Dominic Cummings: Boris Johnson’s spin doctor and the non-genius behind Brexit


Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings in Channel 4’s Brexit: An Uncivil War (Credit:C4 Facebook page)

Dominic Cummings, senior adviser to Boris Johnson, is lauded as the genius behind Brexit but Getintothis’ Jono Podmore sees him in a completely different light. 

During the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Michael Gove, who gave high-profile endorsement to Vote Leave, informed us that Britain had had enough of experts.

We wanted it plain, simple, patriotic and stupid.

And yet now, apparently, the UK has not just an expert but also a fully-fledged genius in Number 10.

Of course I’m not referring to Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson (aka “Boris”), but his most senior government adviser Dominic Cummings.

There have been plenty of articles written about this man since his appointment and even a drama doc based on his work for the victorious Vote Leave campaign in 2016.

The continuous thread in all this media investigation is that Cummings is a genius.

He is the “mastermind” (Daily Express) of the Vote Leave campaign; one of the “very, very clever people in Downing St.” (The Times); the “man with a plan” (Financial Times) to square the circle of the Brexit conundrum; simply a “genius” (The Guardian); and, in possession of a “huge brain” (The Independent).

It was a significant casting decision to hire Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor best known for his role as fictional genius Sherlock Holmes, to play Cummings in the Channel 4 film Brexit: The Uncivil War.

Cumberbatch did his job well, somewhat sympathetically portraying Cummings as an irascible, unpredictable genius, unafraid of ruffling the feathers of the old order in his attempt to bring about a modernised, tech-savvy new politics.

The personal life of this dad-to-be, was all bikes and iPhones and Ikea in his little London flat.

This is of course all fabrication. Cummings is no Mozart, or Einstein. He’s an enormously privileged (albeit by marriage) right wing vandal with a thick-skulled inability to see the potential consequences of his wrecking ball activities.

Since 2011 he has been married to Mary Wakefield, the daughter of Baronet Sir Edward Humphry Tyrrell Wakefield (known to his chums as Humphry) who resides in Chillingham Castle.

Mary herself has been deputy editor of The Spectator, which was edited by none other than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson from 1999 to 2005.

Along with his parents, Cummings owns a farm near Durham, which, with all the hypocrisy only the profoundly entitled can muster, receives well over £20,000 a year in despised EU subsidy.

His is a life of privilege and entitlement – a dangerous combination.

His outrageous, at times embarrassing, self-aggrandisement is best seen in his loquacious blog:

This is not the work of a neutral technocrat – a simple facilitator of political ideas.

The blog reveals Cummings‘ arrogance, and ultimately his profound failings.

It can be tough going – long sentences dripping with learned references to the arcana of political science or high-tech data management. But if you read enough of it, it reveals contradiction after contradiction and a chronic lack of awareness and, worst of all, sympathy.

In his biography he mentions:“I worked in Russia 1994-7 on various projects”.

They were all failures, as far as we know, unless there were other connections or allegiances he made in that period that are still motivating him. His Russian is excellent – allegedly.

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Elsewhere, his fascination with Otto von Bismarck tells us much about him.

Bismarck effectively created the Second Reich (Germany as it existed up to 1918) as a nation run along Prussian militaristic lines.

Profoundly conservative and famous for quotes such as: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”, Bismarck had a contempt for democracy and ultimately for socialism.

This chimes with Cummings.

A more “efficient”, technological society with dynamic command and control structures responding to free market forces is his contemporary version of Bismarck‘s Deutschland – über alles.

For Cummings, slow and old-fashioned ideas of giving the proletariat a voice in their own society dooms us into a no man’s land of compromise.

Consequently he has a dismissive attitude to the civil service, preferring to believe they could be swept away with a flick of the mouse, replaced with high-powered data-mined modelling.

What our genius doesn’t take into consideration demonstrates how empty and blind his bravado is.

Bismarck was incredibly successful in achieving his aims in the short term and Germany became rich and prosperous. But his legacy was two horrific world wars and a society that was ready to turn to Adolf Hitler for leadership. This is the Britain Cummings would create.

As Andrew Adonis neatly puts it: “It is hard to conceive a more dangerous inspiration.”

The UK civil service are already bristling under the yoke of a new Prime Minister who was happy to throw one of their top colleagues, UK ambassador to the US Kim Darroch, “under the train”.

Cummings is making matters worse, deriding the civil service where he can. Typically arrogant and short-sighted, what he doesn’t take into consideration is that whatever happens in the Brexit saga, we will all be heavily reliant on the civil service to facilitate what comes next, and their good will is essential.

Anything from running another referendum all the way up to negotiating new trade deals with every other nation on the planet (which is what Brexit could ultimately mean) will be the work of the civil service. If Cummings stays in his job, he will need them. Undermining his relationship with them now is not a sign of genius.

It is in Cummings support for Brexit that the most damning contradictions in his thinking are visible.

He bases much of his view on science (“Darwinising” etc.) and the free market. In short, pure capitalism and a scientific approach to social organisation are much more efficient than our current political structures.

And yet he supports Brexit – a reckless “epic act of self-harm” (New Statesman), rejected by the vast majority of scientists and panicking the markets.

A brief look at the value of the pound and how major players in the City are relocating to Frankfurt etc. proves that point quite adequately.

There may be short-term gains for those in the city hedging (betting) against the UK economy, but their value is insignificant compared to the trillion or more pounds worth of trade lost to the city since Cummings “masterminded” the 2016 leave campaign.

Science and the markets may inspire him, but his biggest success to date leaves experts in both fields horrified. It seems there is a difference between experts and geniuses after all…

One thing is undeniable – he was instrumental in the success of the Vote Leave campaign. But genius?

Actually, and without him even realising it, he was presented with an open goal and with a technologically enhanced ball.

The depth of anger and despondency that Tory enforced and Lib-Dem enabled austerity had visited on the British people was hugely underestimated by all but a few players in the referendum game, including our genius Cummings.

All he had to do was to throw a match on this sump of anti-establishment anger and off it went. Just to make sure, he used 2 matches, both utterly shameless lies: “£350 million quid and Turkey“.

It was neither true that the NHS could be funded with the money sent to the EU, nor that Turkey was about to join the EU and bring with it a “flood” of migrants.

Cummings was found “in contempt of parliament” for refusing to take part in a parliamentary inquiry into the fake news he himself had created, and the electoral commission found Vote Leave guilty of breaking electoral law, but it doesn’t deter him.

What our “mastermind” fails to understand is that in his current position he is now very much part of the establishment that 51% of the population had such a grudge against that they followed his advice and voted to leave the EU; undermining the British economy for generations and leading to the break up of the country as an entity.

Another enormous piece of luck that fell into his lap on the leave campaign was the involvement of shadowy data mining and social media manipulation company AggregateIQ.

They were able to target advertising on social media to mobilise and misinform a whole swathe of voters that the opposition simply couldn’t get to – and it worked.

Cummings just had to sit back and applaud. In fact, our “man with a plan” was, portentously, simply part of a bigger American plan that he didn’t see. The EU referendum was a test case for this technology – the real application was to put Trump in the White House.

On top of this, there was another campaign, equally illegal, immoral and mendacious being spearheaded by Nigel Farage and funded by Arron Banks. did Cummings‘ heavy lifting for him, spreading openly racist lies and misinformation about the EU with a campaign financed by the biggest single private donation in UK electoral history: £8.4 million from Banks, a man whose money is sourced from the shadiest of exploitative African mining concerns and offshore insurance. were also aided and abetted by another data company flexing their muscles in the build up to the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica.

Finally, the Vote Leave campaign was the recipient of 40 or more years of UK culture blaming the outsider for successive governments’ failings.

The benefits of EU membership have never been properly presented to the population, but rather the EU is regularly represented as a cabal of federalist megalomaniacs signed up for a Fourth Reich whenever our hopeless Tory governments come a cropper.

What has the EU ever done for me?

Cummings job had effectively been done for him over decades.

Privilege, entitlement, bravado, arrogance and a large dose of luck: a powerful combination, but absolutely not adding up to genius.

Perhaps David Cameron best described Cummings when he referred to him as a “career psychopath”.

Cummings successes are all negative, perhaps pathologically. He is an amoral vandal.

Being destructive, no matter how you couch it in erudition, is easy and stupid. Criticism and mendacity are a pushover compared with being constructive and honest.

To destroy the UK’s ties with the EU is child’s play compared with the 40 or more years that have quietly gone into deepening cultural, environmental, economic and political bonds with our neighbours.

Yet the media continue to fall over themselves, even in their criticism, to present this mentally agile, destructive little man as “very, very clever”.

In the right wing press the intention is clear: they are priming their readers not to question the decisions of the great leader’s right hand man, as we are lead off a cliff to become an impoverished vassal state of the US.

Elsewhere in the media it is both forelock-tugging admiration for another privileged “winner”, and foolish gullibility.

The reason why our social and political fabric is on its last legs is the market crash of 2008 coupled with our governments’ spineless responses or direct exploitation of the opportunities the crash created.

The gamblers in the casino economy responsible for the betting sites created smokescreens of complex language to hide their treacherous and thieving behaviour.

Arcane and complex financial instruments above and beyond the comprehension of us lesser mortals were designed simply to cover the fact that they were selling debt they knew could never be repaid.

It’s no cleverer than selling someone a car that you know is full of rust. One of the most active of these lying thieves who worked for the biggest corporate culprit, Deutsche Bank is Savid Javid – our new Chancellor of the Exchequer: another “genius” at the heart of the government.

Javid and Cummings have much in common: both amoral chancers who have used complex smoke screens for their simple and stupid lies and scams.

Their method of cloaking nonsense and theft in the robes of intellect undermines democracy, deliberately so.

The population are to be left scratching their heads as to why they have no savings, no social care, libraries or health service while higher echelons of geniuses get on with the business of governing unrestricted, all the while filling their savings accounts in the Cayman islands.

Cummings could learn much more from Bob Marley than from Bismarck or Darwin. In 1973 Bob Marley opened his song Small Axe with the lines: Why boasteth thyself, O evil man/ Playing smart and not being clever

Unlike Cummings, Bob understood the difference between playing smart and being clever.

He was able through peaceful cultural means to prevent a political war escalating into full on fighting by bringing together the leaders of opposing parties on stage at the One Love peace concert in Kingston in 1978.

It was a clever, simple, brave and honest act that perhaps saved thousands of lives. If they cannot live up to this sort of constructive social engagement, Cummings, Javid and Johnson should heed Bob‘s warning: If you are the big tree/We are the small axe/Ready to cut you down.

A general election is coming, it’s time to sharpen our axe and see who the geniuses really are.