Speculation mounts that 'dark forces' are behind expose on aide
Who knifed Dominic Cummings? Speculation mounts that ‘dark forces’ are behind expose on aide who dared to take on Whitehall – as Opposition MPs ask just what DID Boris Johnson know about ‘cover-up’
- Sources claimed Mr Cummings had been at the centre of an attempt to oust Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill
- Claims circulated in the wake of appointment of Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, Simon Case, to No 10’s Permanent Secretary
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the aide had been doing what was best for his four-year-old son
The explosive revelations about Dominic Cummings come against the backdrop of growing tensions between the maverick aide and the Whitehall establishment – leading some Tory MPs to speculate about whether ‘dark forces’ were behind the exposé.
Shortly before the story broke in two Left-leaning newspapers yesterday, sources claimed that Mr Cummings had been at the centre of an attempt to oust Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, something which No 10 sources deny.
The claims have circulated in the wake of the appointment of the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, Simon Case, to the previously-dormant role as No 10’s own Permanent Secretary.
The explosive revelations about Dominic Cummings come against the backdrop of growing tensions between the maverick aide and the Whitehall establishment
The move has been described by one political aide as ‘a shot across Sedwill’s bows’ – but has also been seen as an attempt to dilute Mr Cummings’s all-pervasive influence.
Mr Cummings has been a long-standing critic of the Whitehall establishment, describing the permanent Civil Service as ‘an idea for the history books’ and proposing the abolition of senior civil servants’ roles.
A senior source admitted that tensions had been ‘running high’ in No 10, with many officials exhausted by the Covid-19 crisis, but played down the idea that Mr Cummings had been the victim of a ‘hit job’ by his enemies in Government.
Sources claimed that Mr Cummings had been at the centre of an attempt to oust Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured), something which No 10 sources deny
Mr Case, an experienced mandarin and a former security official at GCHQ, has been appointed to serve as a ‘bridge’ between Mr Johnson’s political team and the Civil Service, in an effective admission that the crisis has put the current No 10 structure under huge strain. Mr Johnson personally phoned Prince William last week to ask his permission for Mr Case to be seconded to Downing Street to help tackle the crisis.
To add to the tensions in No 10, and the sense that Sir Mark’s wings are being clipped, Whitehall official Helen Macnamara has been promoted to Deputy Cabinet Secretary as well as head of the Cabinet Secretariat.
The role coordinating the work of Cabinet had previously been held by Sir Mark. One source added: ‘There is a view that a few things have been kept out of the Prime Minister’s view by Sir Mark and that the PM needs a better grip on what he is up to. He’s clearly been too thinly spread and now that’s changing’.
The claims have circulated in the wake of the appointment of the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, Simon Case, to the previously-dormant role as No 10’s own Permanent Secretary
One Tory MP said: ‘Dom has made enemies everywhere, and you can’t help wondering whether dark forces have been at play to exact their revenge.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended Mr Cummings, as he faced a barrage of questions about the case at yesterday’s Downing Street press conference.
Mr Shapps went out of his way to insist that the aide had been doing what was best for his four-year-old son, saying: ‘In moments of crisis, we seek to have our family around us’. But he appeared irritated that he was forced to deal with repeated questions about Mr Cummings rather than the raft of transport announcements – including a cross-Pennine dual-carriageway plan – he was making.
Mr Shapps insisted that Mr Johnson was aware of his key aide’s decision to travel to County Durham so his young son would be safely looked after, saying: ‘The Prime Minister would have known he was staying put, and he didn’t come out again until he was feeling better’.
Pressed on the lockdown advice, deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said interpretation of the rules was for others, adding: ‘All of the guidance has a common sense element to it’ – including safeguarding children.
Downing Street under pressure to come clean over what it knew about Cummings affair
By Ian Gallagher and James Heale for the Mail on Sunday
Downing Street was under pressure last night to come clean over what it knew and when about the Dominic Cummings affair.
Amid accusations of a cover-up, reports have suggested the aide’s inner circle knew he was in County Durham with his parents during lockdown. It remains unclear whether Boris Johnson was among them, but Opposition MPs said it seemed inconceivable he was kept in the dark.
Asked directly during the Downing Street press conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps would only say that the PM knew Mr Cummings was ‘unwell and that he was in lockdown but of course the PM was also unwell during the same period’.
Amid accusations of a cover-up, reports have suggested the aide’s inner circle knew he was in County Durham with his parents during lockdown. It remains unclear whether Boris Johnson was among them
However the PM continued working after testing positive on March 27 and only entered hospital nine days later – the same day Mr Cummings was reportedly spotted for a second time in the North East.
It was also on March 27 that Mr Cummings was seen running out of No 10, heading home, it is believed, to see his wife, Mary Wakefield, who had virus symptoms. Soon afterwards he, too, fell ill. He wrote: ‘At the end of March and for the first two weeks of April I was ill, so we were both shut in together.’
The first official acknowledgment of his illness came on March 30. Downing Street confirmed he was self-isolating after developing symptoms but did not say where. By now he and his wife and their four-year-old son were reportedly already 260 miles away.
The following day, No 10 offered the same information, but this time – crucially – said he was self-isolating ‘at home’. This was the same day Durham Police were ‘made aware of reports’ that he was staying in the city.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps would only say that the PM knew Mr Cummings was ‘unwell and that he was in lockdown but of course the PM was also unwell during the same period’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said: ‘What I find interesting is that [according to reports] members of Downing Street knew about this so, first and foremost, Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer over what now appears to be a cover-up.’
Mr Blackford has written to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, calling for ‘a swift investigation into Dominic Cummings’ rule-breaking and the cover-up’.
He added: ‘This matter goes to the heart of public trust in the UK government and its response to Covid-19. If Mr Cummings won’t resign he must be removed from post.’ He branded the alleged actions the ‘height of irresponsibility’, and added: ‘Demonstrably, this is an individual who has broken the advice he has been… the architect of delivering.’
Ms Wakefield – commissioning editor at The Spectator – wrote an article for the magazine during the pair’s isolation but did not say they had left their London home.
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