Former Tory minister reveals five reasons why Johnson will regret not sacking Cummings

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media. Photograph: Jonathan...

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Former Conservative minister David Gauke has revealed the five key reasons why he believes that Boris Johnson will regret not sacking senior aide Dominic Cummings.

Gauke, who served as the justice secretary under Theresa May, said that he had supported the government approach to the coronavirus crisis and believed the public would acknowledge any other administration running the country could have made the same mistakes Johnson had made.

But he told Conservative Home that while the public were willing to accept those mistakes in good faith, that 'benefit of the doubt has been lost and it has been lost because of Dominic Cummings'.

Gauke gave five reasons why he believed the prime minister was wrong not to sack his senior aide.

He wrote: 'First, the arrogance. The immediate response from Cummings was to dismiss the story as an irrelevance – 'it's not about what you guys think' – when it was clear that the guidelines had been broken and an apology was in order.

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'Second, the lack of honesty and transparency. The Cummings story changed almost by the hour and the explanation for the trip to Barnard Castle stretches credulity. By the way, the emergence that Cummings' 2019 blog was amended in April to include a specific reference to the threat of a coronavirus pandemic (which gave the impression that he was extraordinarily prescient) deserves much more attention.

'Third, the emasculation of the cabinet. At a time when the government badly needs a large number of big beasts to go out and make its case for it, forcing cabinet ministers to tweet in support of an indefensible position undermines them. Given the nature of this controversy, the attorney general should certainly have neither been asked nor should she have consented to do this.

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'Fourth, the dependence of the prime minister on a single adviser. It was always likely to be the case that Boris Johnson would take a slightly non-executive approach to being Prime Minister, and ill-health and family responsibilities have probably exacerbated that tendency.'

He continued: 'But, as the revealing Danny Kruger view to his fellow members of the 2019 Conservative intake argues 'BJ and DC … together is the only way to GBD, level up the regions, and fix Whitehall – the only things which will win us the next General Election'. The 'only way'? And, as with the Vote Leave organisation, the government is full of people whose loyalty is primarily to Mr Cummings – making him apparently unsackable.

'Fifth, everything is seen through the prism of Brexit. Again, the Kruger stance makes it clear that the big prize is 'GBD' – Getting Brexit Done. That is what really matters above all.'

The former minister, who lost the whip after voting against a no-deal Brexit, acknowledged he could be seen as a 'bitter Remainer' for his words.

But he said: 'A government that shows humility and honesty will retain the benefit of the doubt, but that runs counter to a 'never apologise, never explain' ethos. The country expects the prime minister to be in charge and for cabinet ministers to be competent and substantial figures.'

And he warned that while the crisis appeared to bring people together after bitter Brexit divides, the Cummings saga has now re-opened old wounds.

He continued: 'The national mood in recent months has been one of a coming together. The scars of the Brexit debate were beginning to heal as most of the country wanted the government to succeed. Honest mistakes were forgiven; genuine successes celebrated.

'But the decision to keep Cummings in place has meant that normal politics has resumed much earlier than would otherwise be the case. Given the difficult months ahead, the prime minister may regret that.'

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