'Dominic Cummings Has Got a Relatively Free Hand to Do What He Wants' - Academic

© AP Photo / Alberto PezzaliDominic Cummings, political advisor to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves 10 Downing Street, in London
Dominic Cummings, political advisor to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves 10 Downing Street, in London - Sputnik International
The Former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke has warned that Dominic Cummings can only survive in No 10 if he “vanishes” from the headlines in a mounted and outspoken attack against Boris Johnson’s government.

Professor Alistair Jones, Associate Professor at De Montfort University, shared his outlook on these comments and the integrity of Dominic Cummings.

Sputnik: Former Conservative Chancellor, Ken Clarke, has ruled that Boris Johnson's Senior Advisor Dominic Cummings can only survive in Number Ten if he 'vanishes' from the headlines. How significant are these sentiments, and what do they represent?

Alistair Jones: I think one of the problems with any senior advisor and you can go back to the Blair years, you can go back to the Thatcher years, is that they gain a media image. Once you're in that media zone, as it were where the media could fixate upon you, it's phenomenally difficult to get out. In the Blair years, for example, there was always demand for Alastair Campbell to get further back and get away from the spotlight because he used to become the focus so much and Dominic Cummings is, even more, the case. Now in the case of Cummings, in many respects, he actually seems to quite enjoy being in the spotlight because he can upset people, he can provoke people, and it can generate a response. Now the question is, should that be the role of a Number 10 Senior Advisor and most people would probably argue that it's not the case. In some respects, Cummings needs to reign himself in a little bit, so he's not quite so provocative - even though he may see that as being part of his role.

Sputnik: You mentioned there that he almost enjoyed some of the attention that he's received - particularly over the last two weeks. This is incredible attention for a very important government role; could we see Cummings ejected from Number 10? Is that out of the question?

Alistair Jones: It's not out of the question. I think the issue would then be, how much would Boris Johnson be weakened by accepting the pressure being placed on him to remove Cummings, and I think Boris Johnson would be hugely undermined if he was to acquiesce. Now the issue is we don't know the full dynamic of how the relationship between Johnson and Cummings actually works. To what extent is Boris Johnson stepping back and just doing big grandiose things and leaving Cummings to do the day to day, or whether it's a much closer relationship. So I think yes, pressure can be brought to bear, but the consequence of accepting that pressure and acting on it would actually undermine Boris Johnson. So in this respect in the short term at least, Dominic Cummings has got a relatively free hand to do what he wants and how he wants, but if he persists with this almost excessive approach to how he's portraying himself, he will eventually have to go. We could be talking six months to a year down the line. I don't see him being removed any sooner than that.

Sputnik: With this in mind, could we see the law being changed? Is it even possible to eject someone with this level of attention, this level of significance, this level of power from the government? And if not, what does that really say about our democratic system in the UK?

Alistair Jones: To answer that question almost in reverse; our democratic system is about electing the politicians into parliament, and the leader of the largest party in parliament becomes Prime Minister - assuming they've gotten a majority in the chamber. Thereafter, the elected politicians need to have the appropriate support in place, so they will appoint advisors, they will have administrative and secretarial staff, and they will have whole teams helping them in Westminster, in particular, for government ministers and the Prime Minister but even for MPs in their constituencies.

Most MPs will have a team of four or five people helping them. Now the difference with Cummings is, and Alastair Campbell in the past was the prominence that the individuals who are closest to the prime minister have. Now, we've always had that, this has always been the case, and if you look at most democratically elected regimes, you will see that the advisors to the leaders are unelected people - people that the prime minister, or in other cases, presidents actually trust, and can get to do a job they want to do without being encumbered with all the democratic niceties. That is just part of our system, but it's one that is normally behind the scenes.

I think Dominic Cummings, through the way he likes to do things, is bringing it to the forefront more and more. If you were to access his blog, for example, you will see a lot of material in there about the problems that he sees with the UK Government and the UK civil service and how it operates. He's been very open about this, it is there in the public domain, and he wants to change things. He is now in a position where he can do that, and he has a prime minister who is not unreceptive to accepting those ideas, and a ministerial team around that Prime Minister, that is also quite supportive of some of these ideas. We've got almost the perfect storm here where someone like Dominic Cummings can get his material onto the agenda, and yes, it doesn't appear to be democratic, but that's how our system operates.

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