MANDRAKE: Why Dominic Cummings must watch his back with new man at No 10
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The arrival of Tory election chief Isaac Levido at Downing Street will mean Dominic Cummings must watch his back, says TIM WALKER.
After assuming many of Dominic Cummings' responsibilities while he was laid low for ten days with the coronavirus, Isaac Levido – the ambitious Australian election strategist who masterminded Boris Johnson's victory – has signalled that he will be working at Downing Street for the long term.
'The original plan had been for Isaac to focus simply on sharpening up the government's coronavirus messaging, but he's now got his own office and it looks like he'll be here for the duration,' one Whitehall insider tells Mandrake. 'Whether this will be seen as a threat to the supremacy of Dominic as the PM's chief adviser remains to be seen, but he's a lot more easy to deal with than Dominic. Johnson also came to depend upon him while Dominic was away.'
As a declaration of intent, Levido has quit as a director of the market research and public opinion polling firm Fleetwood Strategy, which he set up in January with Michael Brooks, who also worked on Johnson's election campaign.
Cummings would do well to be wary of Levido as he has form when it comes to usurping superiors. Sir Lynton Crosby, who was once Levido's boss and mentor, had run Johnson's successful London mayoral campaign in 2008 and was believed to have been close to the PM. Levido had no hesitation, however, in replacing him as the Tories' campaign manager after Crosby was seen to have bungled Theresa May's 2017 campaign.
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Last month, Lord Heseltine told me he expected Cummings to be gone 'within a year' since he had allowed himself to 'become the story'. The Tory grandee made these comments before it was disclosed that Cummings had been attending meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Significantly, perhaps, Cummings is still listed as a director of Dynamic Maps, an information technology consultancy that he set-up in October 2017.
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For once, there was not a single leak to the Sunday Times about Michael Gove over the weekend. No references at all to how he was outshining Matt Hancock in cabinet meetings, piously telling his colleagues that he was praying for the prime minister to get well, and not a word about how his fellow ministers were nevertheless lobbying hard for him to take over in the event he had a relapse.
I fear this may not necessarily mean that the leaker has mended his or her ways. As my man in the newsroom wearily points out, Tim Shipman, the paper's political editor whose byline always appears on these stories about Gove, happened to be away. He adds, incidentally, that the easy camaraderie that had previously existed between the Sunday Times' political team and the Telegraph's has come to an abrupt end. His boss Rupert Murdoch wants Gove to take over from the lazy incumbent. Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, by contrast, want their man Boris Johnson to carry on regardless.
SHOW GOES ON
At times of personal and national trauma, theatres are traditionally places of solace. It's one of the many cruel ironies of our times that they are currently and necessarily all closed.
Still, theatre folk are by nature resilient and it's interesting that tickets to Hamilton are on sale from September 14, The Book of Mormon from September 7, and earlier this month the producers of Hairspray announced that Michael Ball would be appearing in their musical from September 1.
'All of these shows and others are at big venues, but their producers reckon that things will have resolved themselves over the next four months,' one leading impresario tells me. 'The number of seats already shown as taken on the online seating plans suggest a lot of theatre-goers share their optimism.'
Few ladies have emerged from an association with Boris Johnson smiling and Jennifer Arcuri would appear to be no exception. The latest accounts from her web security company Hacker House show a deficit of £1,191,800 as of July 31, 2019. Johnson faced an official investigation after claims were made of favourable treatment being accorded to the former model during his period as mayor of London. Arcuri has been hurt that Johnson has been failing to return her calls, but she denies – along with Johnson – any wrong-doing.