Dominic Cummings denies leaking Prime Minister's text messages

23 April 2021, 17:31 | Updated: 23 April 2021, 19:45

Dominic Cummings left his job at No 10 last year
Dominic Cummings left his job at No 10 last year. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Dominic Cummings has denied he is to blame for leaking text messages exchanged between Boris Johnson and billionaire Sir James Dyson.

Sources at No 10 have pointed the finger at the Prime Minister’s former advisor, claiming he is "bitter" following his exit from Downing Street last year.

It comes after it emerged earlier this week that Mr Johnson exchanged text messages with Sir James over the tax status of employees helping to make ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Writing on Friday in a lengthy blog post, Mr Cummings said although he had "some WhatsApp messages between the PM/Dyson forwarded to me by the PM... I have not found the ones that were leaked".

He added he was also not aware of being sent them, and insisted he was "not directly or indirectly a/the source".

He said he was "happy" to have his phone searched by the Cabinet Secretary, adding: "If the PM did send them to me, as he is claiming, then he will be able to show the Cabinet Secretary on his own phone when they were sent to me.

"It will therefore be easy to establish at least if I was ever sent these messages."

He also said he is ready to "cooperate fully" with any inquiry into the Government's conduct during the coronavirus crisis.

Declaring that he has offered to hand over private text messages and emails "because of the seriousness of the claims", he continued: "It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves."

According to The Times, Daily Telegraph and Sun, an insider named Mr Cummings as responsible for the leak.

A source told The Times: "Dominic is engaged in systematic leaking. We are disappointed about that.

"We are concerned about messages from private WhatsApp groups which have very limited circulation."

The Prime Minister was "saddened" at the news, the source said, adding that Mr Cummings was "bitter".

The Telegraph reported that Mr Cummings would have had access to the messages while he worked at No 10, with a source adding: "If you join the dots it looks like it’s coming from Dom."

The former Vote Leave mastermind worked closely with Mr Johnson on the Brexit campaign and was a major figure in No 10 after the Prime Minister took office.

The Prime Minister stood by him after Mr Cummings found himself in the eye of a media storm after driving his family to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

But Mr Cummings was subsequently ousted from No 10 amid the fallout from an internal power struggle with the Prime Minister's fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

Downing Street on Friday outlined details of Mr Johnson's communications with Sir James, but stopped short of publishing their messages.

Instead, No 10 issued a summary of contacts between Sir James and his representatives and the Government before the pair exchanged texts in late March.

The Prime Minister insisted there was nothing "sleazy" about their discussions, but the summary published by No 10 falls short of what many had expected.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of going "back on his promise" made at Prime Minister's Questions this week, when he pledged to publish details of his communications after being asked if he would "publish all personal exchanges".

No 10, which initially said there would not be a probe into how the exchange with Sir James was made public, changed course on Thursday and said an internal inquiry will be led by the Cabinet Office.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "The position has changed from yesterday - it was correct at the time yesterday but, as usual, we keep things under review and we have now decided to undertake this internal inquiry."

The BBC reported that the messages between Mr Johnson and Sir James were exchanged after the businessman was unable to get the assurances he was seeking from the Treasury.

Sir James, who has changed his main address in business filings to the UK from Singapore, wrote to the Treasury requesting that his staff would not have to pay additional tax if they came to the UK to work on the ventilator project.

But when he failed to receive a reply, Sir James reportedly took up the matter directly with the Prime Minister.

He said in a text that the firm was ready but that "sadly" it seemed no-one wanted them to proceed, to which Mr Johnson replied: "I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic."

The Prime Minister then texted him again saying: "(Chancellor) Rishi (Sunak) says it is fixed!! We need you here."

Two weeks later, Mr Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.

On Thursday, the Labour Party’s call for an investigation into Mr Johnson's conduct over "cronyism" was rejected by a committee of senior MPs.