He’s one of the most powerful unelected officials in Whitehall and an influential figure in the current direction of British politics.
But Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, rarely gives interviews – even before he got the job at Number 10.
So this morning, when he saw a Sky News correspondent outside his home, one might have expected him to completely blank the questions.
Perhaps he just had time to remember what his closest ally Michael Gove would have done.
Be polite, say only what you want to say, not what you are asked, and keep walking towards the car.
“How are preparations for a no-deal Brexit coming along?” asked Ashish Joshi.
“Great,” he answered.
But then he had an answer for the question he would have preferred to have been asked.
He added: “The simple thing is, the prime minister believes politicians don’t get to choose which votes they respect. That’s the critical issue.”
This response only hints at how much he loathes politicians.
I got a very clear picture of this when I interviewed him three years ago, just after he’d helped mastermind the Vote Leave victory.
I’m one of the few journalists to ever sit down with him to discuss the former Vote Leave campaign director’s views.
This was only granted at the time, in 2016, after the referendum result because I was writing a book that interested him – looking at the UK’s turbulent relationship with the European project and the steps that had led to Brexit.
Slumped in his living room chair, he told me that parliament consists of people who “to a large extent are not particularly bright, are egomaniacs and they want to be on TV”.
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The problem, he believes, is the selection processes for MPs and the incentive structures within parties, meaning that the wrong candidates are attracted to the job.
Despite directing the Leave strategy, he thought Eurosceptic MPs were “particularly unbalanced”.
And some of the MPs he worked with during the campaign were “completely deranged”.
It’s well known that several of those MPs tried to sack him as campaign director, and perhaps as a result of that he has been particularly critical of Eurosceptic conservative group the ERG, describing them as a “tumour”.
He was born in Durham and his father was a project manager for the construction of oil rigs and other large structures.
Mr Cummings stayed out of politics while studying at Exeter College, Oxford, where he earned a first-class degree in ancient and modern history.
Then, after a period in Russia, he joined Business for Sterling in 1999, the campaign to stay out of the euro.
Here, he became an expert in running focus groups – listening to public concerns about the currency and working out what messages they were most receptive to.
During this time, he also started to lose respect for politicians.
He told me that very soon he decided: “99% of MPs are dreadful characters and if you want anything professionally organised you’ve got to exclude them, which causes a lot of trouble”.
This disdainful attitude towards MPs helps explain why Mr Cummings would have no qualms about forcing through a Brexit outcome that was against the wishes of parliament – either by proroguing parliament, or delaying a general election until after the Brexit date.
It is reported he has argued that even if MPs depose the government in a no-confidence vote in September when the House of Commons resumes, it could schedule an election to take place after 31 October – after the UK has exited the European Union.
As far as Mr Cummings is concerned, the people’s decision to exit the EU in 2016 outweighs any chatter in Westminster over what kind of exit – it just has to happen.
The attitude is reminiscent of his campaign in 2004 in the North East against John Prescott’s plans to create a regional assembly.
He depicted the proposed assembly as a talking shop that wouldn’t actually do anything constructive.
He won the campaign, easily.
It was the first time that Mr Cummings sensed the growing void between the northern heartlands and politicians.
He says: “We exploited this feeling. ‘Politicians talk, we pay’ was our slogan.”
The powerlessness and pointlessness of politicians has been a theme of his political career.
Essentially, his whole Vote Leave campaign in 2016 was about how MPs had willingly supplicated their powers to Brussels.
From focus groups, he realised that whatever people’s political colours, they shared his low opinion of Westminster.
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Two years before the referendum he wrote a strategy for the Leave campaign, concluding: “It would be important for the OUT campaign to avoid taking specific positions on many issues as this would only split the campaign.
“Instead, the OUT campaign should simply say ‘whether you think X or Y about Z, the most important thing is we take back control of Z.'”
Thus, the famous slogan was born.
While some would say it is ironic to take back control from the EU only to take that control away from MPs over the no-deal decision, he wouldn’t see that as ironic at all.
Rather, proroguing parliament would be the public taking back control and forcing those MPs to see through the will of the people.
He would actually relish removing MPs from the equation.
The stalemate and powerless of parliament to execute Brexit has parallels too with what Mr Cummings identified with immigration ahead of the Vote Leave campaign.
Immigration was rising. David Cameron promised to reduce it. It continued to rise.
And with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean as the backdrop leading into the campaign, he would later tell his team: “There’s nothing we can do that has remotely the force of what people can see on the TV of these guys getting on their boats and sinking.”
When I asked what TV footage of the migration crisis meant for Vote Leave, he said: “I don’t know what kind of value you put on that in advertising terms.
“But if you talk about millions, tens of millions of pounds worth of essentially advertising of people on the news, and people watching that and thinking ‘the world is changing fast and in a dangerous way, the EU is contributing to the problem and the guys in charge in London haven’t got the faintest clue what to do about it.'”
According to the International Organisation for Migration, 3,770 migrants were reported to have died crossing the Mediterranean in 2015.
It was crass to refer to its value in advertising.
But in terms of people fearing the impotence of government, he was right, and he exploited this further with a campaign message that inaccurately suggested Turkey could join the EU – despite the UK having a veto to stop this.
His strategy report from 2014 also identified the public mistrust of experts and authority.
“They all lie, they don’t care about us,” is a quote he attributes to people he spoke to not just in one or two focus groups but “everyone, everywhere”.
Mr Cummings doesn’t care for authority either. Nor party politics.
He told me back in 2016 – when explaining his determination to win the campaign at all costs – that he would “happily chop David Cameron’s head off, every day, in order to win”.
But now the man who has harnessed mistrust in politics to achieve Brexit sits alongside the man in the seat of power.
Can he regain trust and unity in politics? Actually, that’s not what he is there to do.
This iconoclast, this disrupter is hardly likely to work with MPs to create harmony.
Boris Johnson is about to pick a fight with parliament – and he’s chosen an aide who not only dislikes MPs, but will also do whatever it takes to win.
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/dominic-cummings-why-johnsons-top-adviser-would-relish-cutting-dreadful-mps-from-brexit-11779494