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Dominic Cummings launches damning attack on ‘disaster zone’ civil service

Dominic Cummings launched a devastating attack on the civil service today as he revealed he made Boris Johnson vow to back reform before agreeing to work in Downing Street.

The maverick former No10 chief branded Whitehall a ‘disaster zone’ and offered an extraordinary glimpse into his relationship with the PM as he gave evidence to the Science Committee.

Asked about his efforts to overhaul the UK’s science base, Mr Cummings cited Bletchley Park as an example of how bureaucracy ‘destroys’ effective operations and ‘drive out’ the best people.

He disclosed that days before Mr Johnson became PM in July 2019 they had a meeting in Mr Cummings’ living room, where he laid out a series of demands for working in No10.

Mr Cummings also confirmed that he will face a separate interrogation from MPs over the handling of coronavirus – which will raise concerns in government that he plans to settle scores.  

Dominic Cummings branded Whitehall a ‘disaster zone’ and gave an extraordinary glimpse into his relationship with the PM as he gave evidence to the Science Committee

Days before Boris Johnson became PM in July 2019, the pair had a meeting in Mr Cummings' living room, where he laid out a series of demands for working in No10

Days before Boris Johnson became PM in July 2019, the pair had a meeting in Mr Cummings’ living room, where he laid out a series of demands for working in No10

Cummings suggests he deserved £40k pay hike for ‘sorting’ Brexit 

Dominic Cummings today suggested he deserved a £40,000 pay rise because he had sorted out the ‘Brexit mess’.  

Mr Cummings delivered an irritable response to criticism that he was given a huge bump after the Tories won a stunning majority in the 2019 election.  

‘It is true that I interfered with the pay system regarding my own pay,’ he said.

‘That was in summer 2019 when I arrived I was put in the normal pay band for my position, of £140-something-thousand. 

‘I said I didn’t want that, I only wanted to be paid what I was paid at Vote Leave.

‘I figured I should be paid the same for trying to sort out the Brexit mess as I had been paid for doing Vote Leave so I asked for a pay cut. Which is what happened in summer 2019.

‘For some reason this has appeared in the media as if I got a pay rise after Covid, but that didn’t happen.

‘When we were all rehired the day after the election I moved back on to the normal pay grade for my position.’

They included that Mr Johnson was ‘deadly serious’ about delivering Brexit, that the science budget was doubled, and a fundamental overhaul of the ‘disaster zone’ of Whitehall. 

In a brutal assault on Mr Hancock and his department, Mr Cummings said the PPE and therapeutics efforts were a ‘smoking ruin’. 

‘It’s not coincidental that the vaccine programme worked the way that it did. To do that we had to take it out of the DoH, we had to have it authorised very directly by the PM and strip away all the normal nonsense that we can see is holding back funding therapeutics…

‘No10 took it out of the Department of Health.’

He went on: ‘In spring 2020 you have a situation where DoH was just a smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE and all of that.

‘You had serious problems with the funding bureaucracy for therapeutics on Covid. So that was the kind of context for it.

‘Patrick Vallance then came to No10 and said this shouldn’t be run out of the Department for Health, we should create a separate task force.

‘We also had the EU proposal which looked like an absolute guaranteed programme to fail debacle.

‘Therefore Patrick Vallance, the Cabinet Secretary me and some others said obviously we should take this out of the Doh. Obviously we should create a separate task force.’

Mr Cummings was being grilled by MPs over the Government’s new ‘high-risk’ scientific research agency that he championed before his dramatic departure from No 10.

Experts will be given £800million of funding to identify and fund research involving ‘high-risk, high-reward’ science and will have independence from the Government. 

But he delivered another rebuke to his former boss by saying he was ‘not confident’ whether the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (Aria) will ‘work out’ because too many restrictions were being placed on its operation.

Mr Cummings also delivered an irritable response to criticism that he was given a £40,000 pay rise after the Tories won a stunning majority in the 2019 election.  

‘It is true that I interfered with the pay system regarding my own pay,’ he said.

‘That was in summer 2019 when I arrived I was put in the normal pay band for my position, of £140-something-thousand. 

‘I said I didn’t want that, I only wanted to be paid what I was paid at Vote Leave.

‘I figured I should be paid the same for trying to sort out the Brexit mess as I had been paid for doing Vote Leave so I asked for a pay cut. Which is what happened in summer 2019.

‘For some reason this has appeared in the media as if I got a pay rise after Covid, but that didn’t happen.

‘When we were all rehired the day after the election I moved back on to the normal pay grade for my position.’

It is Mr Cummings’ first public appearance since quitting as Mr Johnson’s chief aide after an apparently power struggle with Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds sent the heart of government into meltdown.   

Chair Greg Clark kicked off by saying that Mr Cummings has agreed to a separate session covering the coronavirus response.  

Dominic Cummings’ long-running war with the civil service  

Dominic Cummings has written prolific blogs on government over years that give a glimpse into his thinking.

In June last year, shortly before joining Mr Johnson at No10, he penned a 10,000-word post calling for an end to the ‘Kafka-esque’ influence of civil servants on politicians.

He proposed creating independent ‘Red Teams’ to challenge official advice to ministers – who would be rewarded for overturning the orthodoxy.  

Mr Cummings has previously slammed support for ministers as ‘extremely bureaucratic and slow’ and said the civil service had presided over ‘expensive debacle after expensive debacle’. 

He dismissed Westminster as ‘the blind leading the blind’, saying that for top mandarins ‘management, like science, is regarded contemptuously as something for the lower orders to think about, not the ”strategists” at the top’.

Mr Cummings has been upsetting the Westminster establishment for years. 

He memorably nicknamed the educational establishment ‘the blob’ when he was adviser to Mr Gove at the Department for Education. 

In 2014, David Cameron reportedly branded him a ‘career psychopath’, and Mr Cummings resigned from government and accused him of ‘bumbling from one shambles to another without the slightest sense of purpose’.

Mr Cummings described Lib Dem former deputy PM Nick Clegg as ‘a revolting character’, which triggered Mr Clegg to dismiss him as a ‘loopy ideologue’. 

The abrasive former Vote Leave director was previously found to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to give evidence to MPs on a committee investigating misinformation.

He was last seen dramatically exiting Downing Street carrying his belongings in a cardboard box in November.

While in government Mr Cummings was said to have told colleagues that a ‘hard rain is coming’ for the civil service – although some disputed he used those exact words.

Mr Cummings has been a longstanding critic of the way Whitehall works, calling for more modern organisation and data-driven policies.

In blogs before he was drafted in by Mr Johnson, he urged the introduction of ‘red teams’ explicitly tasked with finding reasons why the government should not be following policies. 

He has been an advocate of ‘Super-Forecasters’, individuals who have no specific expertise but are able to predict events because of their mental process.

Mr Cummings has been particularly scathing about the way the Ministry of Defence runs its procurement. 

In June 2019, shortly before joining Mr Johnson at No10, he penned a 10,000-word post calling for an end to the ‘Kafka-esque’ influence of civil servants on politicians.

He proposed creating independent ‘Red Teams’ to challenge official advice to ministers – who would be rewarded for overturning the orthodoxy.  

Mr Cummings has previously slammed support for ministers as ‘extremely bureaucratic and slow’ and said the civil service had presided over ‘expensive debacle after expensive debacle’. 

He dismissed Westminster as ‘the blind leading the blind’, saying that for top mandarins ‘management, like science, is regarded contemptuously as something for the lower orders to think about, not the ”strategists” at the top’.

Mr Cummings has been upsetting the Westminster establishment for years. 

He memorably nicknamed the educational establishment ‘the blob’ when he was adviser to Mr Gove at the Department for Education. 

In 2014, David Cameron reportedly branded him a ‘career psychopath’, and Mr Cummings resigned from government and accused him of ‘bumbling from one shambles to another without the slightest sense of purpose’.

Mr Cummings described Lib Dem former deputy PM Nick Clegg as ‘a revolting character’, which triggered Mr Clegg to dismiss him as a ‘loopy ideologue’. 

He described David Davis, then the Brexit secretary, as ‘thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus’ in July 2017.

He has also turned his ire on hardline Brexiteers in the Tory European Research Group in one of his trademark lengthy blogposts.

In March 2018 he likened some members of the group to a ‘metastasising tumour’ accusing them of ‘scrambling’ for top radio spots while ‘spouting gibberish’ since 2016.  

Mr Cummings’ appearance before MPs will be followed by that of Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is setting up the agency.

Mr Cummings was last seen exiting Downing Street in November after a bitter power-struggle within No 10 spilled out into the open

Mr Cummings was last seen exiting Downing Street in November after a bitter power-struggle within No 10 spilled out into the open


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