Dominic Cummings to leave No10: Tory MPs say it's a chance to restore 'trust'

13 November 2020, 09:34 | Updated: 13 November 2020, 17:00

Dominic Cummings leaves 10 Downing Street with a box
Dominic Cummings leaves 10 Downing Street with a box. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Conservative MPs have hailed the departure of Dominic Cummings from Downing Street as an opportunity for a fresh start for the Prime Minister.

There has been speculation that Mr Cummings will leave No 10 by the end of this year, which was further fuelled by pictures of him leaving Downing Street with a box on Friday.

Senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said it was an opportunity to restore "integrity and trust" and that "nobody is indispensable".

Read more: Dominic Cummings 'set to leave Downing Street by Christmas'

Read more: Downing Street infighting 'pathetic' as key Boris aide resigns

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Mr Cummings "will be missed" but said he is not surprised that the aide is departing, adding: "Advisers do come and go."

Conservative MPs have urged Mr Johnson to use events to reshape the team inside Downing Street and reconnect with the parliamentary party, some of whom feel he has been "lost" to advisers over the past year.   

Prominent Tory backbencher MP Tobias Ellwood said: "Let's move a little bit away from EastEnders and more to the West Wing."

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that Cummings "has been one of the most malign influences on the British government in modern history."

Mr Cummings previously said that "rumours of me threatening to resign are invented" after speculation that he would follow communications director Lee Cain in leaving No 10.

However, he said that his "position hasn't changed since my January blog" when he wrote that he hoped to make himself "largely redundant" by the end of 2020.

Mr Lammy reacted to the looming departure by condemning Mr Cummings' behaviour and character while working at Downing Street.

He wrote on Twitter: "Like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Dominic Cummings has been one of the most malign influences on the British government in modern history.

"His legacy is one of bullying, deception, hypocrisy and hubris. The super-forecaster who ignored the pandemic. His damage is irreparable."

Deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner agreed with her colleague, adding that the senior adviser undermined public trust during the coronavirus pandemic, referring to Mr Cummings flouting lockdown measures by controversially driving up and down the UK despite having Covid-19 symptoms.

She said on Twitter: "I have no interest in Dominic Cummings' apparent 'legacy'. In the middle of a pandemic he shattered public trust and undermined lockdown & our fight against Covid.

"His cross-country road trip, long distance eye test, dishonesty & arrogance was an insult to the British people."

However, Cabinet minister Grant Shapps told LBC that the chief adviser brings positive qualities to the table in government.

"I think that with Mr Cummings you had somebody who would always challenge convention, who wasn't prepared to take the first answer that was provided, and it is always good to have somebody in the room saying: 'Why? Why are we doing it like this? Why can't it be done differently?'," he said.

"Those are the qualities he brought and I have to say, many times I think decisions have been improved.

"I think he provided a sense of clarity to thinking and you didn't have to agree with him to appreciate that it's good to have people around who challenge the status quo."

When asked by Nick Ferrari whether Mr Johnson will be damaged by losing his key aide, the transport secretary said: "The way I see it is advisers advise and the prime minister decides.

"One of the things about Boris Johnson, even with Mr Cummings or Lee Cain there, is he would always listen to the views of those around the table and then he'd come to his own decisions.

Elsewhere, senior Conservative backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin said he is not surprised that the aide looks set to leave, adding: "Nobody is indispensable."

The chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee said: "It's an opportunity to reset how the government operates and to emphasise some values about what we want to project as a Conservative Party in government."

Sir Bernard said: "Now we hope the prime minister will choose people around him who will help him restore that relationship."

He added: "I'm not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his government's communications and crowding out the proper messages the government wants to convey."