Born 25 November 1971 in Durham, Dominic Cummings was privately educated and later attended Oxford University, graduating with a degree in Ancient and Modern History. In 2010, Michael Gove appointed him as his Chief of Staff and he quickly made waves in Whitehall. In 2013, he was accused by civil servants in the Department for Education for creating a “us-and-them, aggressive, intimidating culture.”
After leaving the post in 2014, he told the Times: “Everyone thinks there’s some moment, like in a James Bond movie, where you open the door and that’s where the really good people are, but there is no door.” In 2015, Mr Cummings founded the Vote Leave campaign with political strategist Matthew Elliot. His campaign strategy is said to have included the following points: “Don’t talk about immigration,” “Do talk about business,” “Don’t make the referendum final,” “Do keep mentioning the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the over-reach of the European Union’s Court of Justice.”
Cummings is seen by many as the evil genius who delivered Brexit, a role that became the basis of Channel 4 drama The Uncivil War about the referendum campaign. To others, he is a brilliant thinker with a record of driving through radical policy changes. Cummings was the brains behind the notorious “£350m-a-week for the NHS” claim emblazoned on bright red buses, despite it being proven to be false, and the winning “take back control” slogan. As the head of Vote Leave, he also made a show of refusing to work with Brexit bad boys Nigel Farage and Arron Banks – while admitting his campaign relied on their toxic anti-immigration messages.
Dominic Mckenzie Cummings Biography and Profile
Who is Dominic Cummings (Dominic Mckenzie Cummings)? Born on 25 November 1971 in Durham, northern England, to a father who worked as an oil rig project manager and a mother who was a special needs teacher, Mr Cummings attended a local private school before winning admission to Oxford University. A Russophile with a passion for Dostoyevsky, Mr Cummings reportedly headed to the country after graduation and helped set up an airline in the 1990s, which however failed to get off the ground. After returning to Britain, he first cut his teeth in politics by spearheading several campaigns, including against Britain adopting the euro.
In an early sign of his take-no-prisoners approach, Mr Cummings was made Conservative Party director of strategy in 2002, but left the role after eight months, branding then party leader Iain Duncan Smith “incompetent”.
Outside the cabinet, the most eye-catching appointment of the day so far is that of Dominic Cummings as senior adviser to the new prime minister. Cummings, who has a reputation for being extremely quick-witted but also brash and outspoken, was previously an adviser to Michael Gove at the education ministry and thereafter campaign director for Vote Leave during the EU referendum.
Famously described by ex-prime minister David Cameron as a “career psychopath”, Mr Cummings is a divisive figure within British conservative circles who has made a host of enemies with his acid-tongued approach to political debate.
He has been compared to Steve Bannon, US President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, and is similarly a keen student of military theories and tactics. Mr Cummings’ elevation, like Mr Bannon’s, is seen as a risky move, with some sceptical that his uncompromising and caustic style can succeed at the heart of British government.
“Dominic Cummings is the disruptor’s disruptor, he’s strategically single-minded and ideologically iconoclastic,” said Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, who featured him in his 2011 tome “The Conservative Party: from Thatcher to Cameron”.
“Civil servants and party apparatchiks may well have their noses put out of joint by his adviser, but for Johnson that’s a price well worth paying if he can hang on to (power) and get us out of the EU.”
Cummnings is credited with devising the Leave side’s winning strategy, including coming up with its hugely resonant “take back control” slogan. He was the main character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in James Graham’s TV dramatisation of the campaign earlier this year.
Prior to that, he worked for Business for Sterling, a campaign group formed in the late 1990s to oppose membership of the euro. He was also a key figure in the successful campaign against a regional assembly in the north-east of England.
Mr Cummings, who is married to the Spectator writer Mary Wakefield, comes with political baggage.
Vote Leave was found to have broken electoral law over spending limits by the Electoral Commission, and Mr Cummings was held in contempt of Parliament for failing to respond to a summons to appear before, and give evidence to, the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. On the few occasions that he has been scrutinised by MPs, there have often been rhetorical fireworks and bad blood on both sides.
At the Department for Education, he railed against the “blob” – the informal alliance of senior civil servants and teachers’ unions that sought, in his opinion, to frustrate his attempts at reform. He left of his own accord to set up a free school, having rubbed up a number of people in the ministry and in the Conservative Party the wrong way.
He once described Brexit Secretary David Davis as “thick as mince” and as “lazy as a toad” and so irritated David Cameron, that the ex-prime minister once famously described him as a “career psychopath”.
His appointment at No 10 Downing Street was welcomed by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has said Mr Johnson needs people around him “dedicated to getting this thing over the line”. But his arrival in Downing Street will give cause for concern to civil servants, as well as many Brexiteers and Remain-supporting Tories alike.
A prolific blogger, Mr Cummings has criticised the failure of MPs to devise a plan for Brexit and believes the government should have waited longer to trigger Article 50.
While associated in the public mind with senior Tory Brexiteers, Mr Cummings regards himself as being above the fray of day-to-day politics and has been particularly dismissive of the European Research Group of Tory MPs. He insists he has never been a member of a political party.
The BBC’s political correspondent Alex Forsyth said while he was not regarded by some as a team player or, indeed, being particularly likeable, Mr Cummings was able to marshal a team and take it with him through sheer force of personality and intellectual brilliance.
Utterly convinced of his own rightness, she said he was scathing of the social and economic status quo in the UK and what he saw as the malaise and dysfunction of government and of the civil service.
She said he had “latched on” to Brexit as the way of upending traditional political and economic structures, which he believed had contributed to so many people being “left behind”.
Cummings was found in contempt of parliament in 2018 after MPs said he had refused to appear in part of a Commons committee to give evidence about Vote Leave campaign as part of an investigation into fake news.
Parliament’s committee of privileges condemned his failure to appear before the digital, culture, media and sport committee and concluded that “his attitude did not serve the interests of civilised public debate”.
In a 2019 article, he described some members of the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Eurosceptics, who Mr Johnson will need to do a better job than Theresa May of keeping onside, as “useful idiots”.
Writing in The Spectator, he attacked the “narcissist-delusional subset of the ERG, who have spent the last three years scrambling for the 8.10am Today slot while spouting gibberish about trade and the law across SW1”.
He added: “You were useful idiots for Remain during the campaign and with every piece of bulls*** from [veteran Tory Brexiteer] Bill Cash et al. you have helped only Remain for three years.”
Last year, he said the government’s management of Brexit was a “train wreck” and claimed that Ms May’s decision to trigger Article 50 without a clear negotiating position was like “putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger”.
He has previously described David Davis, the former Brexit secretary and a supporter of Mr Johnson, as “thick as mince” and “lazy as a toad”.
Cummings himself, speaking in February 2017, was in no doubt that his decision to campaign on the alleged NHS bonanza – while benefiting from the unscrupulous Farage approach – was the trump card.
“Would we have won without immigration? No,” he wrote. “Would we have won without £350m/NHS? All our research and the close result strongly suggests no.
“Would we have won by spending our time talking about trade and the single market? No way.”
On a personal blog , Mr Cummings argued last month that Britain’s current Brexit-fuelled political dysfunction was “a once in 50- or 100-year crisis” to be exploited.
“Such crises also are the waves that can be ridden to change things normally unchangeable,” Mr Cummings wrote.