British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former top aide launched an extraordinary tirade Friday after a series of incriminating leaks, claiming the Conservative leader lacks “competence and integrity”.
Dominic Cummings, who stepped down as his top adviser in December, used a personal blog to allege that Johnson told his staff to lie to the media, tried to block an inquiry, and solicited potentially illegal donations.
In response, a Downing Street spokesperson said “all reportable donations are transparently declared and published”, and added: “The PM has never interfered in a government leak inquiry.”
Cummings, the controversial brains behind the 2016 campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, was appointed chief adviser by Johnson when he took power in July 2019.
He helped to secure a thumping election victory that December, but his frequent clashes with colleagues are said to have led to persistent tensions and he left government a year later.
Cummings was particularly blamed for undermining the government’s coronavirus lockdown message when he went on a lengthy cross-country journey with his family, claiming he and his wife needed help from relatives after they both developed Covid-19 symptoms.
Even some Conservatives expressed concern over Cummings’ explosive charges, which were seized on by opposition parties ahead of UK-wide local elections on May 6.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said “the Conservatives are fighting each other like rats in a sack and slipping deeper and deeper into the mire of sleaze”.
“It shows breathtaking contempt for the country,” she said.
In his blog, Cummings claimed the prime minister had proposed torpedoing the leak inquiry because its findings might prove problematic with Johnson’s fiancee.
He also said he had warned Johnson against plans to use Conservative Party donations in an “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” way to renovate his Downing Street apartment.
Cummings was responding to newspaper headlines Friday reporting that Johnson’s staff blamed the ex-aide for leaking embarrassing text messages, including some that have embroiled billionaire inventor James Dyson in a Westminster lobbying scandal.
“The Prime Minister’s new Director of Communications Jack Doyle, at the PM’s request, has made a number of false accusations to the media,” Cummings stated in his lengthy post.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.”
Friday’s reports, sourced to anonymous Downing Street officials, blamed the ex-advisor for leaking text messages Johnson exchanged with Dyson early last year about tax arrangements during the pandemic.
It prompted the government to launch an internal inquiry, the latest probe into a series of leaks from within Whitehall.
Cummings denied being the leaker himself, pushing back in particular over a damaging disclosure of government plans that forced Johnson into bringing forward one period of lockdown last November.
He claimed that an earlier internal investigation over that leak was blocked by Johnson after it identified the likely culprit.
“I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends,” Cummings said Johnson told him, referring to his fiancee Carrie Symonds.
“Perhaps we could get the Cabinet Secretary to stop the leak inquiry?” he claimed the leader added.
Cummings also detailed alleged conversations he had with Johnson about the contentious refurbishment plans for the flat that the prime minister shares with Symonds and their young son in Downing Street.
“The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended,” Cummings said.
Following months of controversy, a government minister said in a written parliamentary answer Friday that Johnson had met the costs “out of his own pocket”.