TIM WALKER on Dominic Cummings, the alienation by Boris Johnson of his supporters and LBC’s ousting of Nigel Farage
In a sign that Dominic Cummings sees his place at Boris Johnson’s side as assured no matter how much unease about him there is on the Tory backbenches, he has quietly shut down his firm Dynamic Maps to focus full-time on his Downing Street role.
Companies House has been informed of his decision to voluntarily strike the company off its register, just weeks after Isaac Levido – his rival for Johnson’s affections – quit as director of his market research outfit Fleetwood Strategy. Cummings, admitted Dynamic Maps, an information technology company which he set up three years ago, had made no money.
This contrasts with the fortunes of the vanquished Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby. His PR machine CT Global Holdings, which has divisions across the world, shows turnover up from £30.4 million in 2018 to £37.2m for the year ended June 30, 2019. Its 14 British subsidiary firms remain a big money-spinner, generating £14.2m last year, up from £7.4m in the 2018 accounts. CTF Partners, one of the 14 firms run by CT Global Holdings, picked up £4m in fees ahead of the 2017 general election, when Theresa May lost her majority.
Talking of Cummings, Durham County Council said they had found ‘historic breaches of planning and building regulations’ with regard to his cottage on his parents’ farm where he so controversially journeyed with his family during lockdown. They have asked the Valuation Office Agency to see if the council tax being paid hadn’t taken the new building work into account.
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay – the Brexit-loving Daily Telegraph proprietors now enjoined in an epic legal battle in the High Court over privacy – have both employed public relations professionals to attempt to ingratiate themselves to the wider public.
It’s a measure perhaps of how toxic their former employee Boris Johnson has become – they paid him £270,000 a year until he became prime minister – that neither seems keen to admit to when they last communicated with him.
When he was prime minister, David Cameron was believed to have visited the twins’ castle on the island of Brecqhou – as well as, interestingly, Sir Nicholas Soames, who sits on the board of one of their companies, on another occasion – but if Johnson has been there lately they are keeping schtum.
There have been a spate of Damascene conversions lately when it comes to Boris Johnson. Columnist Tim Montgomerie’s announcement that he’s ‘broken’ with him – it sounds like the end of a relationship – and Piers Morgan, who voted for him in the last election, saying he’s now ‘done’. Even the Spectator, which Johnson once edited, ran a piece asserting he isn’t fit to lead.
On Sunday, Sarah Baxter vacated her perch as a columnist on the avidly pro-Brexit Sunday Times – where she’d also served as deputy editor – with a shock announcement on social media. ‘I’m not a Brexiteer,’ she declared. Could this have been the same woman who wrote a column in September 2018 entitled ‘Give Boris his shot at the top job. He’s earned it’? The subsidiary headline read: ‘Johnson will deliver no lectures on morality. Just a more cheerful Brexit.’
Nigel Farage’s departure from LBC – apparently prompted by staff who were sick of the damage he was doing to the reputation of the radio station – makes me wonder about Sarah Vine’s future at the Daily Mail.
The columnist’s relationship with Geordie Greig, the paper’s editor, is a complicated one, not least because of a disobliging story he once ran – when he was editor of the Evening Standard – about her husband Michael Gove. ‘I’m not sure you can compare her to Farage,’ Greig’s spokesman tells me. ‘Sarah is popular with the readers.’
Vine caused controversy in February when she talked about her despair at the ‘trial by social media’ that has been cited as a factor in the death of the Love Island presenter Caroline Flack. Her own media organisation had published more than 25 stories about Flack online – not all of them entirely helpful for her – between the New Year and then. An online petition calling for Vine to be sacked from the paper last year attracted support from more than 14,000 people.