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MANDRAKE: How money is causing a divide between Boris Johnson’s top advisers

Downing Street special advisor Dominic Cummings (left) and director of communications Lee Cain (right) attend Boris Johnson's press conference during a NATO summit. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/PA. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson’s key advisers Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain might appear to run a tight ship in Downing Street – but TIM WALKER reveals behind-the-scenes pay is causing tension.

Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain have been accused of acting like nightclub doormen in the way they’re protecting Boris Johnson from proper media scrutiny. Behind the scenes, however, I hear the relationship between the two bruisers is becoming strained over the vexed question of money.

Surprisingly, Cain, who serves as Downing Street’s director of communications, picks up £145,000 in salary each year, whereas Cummings, supposedly his senior as the chief special adviser to the prime minister, is paid £99,000.

Cummings’ resentment of Cain may well stem from the fact Dynamic Maps – his fledgling information technology consultancy – would appear not to be the money spinner he’d imagined: its net worth as of February 20 this year and just reported to Companies House stands at 1p, down from £78,751 in 2019.

Ironically, Cummings may well have wanted a relatively modest salary as he was fearful his overall earnings, with the income from Dynamic Maps taken into account, could push him into a higher tax bracket.

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Cain was head of broadcast for the Vote Leave campaign and served, too, at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove. He was best known as a Daily Mirror reporter for having to dress up as a chicken to taunt David Cameron, which is why Cummings may conceivably not see him as his intellectual equal.

Fancy dress

Like George Osborne – whose fondness for high-vis jackets and hard hats bordered on the fetishistic – Boris Johnson loves dressing up.

He donned a personal protective suit for his visit the other day to Bedford Technology Park, where scientists are working on quicker testing for Covid-19, which must have made the staff wonder if he was wearing it to protect himself from their toxicity or vice versa. People who know about these things tell me that he had, needless to say, put it on in a way that rendered it totally useless in any case.

Johnson, like his old mate Donald Trump, got off to a slow, stumbling start on the coronavirus crisis, but would now appear to see it as an opportunity for grandstanding. I’m told there’s increasing frustration in the medical community that Johnson sees himself as the principal purveyor of advice and information on the virus, rather than the expert professor Chris Witty, the chief medical officer for England.

‘Public health messages have in the past always been put out by scientists or independent medical experts, such as Chris, as that way they carry the necessary authority,’ one health professional tells me. ‘Johnson has a credibility problem with a large swathe of the populace, and, what’s more, what he says is often contradictory. One day he says everyone should wash their hands, the next he’s saying he’s happy to keep shaking hands with people.’

Fall fails

The memoirs of David Cameron’s former ‘gate-keeper’ Baroness Fall – I revealed that she was writing them last May – have proved to be every bit as boring as I’d feared. ‘A missed opportunity,’ one critic noted over the weekend. ‘Fall is simply too unwilling to criticise, too keen to spin the Cameron years as a success.’

How much more interesting the book would have been if Fall had shed new light on her father, Sir Brian Fall, who has the dubious distinction of having helped Vladimir Putin rise to power. As Britain’s ambassador in Moscow in the 1990s, he introduced the then very unimportant Putin to the then president Boris Yeltsin.

Fighting shy

The last general election proved to be tough going for the Lib Dems, but City ‘Superwoman’ Nicola Horlick gave the Tory Greg Hands a run for his money in Chelsea and Fulham, where she took 25.9% of the vote, up 14.9% on the election before.

Horlick doesn’t go into anything half-heartedly and she remains active in the Lib Dems. Last week she hosted a fundraising party for Siobhan Benita, her party’s candidate in the London mayoral election, at her home. I asked Horlick if she might run again, and she smiled enigmatically.

Benita, meanwhile, tells me she has a practical problem: her two principal male rivals – Shaun Bailey for the Tories and Labour’s Sadiq Khan – are refusing to debate with her. Mandrake challenges them to man up.

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