Tory MPs turn on Dominic Cummings’ ‘government by focus group’ approach

Chief advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson Dominic Cummings makes a statement inside 10 Downing S

Chief advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson Dominic Cummings makes a statement inside 10 Downing Street on May 25, 2020 in London, England. Photo: Jonathan Brady-WPA Pool/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Boris Johnson's 'government by focus group' approach - favoured by his senior aide Dominic Cummings - is causing growing discontent amongst Tory MPs after a number of contracts were revealed by a Sunday newspaper.


The Sunday Times reports that millions of pounds are being spent on surveys and focus groups to track public opinion on government's handling of coronavirus and other policies.

MPs told the newspaper that such reliance on data meant that government was avoiding clear 'leadership', prompting an expletive from a Downing Street insider.

The Cabinet Office ordered a two-year contract with YouGov to survey the public on British attitudes, but the cost of the contract is estimated to have already exceeded the £318,700 projection due to the amount of polling required, after just one year.


You may also want to watch:


The newspaper reports that Hanbury Strategy, set up by Vote Leave communications chief Paul Stephenson and former Downing Street adviser Ameet Gill, have been carrying out separate coronavirus polling.

And Public First has started a year-long £840,000 contract to conduct virtual focus groups from March.

Most Read

Another focus group, Britain Thinks, is said to have secured a contract with the Department of Health.

The business, created by Gordon Brown's preferred pollster Deborah Mattinson, is said to be starting a £2 million deal with the Department for Transport.


Have your say

Send your letters for publication to The New European by emailing letters@theneweuropean.co.uk and pick up an edition each Thursday for more comment and analysis. Find your nearest stockist here or subscribe to a print or digital edition for just £13. You can also join our readers' Facebook group to keep the discussion and debate going with thousands of fellow pro-Europeans.


It is also claimed pollster Kantar has agreed £705,000 contract with the Cabinet Office for 'social research services' over the next six months.

A Tory backbencher hit out at the claims, by telling the newspaper: 'Leadership is about leading. The clue is in the name...

'We've taken an age to get shops and pubs open. At the moment we are seeing neither leadership or competence.'

But one source with a pollster - said to be an ally of Johnson - pointed out that 'all governments do polling, there is just more of it'.

They added: 'There is a word for government by focus group: it's 'government''.

A senior figure in government used an expletive to dismiss the allegations.

'The idea that we are not making decisions unless a poll says we can is bullsh*t.

'The best evidence for that is that we are opening up and the polling evidence is that the public does not really want to.'

Last month it was reported that Dominic Cummings favoured a 'Vote Leave approach' to guiding the government on lockdown, by referring to focus groups to guide decisions.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus