seen as the min-London to MIddlesbrough, Co Durham and Sunderland’s non-metropolitan areas.
They outnumber Newcastle population-wise by around the 4 to 1 against ratio that the referendum vote ended up at.
I voted Leave in 2016 but expected to see Remain win around midnight … even after we had the lady in red hoisted above cheering Leave supporters come in from Sunderland, I still thought Remain would win…but it quickly became clear how it was going to play out.
I may be overly easy to impress but I feel being involved in those two votes makes Cummings a bit of a political genius for such a febrile time as we have now.
Possibly, a wee bit self-centred on the *me,I,myself* front but to a degree, justifiably so.

David Owsley
David Owsley
1 year ago

Very good indeed, new insights. I know he has his issues but he was full on about Civil Service reform, which is desperately needed, there were some almost audible collective sighs of relief from mandarins when he was ousted by Carrie.

Also his attitude to getting in a bunch of hard workers who actually want to change things for the better, ‘sacrificing’ their private lives to do so, is excellent. Wish he was back…despite him being totally wrong on lockdowns.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Owsley
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  David Owsley

I almost agree with you, but come the ultimate test he was unable to save even himself from Princess Nut Nut.
Not a good recommendation!

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Nobody can save themselves from the bosses wife.

Jake Dee
Jake Dee
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Or, as Max Bailystock said in The Producers; “There’s always a role in the show for the producers girlfriend”

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

!

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Jane Jan
Jane Jan
1 year ago

I have some regard for DC in the way he speaks his mind and I suspect he probably does have a strong desire to improve the country – or rather change various governmental processes to make them run in a way he personally deems as being more efficient.
The problem when one looks over his CV is that he really doesn’t appear to have had much success at achieving this type of root and branch change in a systemic and organised way. The nearest he got to being effective seems to have been when he was employed by Gove as his personal bully-boy, but other than that his career seems to have consisted of walking out or the usual PR activities.
Looking at the type of language he employs it is all rather sturm-und-drang (no I’m not a Guardian-reading sociology lecturer – just a handy phrase from my German O-Level days).
By that I mean everything is about ‘tearing’ or ‘ripping’ up things. Plus a rather incessant use of the F word which gets a bit tedious – someone needs to tell him it is really not a profanity anymore.
Frankly he seems a little naive about exactly how management works. IMHO true systemic change is often effected by the very 9-5’ers who he seems to despise – they’re the well-balanced people who quietly come into work, seamlessly negotiate to ensure that all the various people and players line up behind the changes they wish to put into place, and then having achieved that increment of the transformation for the day go home to switch off and relax.
As I suspect many of us here have experienced, the wild eyed brigade who are helicoptered in as prospective saviours for the organisation generally escape through the back door within 1-2 years, though sadly usually leaving a weakened organisation and redundancies behind them.
For me the real giveaway is his rather myopic view of the various political parties – Greens and Liberals don’t merit a mention, and his personalisation of the Labour opposition at the time as being simply ‘Corbyn’ reveals a rather disabling prejudice rather than incisive political analysis. Anyone who thinks that Corbyn ‘led’ Labour and would have been in control of policy is displaying an alarming lack of insight into the inner workings of the Labour Party.
Had he said “blah blah and Labour would have been rubbish.. ” that would indicated some sort of insight – but his obsession with Corbyn shows that despite his worship of ‘great minds’, his own has a rather small aspect.
(For one thing I suspect a number of Conservative supporters do now wonder whether the country might not indeed have been better run by what may have been a slightly less dysfunctional Labour cabinet).
The awkward truth is that Dominic Cummings – as well intentioned as I think he probably was and is – was ultimately used and thrown away by the very people he had little respect for at the time and who he now actively disparages. A tale as old as time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Jan
R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I’d begun to turn against Cummings, who I’d once seen as a great man, and began to view him as a petty vindictive bitter little man. This interview has reminded of exactly why I liked him in the first place. With his defenestration from our pathetic government Britain has lost the one reformist that might have made some headway against our country’s malaise.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

But he forgot that it was Boris who was elected, while he was only there by on Boris’ say-so. If he was as clever and talented as he clearly thinks he is, maybe he should have made it work.
It certainly seems tragic that Carrie replaced Marina.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago

There are some very junior people who I like, who I won’t curse by naming — if I name them then everyone will hate them. But it’s a very, very poor Cabinet.

Last edited 1 year ago by Justin Clark
Primary Teacher
Primary Teacher
1 year ago

Great interview – my view of Cummings hasn’t changed. Unfortunately the country is still being led by idiots promoted beyond their ability with no original workable ideas.

Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
1 year ago

Can you be surprised when a) we pay them less than they could get in a halfway decent private sector job. b) they are now open to hounding on a colossal scale on social media and c) we appear to expect government to save us from both poverty and death. The state can do neither. What we actually need is far less of the state. The fact that what we have is so poor is the proof we’d be better off rolling it all right back.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Utterly superb!

Elena RodrĂ­guez
Elena RodrĂ­guez
1 year ago

I agree with a lot of the comments Dominic Cummings has made over the past few years about how the civil service has prioritised recruiting obedient people rather than people who actually have expertise in issues that they should be advising democratically elected leaders on.
I was rejected from the UK Foreign Office in 2003 at the application stage. I applied to them very clearly stating that I had a First Class degree in Arabic and Persian, had studied at Esfahan University in Iran and the British Council in Egypt and that I had travelled extensively around Asia. Someone from the company Capita, who had been given the contract for sifting applications at that time, told me on the phone that they couldn’t see any evidence of me having enough experience of being able to deal with living in other cultures. How much experience did a person need to get an interview with the Foreign Office back then?
Back when I applied, Bush and Blair were loudly celebrating their invasion of Iraq and were talking openly about invading Iran. Having written my final year dissertation on British-Iranian relations since the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, I was dead set against their invasion. I had enough knowledge of Iran’s history to know about how it was the British and Americans who had destroyed Iran’s short-lived democracy in the 1950s by organising a coup against Mohammad Mossadegh to replace him with the Shah that made their claims to want to ‘bring democracy to Iran’ to be something of a joke.
Looking back it feels to me as if I was deliberately kept out of a government job back then where I could have been of use to the UK. Whilst the Labour Party continue to blame everything that is wrong with the UK right now on the Conservatives, it was under a Labour government that I was rejected by way of Capita – a much loved company by Tony Blair and his friends that most people in the UK could see was very far from being an effective organisation.

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
1 year ago

My experience in Australian Federal and State governments was similar. In Queensland, where I’d been recruited by Kevin Rudd to write the State’s economic development policy, a high-level supporter later said that I was seen as a threat because of my “honesty, integrity, intellect and analytical rigour.”

David Owsley
David Owsley
1 year ago

That quickly?

Immediately after the election. The election happens; there’s five or so days and then he’s sauntered off to some sort of billionaire island; and then at the beginning of January she immediately was on at him about firing all of us, which obviously is not a great way of starting a new government.

This is interesting; I know it was all over the press and looked into because paid for by David Ross, donor etc, but who else was there at the time? Could he have been ‘got at’ whilst on hols?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A highly amusing read about the views of one person who – by his own admission – has no time or inclination for introspection. And those who he’d have liked to have seen working 16 hour days in Whitehall might presumably have been of the same ilk. However technically gifted with graphs… no thanks!
Whatever the problems we as a country face, not having Cummings in a position of influence any longer is, in my opinion, a huge positive, and Suzanne Moore deserves plaudits for bringing us this insightful piece; insightful, in a “telling tales out of school” insightful way. Those who engage in such childish rhetoric deserve their fate.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

Meh! He was the one who pushed lockdowns and the first to openly break it and get away with it. Personally, I was against lockdown from the start so have little care for those who forced it on us and then disregarded it themselves. Two finger salute from me on that one.
He admits that there isn’t anyone particularly fit for office and yet calls those who don’t vote, because there is no-one fit for voting for, w@nkers! Surely by taking part in the farce is half the problem in nothing changing!

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

He admits that there isn’t anyone particularly fit for office and yet calls those who don’t vote, because there is no-one fit for voting for, w@nkers!

I think you’ve misread it; when Cummings says, ‘Most people just think: “What’s the point? They’re all a bunch of wankers”, I believe he is attributing the opinion that ‘politicians are a bunch of w@nkers’ to the non-voters, not calling those non-voters ‘a bunch of w@nkers’.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pat Rowles
Howard Bonner
Howard Bonner
1 year ago

I would be interested to hear his thoughts on who would be a good PM. Maybe Lord Frost?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Howard Bonner

I agree, that would have been a great question to dig into. Next PM needs to be a Leaver (or the party won’t elect them) with senior cabinet experience (or the MPs won’t elect them).

So that’s Sunak, Gove, Patel, Raab or at a pinch Steve Barclay.

Or if it could be engineered Lord Frost. Who would get my vote.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Sheila Smith
Sheila Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Next PM needs to be not tory

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Sheila Smith

Next PM needs to be a conservative.

Lad Lancs
Lad Lancs
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Ben Wallace fits the criteria too……

Charlie Walker
Charlie Walker
1 year ago

Suzanne – or anyone – any idea when the aution is?

Not that I want to rant about Brexit but it would be fascinating to spend an hour talking to him!

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
1 year ago

He understands working class people up North. For all his faults, Blair knew Labour couldn’t be elected without them.

John Stone
John Stone
1 year ago

Cummings’ own political views are incoherent but very good on other people. Does he really think we could have stopped Covid by shutting down earlier – he hasn’t learned much in two years.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Too much swearing.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago

I’m not a joiner by nature. I don’t like parties. “Parties” or parties. I don’t like going to parties.

Who would want this leaky glum bucket at their parties? I met his wife Mary Wakefield once at a Spectator tea party, and she’s really nice and normal. Perhaps he is too, in a domestic setting, but he comes over as difficult and grumpy. I hope he doesn’t swear like a trooper in front of his son.

Margaret Dakin
Margaret Dakin
1 year ago

I’ve always had utmost respect for Suzanne Moore but the fact that she does not press Cummings on points about leaving Europe and letting him get away with saying joining the euro was disastrous for Greek is irrelevant. Greece joined the Euro years before Brexit and this is irrelevant to where the UK is now. And the cheap shots at Carrie Johnson are just cheap and nasty. BJ is who he is, leave this, and all the women in his life, out of it.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

He doesn’t seem to want to answer the question “Do you still think it was right to leave Europe?”. And why would a second referendum have been a disaster when he wanted two referenda in the first place? Could it be because that would have shot down his beloved Brexit?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

And from our point of view, it vindicates our basic idea: that we should do Brexit.

But that’s the start. You then have to go through these institutions and they need to be ripped up and rebooted in all sorts of ways. 

Seems clear to me.
A second referendum would have been a terrible idea because you can’t ask people to vote and then tell them to vote again because you don’t like their decision.
It shouldn’t really need to be explained to anyone.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

To their eternal shame, didn’t the Irish vote twice?

David Owsley
David Owsley
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

They were forced to vote twice, the same way we almost were by the juggernaut of Remainer backlash.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

 didn’t the Irish vote twice?

To be sure, to be sure.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I think he was saying one ref to vote leave/remain and another one on basically hard/soft.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

No. He explicitly answered that question for you. Even Suzanne Moore seems to agree now ! Which part of “Now we know we are best off out of it” do you not understand ?
Stop trying to shoehorn an anti-Brexit narrative in here. Even with the entire political establishment backing Remain, they still lost. Either the Remain side were completely incompetent (curiously they all got gongs for their work). Or they were wrong. Or both.
Here’s the passage for you:
Do you still think it was right to leave Europe?
A lot of people, especially the centre-Left in London, thought joining the Euro would be a success. Now we know we are best off out of it. When the Euro came under pressure it completely wrecked the Greek economy.
That took the blinkers off for me.”

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Read that again; he is explicitly referring to the Euro and not to ‘Europe’.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

It amounts to the same thing. If you do not believe in the Euro, you have no place in the EU moving forwards.
And this is the thing. People voted to leave for this reason: “in your guts, you know it’s nuts” (to borrow from LBJ). They instinctively knew that the Euro was crazy and not for us. They instinctively disliked subsidising continental ineffeciency and fraud (CAP, EU accounts never signed off … need I continue ?). They knew that the EU was veering off in a centralised, bureaucratic, wasteful and unaccountable direction over which they would have rapidly diminishing influence and no control.
And they saw with their own eyes the inability of the EU to respond in a correct or timely manner to a succession of crises – EU debt/Greece/Euro, the breakup of Yugoslavia (bailed out by the USA), mass illegal immigration to list just a few. Since 2016 we can add energy planning, the EU Covid vaccines farce (in which they even threatened to invoke Article 16), the incoherent and slow response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The people were right.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Love Europe, Hate EU.
Love Football, Hate FIFA.

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Which words in “And from our point of view, it vindicates our basic ideathat we should do Brexit.” do you not understand?

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
1 year ago

When you read Cummings, you have to ask yourself, ‘He may critique others with gusto, but what has he achieved himself?’.

hywell Roberts
hywell Roberts
1 year ago

This man lacks any sort of moral fibre and l am saddened by the fact you would even consider giving him a column inch ! Do better !

Sheila Smith
Sheila Smith
1 year ago

Starmer might be rubbish but at least he would be honest rubbish

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

I’d like to see Putin and Cummings put in the same place, so they could rail against everything until they die.

Kasia Chapman
Kasia Chapman
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It’s great to see many women commenting for a change . I enjoyed reading the interview, you would not get away with this language in printed press but I appreciate that with DC it was essential to show the essence of his character.

I have observed that the moderators did not pick up on the job ad for ‘easy work’ sent from 3 different accounts !