Popcorn at the ready! Today Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings has been hauled before the Treasury committee to answer questions on ‘the economic and financial costs and benefits of UK’s EU membership’.
To begin this, Cummings — who has been described by former colleagues as a Tory Che Guevara — was grilled by the committee’s chair Andrew Tyrie. The tone was set from the start:
DC: “I’ve got another meeting at four, so I’ll have to be out of here before that.”
AT: “I don’t think you’ve got the hang of these proceedings. We ask the questions and you stay and answer them.”
DC: “I’m just telling you when I’ll be leaving.”
AT: “In that case you’ll be recalled.”
DC: “Fine by me.”
AT: “Will you sit down, please?”
DC: “I’m just turning off my phone. You wouldn’t want my phone to go off, would you?”
While the ever stern Tyrie did his best to pin him down on what he sees as questionable ‘facts’ used by Vote Leave, Cummings put up a fiery defence.
The Brexit champion didn’t seem all that bothered about making friends, at one point stating that he doesn’t think the Foreign Office — or any of Whitehall — would be competent enough to negotiate Britain leaving the EU. While Tyrie accused Cummings of being ‘fast and loose’ with his answers, one of their most jamming exchanges was on the topic of the NHS:
AT: I have here one of your posters that’s available on your website and that you’re encouraging supporters to download. That is telling us that we should give the whole of this £350million to the NHS, doesn’t it?
DC: We could certainly give the NHS a very large proportion of that, but also remember there’s all of the other money we’ve saved as well. It’s not just the £350m a week that we save from the budget
AT: So, we’re going to put the whole of the £350m into the NHS and then we’re going to fund all of these other things that you’re keen on – the science and the other financial protection you’re going to provide — to all the groups that now get their money from Brussels from another pot as yet unspecified.
DC: I think I’ve specified a few other examples of where the pot comes from, energy regulation and EU procurement rules being one, being two alone that offer billions — there’s more than enough billions to go around to put an awful lot more money into the NHS and to protect science and protect agriculture and still have billions left over
AT: Billions left over, this sounds like Aladdin’s cave to me
Tyrie went on to grill Cummings about Vote Leave leaflets distributed in hospitals.
While he appears to be sceptical about some of Cummings’ answers, it’s his committee colleague Helen Goodman who has expressed the most doubt. The Labour MP has tweeted to say that Cummings appears to have ‘no grip on reality at all’.
Genuinely alarmed at the behaviour of Dominic Cummings who runs Vote Leave, He seems to have no grip on reality at all. #StrongerIn
— Helen Goodman (@HelenGoodmanMP) April 20, 2016
Meanwhile Cummings has also managed to upset some in the Brexit camp, after he said it was ‘unlikely’ there would be a second referendum — rather than completely rule the possibility out. Mr S suspects that Cummings may come to regret that his Brexit comrades Matthew Elliott and Arron Banks were both unable to give evidence at today’s hearing.