There were renewed doubts over ‘knackered’ Boris Johnson’s future in No10 today as he bids to ‘reset’ his government after Dominic Cummings signalled he will quit – having apparently lost an extraordinary power struggle with Carrie Symonds.
The maverick chief aide is set to leave Downing Street by Christmas after a brutal reckoning that saw his closest ally Lee Cain fall on his sword, having failed to secure the key role of Mr Johnson’s chief of staff.
The developments mark the end of the Vote Leave clique’s iron grip on government, which has been the subject of a mounting backlash from senior Conservatives frustrated at their ‘aggressive’ approach, ‘incompetent’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, and clumsy U-turns on issues such as free school meals during the holidays. Allies of Ms Symonds were reported to have started referring to the Brexit campaign veterans as the ‘mad mullahs’.
Jubilant Tories reacted to the bombshell events by gloating ‘Vote Leave has left!’, while a former adviser swiped ‘goodbye and good riddance’. Senior MP Bernard Jenkin said it was an opportunity to restore ‘integrity and trust’.
There were claims in Brussels that the shift could increase the chances of the premier compromising to get a post-Brexit trade deal over the line.
There is speculation that other key aides close to Mr Cummings could choose to walk out, while Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove faces seeing his influence diminished as he has lost an important supporter in No10.
Mr Johnson is now believed to want to soften the government’s image and recover his reputation as a One Nation Tory, encouraged by Ms Symonds – herself an experience political operator and former head of media at CCHQ. There is expected to be more focus on environmental issues, and a less combative stance on overhauling the civil service and BBC – issues that Mr Cummings had been championing.
However, there is renewed scepticism on his own benches over whether Mr Johnson will be in charge much longer, despite having won an historic majority at the election less than a year ago. Asked whether Mr Johnson would fight the next election, one senior MP told MailOnline: ‘Good God, no.’
Mr Cummings’ departure and the ongoing turmoil inside No 10 came as:
- The resignation of spin doctor Lee Cain on Wednesday night came after he was blocked from being Boris Johnson’s chief of staff when Carrie Symonds expressed her concerns. She was backed by the PM’s new official spokesperson Allegra Stratton and his director of policy Munira Murza;
- Dominic Cummings held multiple crisis meetings with the PM and handed in his own resignation yesterday afternoon as the Vote Leave faction in Downing Street lost an internal power struggle;
- The new-look No10 could mean a softer approach to dealing with Tory MPs, a greater focus on green issues and attempts to improve relations with devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Ministers are in shock as coronavirus cases jumped by 46 per cent on Thursday, with 33,470 daily cases in the UK yesterday – but Mr Johnson is said to be starting to look beyond the pandemic;
- Mr Cummings’ exit date is not set but he is expected to leave when Brexit is delivered and his work on mass testing is completed;
Dominic Cummings, pictured in Westminster today, is expected to leave his current role before Christmas
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving Downing Street today) is believed to want to ‘reset’ his government with a new ‘softer’ image
Boris Johnson had initially offered to promote communications Lee Cain to become chief of staff. But he dropped the plan following objections from his partner Carrie Symonds (pictured with Mr Johnson)
Mr Cain, an ally of Mr Cummings, quit on Wednesday night after Mr Johnson’s change of heart. He was Mr Johnson’s director of communications
The web of connections in Downing Street, which has been reeling from factional infighting during the coronavirus crisis
Who’s who in the civil war between Cummings’ Brexit Boys and the ‘Carrie Symonds crew’
Cummings pictured outside Downing Street in one of the outfits that has made him an unlikely style icon
Official title: Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister
Boris Johnson’s maverick Svengali, who gained national notoriety for his lockdown-breaking trip to Barnard Castle to ‘test his eyesight’ before a trip back to London.
The former Vote Leave director backed his former campaign staffer Lee Cain to take over as the PM’s chief of staff – prompting a bitter wrangle with Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who warned it would be a ‘mistake’.
Cummings, who is known for his acerbic demeanour and preference for hoodies and ‘slob’ style jackets over suits, eventually lost the vicious tug-of-war, prompting Cain’s resignation and speculation that he could follow.
He is known to have a difficult relationship with Symonds, with reports earlier this year suggesting she was opposed to his aggressive approach to politics and tendency to ‘pick unnecessary fights’ which could harm the PM’s image.
Mr Cummings was born in County Durham and is married to Mary Wakefield, a senior journalist with the Spectator magazine, a Tory bible that Boris Johnson once edited.
Cummings ally Cleo Watson seen outside No10
Official title: Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns
It has become a familiar ritual in Downing Street: photographers clamour to take pictures of elegant Cleo Watson as she strides towards the No 10 door with a dishevelled Dominic Cummings, the pair looking, as one wag put it, like ‘a gazelle with a pit pony’.
Watson is Cummings’ special adviser and the pair share a close relationship, with one Whitehall source describing her as ‘the Cummings whisperer’ because she is one of very few people who can calm him down when he flies into a rage.
Watson is one of five high-achieving sisters from an extraordinary family whose story could come from a Jane Austen novel. Indeed, she is the second of her siblings to work closely with a Tory leader. Her sister Annabel, 41, known as Bee, was Theresa May’s Chief of Staff.
Watson worked with Vote Leave during the 2016 EU referendum, before landing a top job in the policy unit in No 10 during May’s premiership.
She remained at the heart of Government under Johnson and now boasts the title of ‘Head of the Prime Minister’s Priorities and Campaigns’.
Oliver Lewis is another Vote Leave member to now work in No10
Oliver Lewis (nickname ‘Sonic’)
Age: Late 20s
Official title: Brexit policy adviser
A former Vote Leave staffer, Brexit policy adviser Oliver Lewis is a close ally of Cummings – who is known to address him by the nickname ‘Sonic’.
Oxford-educated Lewis has been working closely with Michael Gove on No Deal preparations, and was inspired by Cummings’ love of science to construct an enormous spreadsheet to model difference scenarios styled on techniques used by NASA.
He has also worked closely alongside chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, and earlier this year was accused by EU sources of repeatedly trying to shut down negotiations, according to The Sun.
After backing his mentor in his quest to install Cain at the top of Downing Street, Lewis has also become embroiled in the ugly fallout following Symonds’ victory.
Reports today suggested he was also ‘seriously considering’ his position.
Carrie Symonds – seen at a Remembrance Day service in Whitehall on Sunday – has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Downing Street
Official title: NA
Boris Johnson’s fiancee and a former Conservative Party head of media, Symonds has emerged as a force to be reckoned in No10.
She is known to have a difficult relationship with Cummings and blocked his bid to install his ally Lee Cain as the PM’s chief of staff, insisting this would be a ‘mistake’ given how the campaign against the pandemic had gone so far.
A brutal stand-off ensued before Symonds emerged as triumphant – with Cain announcing his resignation and Cummings said to be also considering his position.
Symonds grew up in west London and attended Godolphin and Latymer School, an independent day school for girls, and the University of Warwick.
She worked for the Tory party from 2009, before hitting the headlines when her affair with Mr Johnson, 56, came to light.
A passionate conservationist, she had a direct impact on government policy after a badger cull in Derbyshire was called off, a move that saved thousands of the animals.
Allegra Stratton is poised to become the face of Boris Johnson’s new US-style TV press briefings
Official title: No10 Press Secretary
Allegra Stratton, the former journalist poised to become the face of Downing Street’s first US-style televised press briefings, was the cause of the power struggle that erupted.
After her appointment, she insisted she would be answerable to the PM only, not Cain. With the former Daily Mirror journalist fearing he was about to be side-lined, Boris offered him the role of chief of staff.
That’s when Stratton and her allies stepped in, determined to prevent that happening.
Stratton is a respected former journalist for the Guardian and ITV among others, and helped Chancellor Rishi Sunak craft his public image before being poached by No10.
Stratton is a fully paid-up member of the metropolitan elite who was educated at Latymer Upper School in London (fees, £21,000 a year) and studied anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge. She is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of the Spectator.
Interestingly, while Cain has been mocked for dressing as a chicken to stalk former Tory leader David Cameron in the 2010 election, footage has recently emerged of Stratton also dressed as one, dancing at a high-spirited Westminster party where veteran political pundit Andrew Neil led the conga.
Munira Mirza is the phenomenally-bright head of No10’s Policy Unit
Official title: Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit
Munira Mirza is the highly respected and phenomenally bright head of the Downing Street policy unit.
A long-time Boris aide dating back to his time as London mayor, she prefers to work away from the limelight, but is also said to have made her opposition to Cain’s appointment clear.
The Oldham-born academic is a popular figure around No10. ‘She has a huge brain but wears it lightly. Boris listens to her,’ according to one source.
Mirza’s family came to Britain from Pakistan, with her father finding work as a factory while her mother taught Urdu part time.
She attended Breeze High School and Oldham Sixth Form College, where she was the only pupil to gain a place at Oxford, where she studied English Literature.
A former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Mirza is now one of the members in Johnson’s circle, and was named by the PM as one of the five women who have shaped his life.
The chief aide had been on the brink of resigning since the departure of No 10 communications director Lee Cain on Wednesday.
But Government sources revealed he confirmed his intention to step down in a crisis meeting with Mr Johnson yesterday afternoon.
Mr Cummings as pointed to a January blog post in which he expressed a wish for his job to be ‘redundant’ by the end of the year.
But a Downing Street insider said he ‘jumped because otherwise he would be pushed soon’ amid claims his Vote Leave team were just ‘in it for themselves’.
There are claims that Mr Johnson had become increasingly frustrated with his mercurial aide in meetings, referencing his notorious round trip from London to Durham during lockdown, seeking childcare while his family were self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms.
But the Vote Leave camp have been complaining that the PM keeps changing his mind after being lobbied by Ms Symonds when he returns to their Downing Street flat at night.
‘Part of the problem is that everyone comes to an agreement then he goes upstairs to No11 at night and it all changes,’ a source in the camp told The Times. ‘He talks to Carrie, he talks to her friends, and his position moves.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Mr Cummings ‘will be missed’, but but swiped that ‘advisers do come and go’.
Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘As he wrote right at the beginning of the year in his own words, he planned to make himself largely redundant this year with the big thing that he worked on, of course, which was Brexit, coming to an end at the end of the transition period, which is December 31.
‘Of course, the other big thing is helping to ensure we have the roll-out mass testing to defeat this virus. Both these things are on the near-term horizon now.
‘He will be missed but then again we’re moving into a different phase and Brexit will be, we’ve already left Europe, but the transition period will be over and things move on and advisers do come and go.’
Sir Bernard, chairman of the powerful Commons Liaison Committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the news represented ‘an opportunity to reset how the Government operates and to emphasise some values about what we want to project as a Conservative Party in Government’.
‘I would suggest there are three words that need to become the watch words in Downing Street – they are respect, integrity and trust.
‘Certainly in the relationship between the Downing Street machine and the parliamentary party there’s been a very strong sense that has been lacking in recent months.
‘Now we hope the Prime Minister will choose people around him who will help him restore that relationship.’
He added: ‘I’m not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his Government’s communications and crowding out the proper messages the Government wants to convey.
‘Nobody is indispensable.’
However, there is considerable doubt on the Tory benches over whether Mr Johnson can turn the tanker.
One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that his time in office had been characterised by ‘flip flopping and lack of certainty’, while Rishi Sunak was waiting in the wings.
‘There is too much of the slightly incompetent… It’s like open mic night sometimes,’ they said.
The MP went on: ‘I think he is a bit like Gordon Brown. I want it, I’ve got it, I don’t know what to do with it. I think he’s knackered.
‘I have spoken to three Cabinet members recently, all of whom at the beginning of this session thought he would be there for 10 years. Now they say he will be there 10 months.’
The MP suggested dire Tory local and mayoral elections results in May against a ‘motivated and reinvigorated’ Labour could be a catalyst, and said the prospect of another independence referendum in Scotland – where polls suggest he is very unpopular – could also be a factor.
‘I think the PM cares passionately about the union. The destruction of the UK would pain him,’ the Tory said.
‘Johnson will either go because the party will get spooked or he will do a Harold Wilson and announce he is stepping down.’
A well-connected Tory peer told MailOnline: ‘I’ve have always fallen into the category that he wouldn’t fight the next election.
‘He is not that kind of person. He has a short attention span. I just can’t see him wanting to carry on. It’s just not in his style.
‘He has done the thing he wanted to. I think he will recognise the difficulties and certainly the views of MPs in the north at the moment, and certainly the Scots.’
They added that Mr Johnson had so far benefited from practical difficulties in plotting against him, but that would change if the pandemic eases.
‘The one piece of luck he has had from the coronavirus is that MPs can’t sit and talk to each other in Parliament,’ the peer said.
For 16 months Mr Cummings has pulled the levers of power at the heart of Government as Mr Johnson’s most influential adviser – but he has also been accused of ‘looking like a bully’ at times.
His departure, and that of his fellow Vote Leave campaign veteran Mr Cain, will clear the stage for a more consensus driven approach with a focus on green issues championed by Ms Symonds.
Mr Johnson is now said to be looking towards life after Mr Cummings and building a ‘more liberal, global Britain’.
A senior Tory told The Times: ’He [Mr Johnson] has been frustrated at the way these guys have operated at times. They can do things in stupid ways’.
Another said of Mr Cummings’ abrasive style: ‘There is an acknowledgement that we need to reset relationships’.
But there will be concern that the change could see some major shifts in the government’s core policies.
Mr Cummings has pushed for civil service reform, condemning the lack of expertise among officials and allegedly threatening a ‘hard rain’ to shake things up.
He has also been an advocate for an overhaul of the shambolic defence procurement system, as well as radical changes to the BBC, its governance and funding model.
Senior figures in Brussels have been gloating today that the news could be the start of a climdown to get a post-Brexit trade deal.
Talks between the two sides are deadlocked, with less than a week to get an agreement in place so it can be ratified before the end of the transition period on January 1.
But No10 flatly denied there was any change in approach today.
‘Absolutely not. That is simply false,’ the PM’s spokesman said. ‘The government’s position in relation to the future trade agreement negotiations is unchanged.’
Before confirmation of Mr Cummings’ exit emerged late last night, his allies were already predicting he was preparing to follow Mr Cain out the door once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
A source said: ‘This will loosen Dom’s grip on government and hasten his departure.
‘He wants to get Brexit over the line, get over the hump of the pandemic and get one or two of his pet projects locked in. Once that is done, he won’t hang around.’
Mr Cummings had pushed for Mr Cain to be promoted to the role of chief of staff as he did not want the job himself, but the move was understood to have been opposed by Ms Symonds.
Mr Cummings made a last-ditch attempt to elevate another ally, Cleo Watson, to the post, but this was also slapped down by the PM, according to Times Radio.
The chief aide has not explicitly confirmed he has resigned and told the BBC: ‘Rumours of me threatening to resign are invented.’
However when pressed if he was planning to step down by Christmas, he said: ‘My position hasn’t changed since my January blog.’
The blog post, which gained attention for its clarion call for ‘weirdos and misfits’ to apply for Government jobs, said: ‘We want to improve performance and make me much less important — and within a year largely redundant.’
That Mr Cummings steered attention towards these remarks last night was interpreted as a strong signal of his intention to soon step down.
His departure will loosen the grip of the Vote Leave faction of advisers inside Number 10.
Mr Johnson is believed to have been deeply unimpressed by briefings and backroom scheming by Mr Cumming’s allies over the past couple of days and will use the shake-up of his top team to drop the aggressive style adopted by the Vote Leave campaign.
He hopes to use televised briefings to ‘reset’ the Government’s image after a bruising year.
It will also usher in a more ‘liberal’ agenda to be implemented after the pandemic.
A Downing Street source told the Times the PM was looking ahead to ‘build liberal, global Britain’.
No10 had earlier dismissed claims that Mr Cummings will quit next year as ‘speculation’.
But in the wake of his departure other senior figures are on ‘resignation watch’, including Ms Watson, Oliver Lewis – known as ‘Sonic’ – and data guru Ben Warner.
A source last night said that while Brexit envoy Lord Frost was unhappy about Mr Cain’s departure, he would not be quitting as talks with Brussels enter their final stages.
The departure of Mr Cain follows the appointment of a new press secretary to the Prime Minister.
Allegra Stratton will begin to carry out daily US-style televised media briefings on Mr Johnson’s behalf in the New Year.
But she was not Mr Cain’s pick, instead having apparently been directly approached by the PM, despite not applying for the job. Eager to secure a change in tone from the government, Ms Stratton is said to have demanded that she reports directly to Mr Johnson rather than his director of communications.
Fearing that would leave him sidelined, Mr Cain offered to resign last week.
Mr Johnson urged him to stay on, having come to rely on the former tabloid journalist – whose previous jobs include dressing as a chicken to follow David Cameron on the campaign trail.
On Monday evening the Prime Minister offered Mr Cain the vacant job of Downing Street chief of staff.
Who else could follow Cummings out the door?
Many of the most senior figures in Downing Street owe their loyalty to Dominic Cummings from Vote Leave days.
Lee Cain’s resignation on Wednesday night had already caused deep frustration.
And there are fears that some could follow Mr Cummings out of the door now he has signalled his departure.
They include advisers Cleo Watson, Oliver Lewis – known as ‘Sonic’ – and data guru Ben Warner.
A source has said that while Brexit envoy Lord Frost was unhappy about Mr Cain’s departure, he has no intention of quitting as talks with Brussels enter their final stages.
The move was backed by both Mr Cummings and the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, who argued that Mr Cain had been fulfilling part of the role for months.
However, news of the appointment was leaked to the Mail – prompting a furious backlash from senior Tories, who feared it would further embolden a Vote Leave faction contemptuous of the role of MPs.
Crucially, it also encountered the wrath of Ms Symonds, who dislikes Mr Cain’s abrasive style. She told her fiancé it would be a ‘mistake’ to give him a promotion.
As news of the row behind the scenes became public, Mr Cain decided his role was untenable.
He will stay in post until the end of the year, when he will be replaced as director of communications by former Mail journalist James Slack, currently Mr Johnson’s official spokesman. However, unlike Mr Cain, who was a political appointment, he will remain a civil servant.
Tory MPs warned Mr Johnson that the chaos in No 10 was undermining public confidence in the Government.
Sir Roger Gale said it was ‘extraordinary and unacceptable that Downing Street should allow itself to be distracted by internal squabbles’ in the midst of a pandemic.
He added: ‘Frankly this is a distraction… the Prime Minister has got to get a grip on it.’
Other MPs urged Mr Johnson to ditch his special adviser.
One said: ‘If they have got rid of one of the Kray brothers they have got to get rid of Cummings as well. To use a well-known phrase, Boris should take back control and be the real Boris that so many of his genuine friends and supporters believe he can be.’
The Prime Minister also faced questions over Ms Symonds’ role in Downing Street.
‘The question on everyone’s lips is ”who will she go after next”… it looks like senior appointments now have to be approved by Carrie,’ an insider said.
‘That is a dangerous path for the Government to go down.’
Another adviser said the episode reflected poorly on the Prime Minister. ‘It is disappointing that he has failed to return the loyalty of his most loyal lieutenant when the going got tough,’ they said.
‘It begs the question – who is making the decisions now?’
Treasury special adviser Sonia Khan is set for up to £100,000 settlement with the government after she was sacked by Dominic Cummings and marched by armed police out of Downing Street
A Treasury aide sacked by maverick No10 chief Dominic Cummings and frogmarched out of Downing Street by police is to receive a ‘five-figure’ pay-off.
Sonia Khan was dramatically axed in August 2019 after being accused of staying in touch with people close to her former boss, Philip Hammond.
An extraordinary showdown with Mr Cummings in No10 ended up with the Chancellor’s adviser being walked out of the building, still protesting her innocence.
Mr Cummings apparently demanded to inspect both Ms Khan’s phones before immediately firing her.
In a damning slight to then Chancellor Sajid Javid, who kept Ms Khan on at No10 after taking over from Mr Hammond, he was only told after the dramatic events.
There has been a huge exodus of advisers from Whitehall since Mr Johnson installed Mr Cummings as his chief aide, with sweeping powers to mobilise the government machine to secure Brexit.
One former adviser told MailOnline at the time that Mr Cummings increasingly ‘looks like a bully’, and said his conduct raised questions for the PM.
Ms Khan had earned a reputation as a good operator in Westminster since joining Mr Hammond in 2018. She previously worked for ex-Cabinet minister Liam Fox and the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group.
Describing the row as ‘pathetic’, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘We’re all worried about our health and families, we’re all worried about our jobs… and this lot are squabbling behind the door of No 10.’
Ministers have been harshly criticised for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has included a string of U-turns on everything from A-levels to free school meals.
Mr Cummings himself hit the headlines in May, when he was forced to hold a press conference to justify his decision to drive more than 260 miles to Durham during the first national lockdown.
It comes as yesterday Tories were predicting Cummings could be next out of the Downing Street door today after an extraordinary civil war erupted in public – threatening to derail Boris Johnson’s desperate struggle to control coronavirus.
There are also claims that Allegra Stratton, Downing Street’s new on-screen press secretary, and senior aide Munira Mirza fought the move, while there had been a huge mutiny from Tory backbenchers angry about lockdown policies and a series of humiliating U-turns on issues such as free school meals during school holidays.
It would have meant the PM’s core circle being exclusively male.
Labour has seized on the shambolic scenes, saying No10 officials were like ‘rats in a sack’ and behaving ‘pathetically’ when the country was trying to navigate the worst crisis in generations.
Ms Stratton was said to have only agreed to take the job if she reported directly to the PM, not Mr Cain – leaving him feeling ‘wholly undermined’.
Mr Cain apparently opposed her appointment and the pair had not spoken since she arrived in the role a fortnight ago.
There had been a vicious response when it emerged Mr Cain was in the frame for the top job yesterday, with angry politicians sniping that it was a case of ‘Cain not able’ and another minister saying ‘WTF?!’
In his resignation statement, Mr Cain confirmed he had been offered the powerful post – which allies insisted was ‘basically what he does anyway’ – but after ‘careful consideration’ would be leaving at the end of the year.
He said: ‘After careful consideration I have this evening resigned as No 10 director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year.
‘It has been a privilege to work as an adviser for Mr Johnson for the last three years – being part of a team that helped him win the Tory leadership contest, secure the largest Conservative majority for three decades – and it was an honour to be asked to serve as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.’
There are also claims that Allegra Stratton, Downing Street’s new on-screen press secretary, opposed the appointment
Who could take Dom’s mantle as the PM’s chief aide?
Dominic Cummings’ departure will leave a huge hole at the top of government.
Here are some of the runners and riders to become the PM’s new chief aide.
Credited as the mastermind of the 2019 election rout, the Australian used to work for key Boris Johnson ally Sir Lynton Crosby.
However, he is lucratively working the private sector and might not be seen as the best candidate to reconnect with Tory MPs.
Another highly-respected policy brain, Ms Mirza has worked with Mr Johnson for a long time and would command considerable support from many Conservatives who believe she has good instincts.
The choice of many senior MPs and another product of the Lynton Crosby political machine, he is a Conservative activist and seen as a solid Brexiteer.
The former Spad was drafted in as a major player in the election, and is regarded as a skilled operator.
But he has a very successful consultancy business, and his background with Vote Leave might weight against him given the apparent desire for a ‘reset’.
He also paid a glowing tribute to Mr Johnson’s ‘loyalty and leadership’ and thanked his colleagues at Number 10.
In response to the resignation, Mr Johnson said: ‘I want to thank Lee for his extraordinary service to the Government over the last four years.
‘He has been a true ally and friend and I am very glad that he will remain director of communications until the new year and to help restructure the operation. He will be much missed.’
The former journalist will serve until the end of the year when he will be replaced by the PM’s official spokesman, James Slack.
In a round of interviews this morning, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick desperately tried to play down the situation, insisting the government’s focus was still on the deadly pandemic.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s understandable that journalists, in particular, will be interested in the personalities of who works as advisers within Number 10 Downing Street.
‘But the Prime Minister runs the Government.
‘He is surrounded by a good team, a strong team of advisers, and, of course, the Cabinet.
‘Our sole focus in Government is trying to steer the country through the pandemic.’
He told Sky News: ‘At the end of the day, this is one individual.
‘The Prime Minister runs the Government.’
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – Mr Cummings’ former boss and still a close ally – was challenged in the Commons over whom he sided with in the extraordinary spat.
SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Pete Wishart said the ‘faceless characters who actually run this country in Number 10 are at each other’s throats’.
Mr Wishart asked: ‘Whose side is he on – Dom’s or Carrie’s?’
Mr Gove replied: ‘I’m on the side of people from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth who voted to leave the European Union, who want us as a United Kingdom to make a success of these new opportunities (Brexit).
‘I know the Scottish Government is a total stranger to behind-the-scenes intrigue and briefing wars, so I can imagine his shock and amazement to see things reported in the newspapers.’
Mr Gove said the Government continues to make decisions in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said Mr Cain’s departure will be a ‘loss to the Government’.
He told MPs: ‘May I just say what a fantastic public servant he has been, somebody instrumental in ensuring the Vote Leave campaign was successful and somebody who has made a huge contribution to this Government.’
The cordial statements from Mr Cain and Mr Johnson masked disarray at the heart of government, with warring factions competing for influence in Downing Street.
Mr Cummings, who has stuffed the corridors of Number 10 with old Vote Leave allies, was initially thought to be considering his position but has resolved to stay in Government, the BBC reported.
That Mr Cain’s promotion was backed by Mr Cummings is one reason it caused such hostility among MPs.
Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer was said to have been ‘inundated’ with messages from MPs urging him to intervene with the PM to try to block Mr Cain’s appointment.
One former minister had warned that allowing No 10’s Vote Leave faction to tighten its grip would be a ‘nail in the coffin’ of Mr Johnson’s Government.
Multiple sources said Ms Symonds, 32, had intervened to try to block the appointment.
One said: ‘Carrie has had her own run-ins with Lee, but she’s also been pressured by MPs to stop this.
‘You have to remember she is a former director of communications for the party and has good relations with a lot of senior MPs.