Dom Cummings' departure leaves Boris's 'frenemy' Gove short of allies

Is Michael Gove now out in the cold? Loss of Dominic Cummings leaves Boris Johnson’s old ‘frenemy’ and former Vote Leave partner in crime short of allies in the Government

  • Mr Cummings and Mr Gove have long history of working together in Government
  • Svengali’s decision to quit leaves Mr Gove short of friends in Downing Street
  • Surrey Health MP promoted when Mr Johnson took power in July 2019
  • That was despite running against him to be PM that year and in 2016 

Boris Johnson’s old political ‘frenemy’ Michael Gove is looking increasingly isolated today after the resignation of Dominic Cummings, one of his closest and oldest allies.

Mr Cummings and the Cabinet Office Minister have a long history of working together across Government and, perhaps most crucially, as the brains behind the Vote Leave Campaign in 2016.

But the decision last night by the No10 Svengali to jump ship after losing a political power battle around the Prime Minister leaves Mr Gove short of friends in Government.

His relationship with Mr Johnson is a complex one – with the Surrey Health MP having been promoted when the PM took power in July 2019.

He gave the former Education and Environment Secretary a powerful role – especially on Brexit -despite the former journalist stabbing him in the back in his 2016 leadership bid, announcing his own challenge while running Mr Johnson’s charge at the top spot.

Mr Gove, who was brought back into the Cabinet by Theresa May, then ran against Mr Johnson again for the party leadership in the summer of 2019, but again failed to make the final run-off.

With No10 now firmly in the hands of Johnson loyalists and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, the Cabinet Secretary has lost a key plank of his quiet power base. 

Mr Johnson is now believed to want to soften the government’s image and recover his reputation as a One Nation Tory, encouraged by Ms Symonds – herself an experience political operator and former head of media at CCHQ. 

There is expected to be more focus on environmental issues, and a less combative stance on overhauling the civil service and BBC – issues that Mr Cummings had been championing. 

Boris Johnson’s old political ‘frenemy’ Michael Gove is looking increasingly isolated today after the resignation of Dominic Cummings (pictured today), one of his closest and oldest allies.

Mr Cummings and the Cabinet Office Minister have a long history of working together across Government and, perhaps most crucially, as the brains behind the Vote Leave Campaign in 2016 (pictured)

Mr Gove’s relationship with Mr Johnson (above, today) is a complex one – with the Surrey Health MP having been promoted when the PM took power in July 2019

Mr Cummings’ association with Gove goes back more than a decade. The Durhamite was appointed the Scottish MP’s special adviser in the Department of Education from 2007, before being dismissed by David Cameron, who once referred to Cummings as a ‘career psychopath’, in 2014.

Cummings quickly became known for his blunt style and his criticism of other senior politicians, once referring to Nick Clegg’s proposal on free school meals as ‘Dreamed up on the back of a cigarette packet’.

In 2012, during his time as a ‘spad, a senior female civil servant received a payout of £25,000 in a bullying case she took against Cummings and a senior member of Gove’s team.

Mr Gove, the PM, Mr Cummings and Lee Cain, who is also quitting at No10 director of Communications, were the top four figures in Vote Leave in 2016, the campaign that has been credited with a large role in making sure the UK voted to quit the European Union.

From 2015, Cummings was the power behind the campaign. While Johnson and Gove were in the limelight he remained in the shadows pulling the strings.

He over saw a campaign that totally outflanked Remain and which is widely credited with leading to the 52-48 result in favour of quitting.

Such was his central role he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War last year.

But the quartet splintered later in 2016 when Mr Gove decided to run against Mr Johnson to replace David Cameron. 

In the end they both pulled out, with Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom making it to the final two, before Mrs May entered No 10.

Former PM Mr Cameron revealed in his memoirs last year that Boris Johnson questioned Michael Gove’s mental health and suggested he was ‘a bit cracked’ after the leadership bid.

According to Mr Cameron, then-Chancellor George Osborne celebrated Mr Gove’s betrayal, saying: ‘We’ve taken Boris out, now on to Port Stanley!,’ a reference to the Falklands War.

In the aftermath Mr Gove was replaced as Justice Secretary by Liz Truss. But he was brought back into the Cabinet the following year when Mrs May made him environment secretary. 

However he was a Brexit hawk as she attempted unsuccessfully to get a Withdrawal Agreement that would appease her backbenchers.

After her decision to quit last year Mr Gove ran again for the top job, but this time found the cards stacked against him. He finished in an election race that saw Boris defeat then foreign secrerary Jeremy Hunt in the final two.

After his elimination Mr Gove hinted at a possible reconciliation, saying Mr Johnson would make a ‘great prime minister’.

However, Mr Gove made sure his back was covered, using an environmental speech in London to also praise Mr Hunt.   

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