Johnson’s Acerbic Brexit Guru Wants a Political Revolution


(Bloomberg) -- Dominic Cummings, the director of the 2016 campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, is one of the most acerbic and divisive figures in British politics. His appointment as one of Boris Johnson’s senior advisers could signal a radical shake-up in Westminster.

Cummings was made famous outside political circles earlier this year when he was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a TV drama about the referendum campaign. It captured his eccentric manner and his often difficult relationships with more conventional political figures.

It also showed how, in the months before the referendum, pro-Brexit members of Parliament, who regarded him as a maverick, tried to have him fired. He regarded them as harmful to their own cause.

Since the referendum, he has retreated from public politics, offering only the occasional blog post, often thousands of words long, setting out his views about government, technology and educational systems, but especially on why he believed the government was making a mess of Brexit.

His tone was often contemptuous: Brexit Secretary David Davis was “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus.” Pro-Brexit MPs were “useful idiots” who spent their time “spouting gibberish.”

In 2018 he described Theresa May’s approach to Brexit as a “surrender” and said that Article 50 -- the divorce process with the EU -- was triggered too early, akin to “putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger.’’ He said the success of Brexit won’t be known for decades, and tweeted in 2017 that there are “possible branches of the future’’ where leaving will have been an error.

Cummings’s main thesis is that Britain’s system of government is “systematically dysfunctional” and designed to keep the U.K. as closely tied to the EU as possible. He’s called for a radical shake-up of Whitehall, saying Brexit cannot be delivered without it.

Nigel Farage, another key figure in the referendum and current leader of the Brexit Party, said the move was a good appointment.

“He’s putting in place people who believe in Leave,” Farage said on BBC TV Wednesday. But the Brexit Party leader added that he needs to “find out where Dominic stands on a second referendum,” which Farage opposes, and that the most important appointments will be those including Brexit secretary, foreign secretary and Northern Ireland secretary.

The 48-year-old Cummings, who worked as a special adviser to Environment Secretary Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary, was also found in contempt of Parliament in March for refusing to answer MPs’ questions during an investigation into fake news.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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