Cummings lashes out at Boris Johnson over leak allegations
Former adviser says PM tried to stop inquiry into leak of plans for second lockdown
Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings: “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 . . .” Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings has accused the prime minister of seeking to block a leak inquiry to protect a friend of his fiancée Carrie Symonds. In a blistering, 1,100-word statement on his website, Mr Cummings denied Mr Johnson’s text messages with Conservative businessman James Dyson or that he was behind stories about the expensive refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.
Mr Cummings was responding to a Downing Street briefing to three newspapers on Thursday night blaming him for the Dyson leaks and identifying him as the “chatty rat” who leaked the government’s second lockdown plans. Mr Johnson ordered an inquiry into the lockdown leak and Mr Cummings said on Friday that the investigation pointed to Henry Newman, a former aide to cabinet office minister Michael Gove who is now a senior Downing Street adviser.
“The PM was very upset about this. He said to me afterwards, ‘If Newman is confirmed as the leaker then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends . . . [pause] perhaps we could get the Cabinet Secretary to stop the leak inquiry?’ I told him that this was ‘mad’ and totally unethical, that he had ordered the inquiry himself and authorised the Cabinet Secretary to use more invasive methods than are usually applied to leak inquiries because of the seriousness of the leak. I told him that he could not possibly cancel an inquiry about a leak that affected millions of people, just because it might implicate his girlfriend’s friends,” Mr Cummings said.
He said Mr Johnson told him about his plan to persuade Conservative party donors to pay for a refurbishment of the Downing Street flat believed to have cost tens of thousands of pounds.
“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,” Mr Cummings said.
He offered to allow the cabinet secretary to search his phone for messages concerning the leaks and said he would testify under oath about all the issues concerned before a parliamentary committee. Mr Cummings, who oversaw a Downing Street operation that routinely smeared Conservative MPs as well as opposition politicians with false accusations, expressed sorrow about current standards in No 10.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” he said.
Downing Street rejected Mr Cummings’s assertions, saying the prime minister had never interfered with a leak inquiry and adding that Mr Newman would not be working in No 10 if he was suspected of leaking. A spokesman said the refurbishment of the flat had been paid for in accordance with codes of conduct and electoral law.
“All reportable donations are transparently declared and published – either by the Electoral Commission or the House of Commons registrar, in line with the requirements set out in electoral law. Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in transparency returns,” the spokesman said.