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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Civil service chief urged to block appointment of Vote Leave strategist Dominic Cummings to senior No10 role

Civil service chief urged to block appointment of Vote Leave strategist Dominic Cummings to senior No10 role
4 min read

The UK's top civil servant has been urged to veto the appointment of controversial political strategist Dominic Cummings to a top Downing Street post.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran accused Mr Cummings of "peddling lies" as she called for Sir Mark Sedwill to stop him being hired as an advisor to Boris Johnson.

It comes just months after he was found to be in contempt of Parliament for failing to appear at a Commons probe into fake news.

Mr Cummings, who was famously portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a Channel 4 documentary about the EU referendum, is widely believed to have been responsible for the "£350million a week for the NHS" slogan from the Vote Leave campaign.

His move to Downing Street triggered fury after he was spotted standing in a t-shirt in the lobby of Number 10 just moments after Mr Johnson gave his first speech as Prime Minister.

In response Ms Moran has written to Sir Mark urging him to block the appointment, which "should send shivers down the spines of UK citizens", on the grounds he was not suitable to serve in government.

She said: "This is a man who has peddled lies and flouted the truth for sheer, cynical political gain. The darks arts that he proffers should have no place in Government, and no place in Downing Street.

"If Boris Johnson is serious about uniting our country, then appointing one of the most divisive figures in politics is hardly the best start.

She added: "Boris Johnson needs to act like a Prime Minister, and not be the puppeteer of someone who has so little respect for the British people."

In March of this year Mr Cummings refused to give oral evidence to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee for their inquiry into disinformation, who said he had shown a "total disregard" for Parliament.

Labour MP Ian Lucas, who sits on the Committee, said he should face sanctions over the incident, saying: "Cummings is in contempt of parliament and parliament needs to express its dissatisfaction.

"That should include the possibility of docking his salary. I'd like that to be an opposition day debate. He is a special adviser and will be paid out of taxpayer's money. I personally don't think that should happen when he's done everything he can to obstruct this very important parliamentary inquiry."

Fellow Labour MP and DCMS committee member Jo Stevens suggested Mr Cumming's application for a security pass should also come under close scrutiny.

"Everyone who works in parliament has to go through a very stringent security procedure. How can someone who oversaw a campaign that is the subject of a serious crimincal investigation pass the test," she said.

"He will have access not just to parliament but to the inner sanctum of No 10. There are obvious and serious security implications to that."

"We are going to tear it all up"

The controversial hire comes as Mr Johnson continues to press his commitment to leaving the European Union by October 31.

According to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Cummings has pushed for the Conservatives' annual conference, due to be held in Manchester in September, to be turned in to a Brexit rally.

Whitehall sources told the paper he had ordered organisers to dump the usual schedule of ministerial speeches and policy announcements in favour of a Brexit focussed agenda.

"What you have to realise is that the conference is going to be just days away from Brexit, and that is all it will be about," Mr Cummings told civil servants.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times credits the strategist with the new hardline approach to no-deal preparations which has seen Michal Gove given responsbility for ensuring the country is ready for a clean break on the Hallowe'en deadline.

The paper reports the senior Brexit strategist accused Mrs May's Government of being "weak all along".

He added: "That has to change. If they're going to tear everything up, we are going to tear it all up."


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