Coffee House

How will Gove deal with Dominic Cummings’ attack on Number 10?

16 June 2014

2:30 PM

16 June 2014

2:30 PM

One of these days, former Gove adviser Dominic Cummings is going to tell us what he really thinks. He’s followed up his interview with the Times (£) in which he describes David Cameron as ‘bumbling’ and attacks the team around the Prime Minister with a blog examining the gap between politicians and the electorate and the failure of successive governments to learn from mistakes.

The main problem for Number 10 in Cummings’ analysis of the way it works is that he’s not the only one who holds that opinion. He argues that Number 10, like MPs, has ‘no real knowledge of how to function other than via gimmick and briefings’ and that it avoids ‘solving very hard problems’. Though Number 10 has sharpened up in recent months, it is never hard to find an MP or minister frustrated by an apparent lack of strategic thinking.


And it is still very easy to find a Conservative who will agree with Cummings that ‘you have to have priorities and there are no priorities’. Cameron’s lack of a personal ideological passion is on the one hand frustrating, but on the other hand pragmatic and safely skirting around dogma. It depends, as Alex eloquently explains, whether you are a radical as Cummings is, or a patrician, Macmillan-style Tory as Cameron is (although sadly the gaze of that former Prime Minister has yet to inspire our current leader to build as many homes as this country needs).

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman this morning defended the Number 10 operation against Cummings, saying:

‘The PM has the highest regard for the work that the team around him does.’

Education questions is starting in the Commons in a few minutes, and Gove will inevitably face calls from one Labour MP or another to either associate himself with Cummings or slap him down. If Gove’s previous form on difficult stories is anything to go by, he’ll respond with an ornate confection of words that do not address the question at all and outwit Labour again.

Whatever he says, he can’t call off Cummings, who has left government and is far too interesting and informed for journalists to ignore. This afternoon’s blog shows that there’s plenty more to come.

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Show comments
  • FlippityGibbit

    Well for one thing, Cummings is not that much of an original thinker as far as comments about Dodgy Dave are concerned. We’ve been all saying exactly the same thing for the last three years! That’s called “following the consensus of opinion!”

  • Bonkim

    Sour grapes!

  • Wessex Man

    Where’s Hooky and Kitty? they’ve not run off together have they?

  • misomiso

    Cummmings is a great and wild talent for the Tory party – think of a young 17 year old Wayne Rooney, a ball of energy and talent but with Rage and anger inside his soul.

    He is unfair on Cameron. The PM is much more politically gifted then his opponents realise. Cameron and Osborne are operating in Coalition so can not take on the state within the state that Cummings rails against as the Lib Dems will cry foul.

    Cummings should put his effort into a Tory majority. Then they can completely revamp the civil service, the BBC, the Charities, and change the political landscape.

    And then finally deal with Europe and heal that historic Tory scar.

    • Andy

      I agree with most of what you say. I am impressed by Cummings. We need people like him and a few more to take the fight to these so called progressives.

    • southerner

      “The PM is much more politically gifted then his opponents realise.” No he’s not. He’s a socialist Europhile who has failed at everything (and the principal failure is being the slightest bit conservative).

      • misomiso

        I respectfully Disagree!

        The Tory party is operating in a incredibly difficult politcal landscape. The BBC is dead set against them, the Charities have been politicised, the right wing press is unsympathetic, the Unions are against any kind of reform, the Civil service try to thwart them at every turn, and they’re fighting Regionalist movements in Scotland and Wales form below and a European Super state from above.

        Cameron / Osborne make terribile mistakes, but we cant live in this fantasy that ‘if only they were more Conservative’ as the media would then tear them to shreds.

        All effort should be given to trying to get a Tory Majority, as then they can pass legislation to start to depolitisice the institutions.

  • Hello

    But Cummings is just plain wrong. There is a priority, it’s deficit reduction and the general economic strategy. What Cummings means is that the priority is not education, and in his world that means that there is no priority.

    • Andy

      You reckon ? At the end of this Parliament the state will still be spending more, in cash terms, than it did at the beginning. And a chunk of it is borrowed money.

      • Hello

        Exactly. That’s evidence of just how difficult it is to consolidate the public finances, and why it needs to be given the highest priority without distractions.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Unfortunately the ‘highest priority’ given to the public finances includes £11 billion in foreign aid using borrowed money and £13 billion to “charities”, also using borrowed money, which as we have just seen tend to bite the hand that feeds them anyway.

          What is needed is a willingness to face up to the reality of what can and can’t be afforded and what should and shouldn’t be, preferably hitting the right targets instead of the wrong ones.

        • Andy

          There should be 3 priorities: the States finances; Education and Welfare. And they should have been radical in all three areas.

          • Hello

            Why stop there?! Why not make the reform of every department a “priority”, a bit like the way that we’re all “equal”.

            • Andy

              That’s all well and good, but as Cummings points out children are leaving school unable to read or write. Gove is making great steps forward but hampered at every single verse end by the forces of darkness, also known as the LibDems, the Fascist Labour Party and the scum known as the teaching unions. We need to fight, fight and fight again to turn things around.

              And we also need to encourage private enterprise. A sound economy means reducing the proportion of that economy that is controlled by the state. Good progress has been made, but nowhere near enough.

            • realfish

              What is needed is a reforming second term, the sort of second term that saw Margaret Thatcher at her most radical.

              Cameron cannot do what is needed without an absolute majority or encumbered by the drag anchor that is Clegg and his yellows.

              Somehow Cameron needs to build on the economic progress that is being made and convince Britain that there can be no going back. No going back to a Labour Party that is even less equipped for Government than their last disastrous, incompetent administration.

              • telemachus

                The drag anchor of the yellows has been very necessary to thwart untrammelled Osborne to-us-and-ours-ism
                Thank providence we only have eleven months left
                What we are seeing is a media narrative that the economy is getting better and all will be well
                So why are mothers in Tower Hamlets having to beside between tea on the table and shoes to school
                Why are disabled sinking into the mire of debt due to the draconian withdrawal of benefits and application of the bedroom tax
                Why are poor children getting less and less education as Gove puts resources into his middle class Free Schools while working class comprehensives sink
                We need to see the back of uncaring Osborne, trite Hunt and dangerous Gove

                • Wessex Man

                  Go away you slimy lair you.

                • girondas

                  George on another blog described you thus:

                  “labour .. once the party of the working man (and woman) … now a collection of placemen, hereditary seated, never worked a proper job in their lives, millionaire parasites. labour’s founding fathers would have strung this lot up by their sinecures and beaten them to death with their bogus expenses claims”

                  pretty accurate don’t you think?.

              • Wessex Man

                Don’t worry Nige and Paul will sort it out for you.

                • realfish

                  Who’s Paul?

                • Wessex Man

                  If you don’t know who paul is you should get out more!

                • Kitty MLB

                  And that’s the last thing “Paul” should do. When I saw him
                  on TV I thought so that’s why Nigel is the only one seen or
                  heard of .. it was YUK !

            • Colonel Mustard

              Is the economy sound? Government spending has risen from £78.6 billion in 1978-79 to £719.9 billion in 2013-14 and is set to rise to £765.5 billion in 2017-18. At the same time other government policies make it likely that public spending pressures will increase.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Well it would help if Cameron hadn’t of ring-fenced certain ‘pet projects’ of his most of which revolve around his precious EU…

          • Jingogunner

            He has an eugo problem. Overly eugocentric, as they say.

    • Smithersjones2013

      There is a priority, it’s deficit reduction

      Hardly impressive given the government has already failed on that commitment and there is little guarantee that they will recover the situation within the timescales they are currently peddling.

    • Mynydd

      In 2010 Mr Cameron/Osborne issued their first five year plan. Maintain our AAA rating and eliminate the deficit by 2015. They have failed on both accounts. Now they are preparing their second five year plan, called our long term plan, regain our AAA rating and eliminate the deficit by 2020. As Mr Cummings said what a shambles. Stalin used to issue five year plans that always failed Mr Cameron/Osborne are following suit.

      • Wessex Man

        They can have as many 5 year plans as they like, they’ll not be there to implement them!