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Dominic Cummings: How Tony Blair aide warned PM’s advisor ‘won’t last year’

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Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former aide, warned earlier this year how Mr Cummings’ “radical” approach would see him out of his job in 12 months. Yesterday the Guardian revealed that Mr Cummings had travelled hundreds of miles with his wife and child to his parents’ house in County Durham.

The publication reported that police spoke to Mr Cummings about breaching the government’s lockdown rules after he was seen in Durham.

The pressure has since mounted on Mr Cummings to resign, not since much of the lockdown in place likely came as a result of his advice.

A member of the public is understood to have spotted Mr Cummings and made a complaint to the police.

A witness said they were walking past the Cummings family home on 5 April when they heard Abba’s Dancing Queen playing from the property.

They said: “I got the shock of my life, as I looked over to the gates and saw him.

“There was a child, presumably his little boy, running around in front.

“I recognised Dominic Cummings, he’s a very distinctive figure.”

Downing Street has since defended Mr Cummings.

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A No 10 spokesman said: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected Coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.

“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed.

“His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside. At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported.

“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”

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[ANALYSIS]

Mr Cummings is no stranger to controversy, having come under fire on more than one occasion.

Last month, it was reported that Mr Cummings sat in on and asked questions during Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meetings.

Uproar ensued as SAGE meetings are intended to be politically neutral and attended by experts and scientists.

His larger than life character has inevitably drawn unwanted attention to the machinations of Boris Johnson’s government.

Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former aide, earlier this year during an interview with the Institute for Government podcast, reasoned that Mr Cummings’ radical approach to the civil service was “likely to be counter-productive”.

He claimed that Mr Cummings would not last a year as a government advisor.

Mr Powell went as far as to compare Mr Cummings to Rasputin, the self-proclaimed holy man who befriended Tsar Nicholas II in early 20th century Russia.

He said: “One prediction I think I am fairly safe in making for this year is that Boris Johnson will survive this year politically, but I don’t believe Dominic Cummings will.

“When you put yourself front and centre and make yourself public in this way you do end up like Rasputin in the River Neva in chains. That’s what happens. You become the target. Maybe he wants to. He says he doesn’t want to stay there long. I don’t think he will be staying there long.

“I hope his disappearance doesn’t stop reform, because that reform is needed. Both in the civil service and goodness knows in public services more generally and the way that spending is allocated across the country. So I hope that he isn’t a victim in his public dance with death.”

He added: “I do have some sympathy with the need for reform of the civil service. I was a civil servant for 16 years before I went to work for Tony Blair in opposition in the Labour Party and I did see in that time the need for some very radical change.

“The problem I have with the approach that Dominic Cummings is taking is it is more likely to be counterproductive. Already the things he is saying have been rowed back by other spokesmen from government, and trying to make it about weirdos rather than about serious change in the civil service is actually probably counterproductive.

“His own time in the Department for Education was not notable for its success in persuading the civil service to change. And the thing about the civil service is you need to persuade them to change because they are the vehicle for delivery of the changes that you want in public service. So simply attacking them doesn’t achieve that much.”

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