Narcissism central, chateau-bottled sour grapes – and a palpable porkie… HENRY DEEDES watches Dominic Cummings’ sit-down interview
In his tumultuous time at the heart of government, nothing pleased the Prime Minister’s former right-hand man more than setting off explosions all along Whitehall.
Since his departure last December, he’s been pulling out more pins than a cheroot-chewing revolutionary. Barely a day passes when Cummings doesn’t take to Twitter or his blog to tap out another bile-coated rant aimed at the PM. Loud, mushroom cloud-shaped kabooms going off everywhere.
Last night, we saw him do a sit-down interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. Yet it wasn’t quite the pyrotechnics show Mr Cummings might have hoped for.
Most of his gripes sounded like nothing more than chateau-bottled sour grapes. Narcissism central.
The former chief adviser alleged he warned the PM not to visit the Queen last year as there were already people in No 10 who were isolating and told him: ‘You might have coronavirus’
By the end, it was hard not to conclude that this was someone tantalisingly close to being off his rocker.
Mr Cummings wore a crisp new shirt. You could still see the crease marks from the wrapping. Probably had a few pins still stuck in it.
For any other interviewee, such detail would be unnoteworthy except that Cummings’ usual style lends itself to bohemian barge folk.
Kuenssberg lobbed a gentle opener. ‘How would you describe Boris?’ she asked. Cummings shot a look of confusion. ‘Wh- how d’ya mean?’ he spluttered. You’d think she’d asked him to knock her up a bearnaise sauce.
He mentioned something about Boris having a grasp of the absurd. He had told Cummings before being elected that the idea of him being PM was obviously ridiculous. Cummings assumed he meant it.
That he didn’t recognise that remark for the self-deprecating joke it was is telling. We heard a series of marginally interesting vignettes. How he stopped Boris from infecting the Queen with Covid. How Boris went around saying he regretted the first lockdown.
Pictured: Dominic Cummings in an interview with Laura Kuenssberg which aired on BBC2
Oh, and Cummings admitted handling the whole Barnard Castle thing badly. Though he stood by the eye test baloney. Kuenssberg winced. A palpable porkie.
Cummings implied he had taken a job with Boris because that’s how he could get to control him.
‘Don’t you think that sounds unbelievably arrogant?’ asked Laura K.
Cummings ran an index finger down one cheek. The thought clearly never occurred to him.
Kuenssberg put it to him that he was the cause of much of the division that engulfed Westminster after the referendum.
‘No,’ Cummings replied. Others were to blame too.
Did he consider himself the PM’s superior? ‘I don’t see myself as a better person,’ he replied nonchanantly.
Kuenssberg, by the way, was excellent. Never once did she try to flatter her subject. Instead, her reactions to these megalomaniac rantings was a picture.
Last night Downing Street denied that the incident where the PM and Mr Cummings discussed visiting the Queen took place but Cummings said in his interview that others witnessed it
Sometimes she flicked her hair awkwardly, at other times she simply grimaced in horror.
She reminded me of Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect interrogating some particularly unpleasant specimen.
Fast forward to the Conservatives’ landslide election victory in 2019. No sooner had Boris got his tootsies back under the Downing Street desk than Dom and his cohorts were apparently trying to get him ejected.
Boris ‘wasn’t the right man to running the country’, opined Cummings. Says who? Dom of course.
Presumably all those millions people who’d just voted for him could go swivel. This was just deranged. I’m no Che Guevara, but I’m sure staging a coup requires support.
Aside from a few unelected misfits and weirdos he’d hired from the Vote Leave campaign, Cummings had fallen out with pretty much everyone. Even Dilyn the dog hated him.
Kuenssberg was horrified that Cummings could help get someone elected whom he considered the wrong man for the job. ‘What kind of con had you just pulled off on the British public if that’s what you think?’ she asked.
Cummings shot her a toothy grin. ‘Well, I’d say that’s politics,’ he said.
What next? He was considering setting up a new party. He wanted to ‘rewire the whole system’.
Would he ever speak to Boris again? ‘It doesn’t bother me one way or the other,’ he smirked.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s what happens when you let the loonies take over the asylum.