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.