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Now that Rasputin Cummings has fallen, who will grasp control of Tsar Boris?

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15.11.2020

Tory MPs started planning celebratory laps of Barnard Castle when they heard that Dominic Cummings was being defenestrated from Number 10. Many ministers have been at the champagne and just about the entire civil service is whooping with relief. For the past 16 months, he has been both the most powerful and the most rebarbative unelected adviser ever to inhabit Number 10. His fatally self-defeating flaw was that he never mastered how to use his clout productively rather than destructively. Intoxicated by his past campaign successes, he couldn’t grasp the difference between fighting and governing. He talked a bellicose game to the journalists he used as his megaphones. The BBC would be “whacked”. A “hard rain” was going to lash the civil service. He was absolutely right about absolutely everything and anyone who didn’t get with his programme, including cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs, could “fuck off”.

Yet in the end, he has exited “without leaving much trace”, comments one former cabinet minister. Six senior civil servants, including the cabinet secretary, were pushed out. Only to be replaced by other career civil servants. Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson’s first chancellor, quit because he would not bow the knee and concede to Mr Cummings’s thirst to concentrate power around himself. Only for the replacement chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to become so much more popular than the prime minister that he is a threat to Number 10 in a way Mr Javid would never have been. The unconcealed contempt for Conservative MPs so soured the prime minister’s relations with his parliamentary party that it was imperilling the capacity of the government to get legislation through the Commons and even endangering his position as Tory leader. Self-preservation was a crucial factor in the decision to terminate the Cummings chapter of the Johnson premiership.

As power is removed from him and the clique of Vote Leave campaigners that he imported into Number 10, it is worth asking how a gang with so few qualifications in governing managed to capture the high castle in the first place. The answer lies in the character of the prime minister. Mr Johnson is an insecure loner who wants to be loved. “He can be lazy, but it is probably more accurate to characterise him as ill-disciplined,” remarks........

© The Guardian


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