Great Britain

Dominic Cummings can only survive in No 10 if he 'vanishes' from headlines, warns ex-Tory chancellor Ken Clarke

Former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke has warned that Dominic Cummings can only survive in No 10 if he ”vanishes” from the headlines as he mounted an outspoken attack on Boris Johnson‘s government.

The political veteran said powerful aides ”don’t normally dress exotically and pose for the photographers before giving – quite blatantly – briefings all over the place” and said Mr Cummings must return to being a “back room operator” if he wants to remain in his role.

Mr Clarke, who served under Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron, questioned whether the PM’s top aide “loves the vast amount of publicity he’s getting but he’s in newspapers more than the prime minister” – a situation traditionally regarded as “absolute “disaster”. 

Download the new Independent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

Speaking to the ITV News Acting Prime Minister podcast, he warned "you can't govern a country and explain what you’re doing for the public by the medium of leaks from an exotic aide in No10".

Mr Clarke, who was expelled from the Tory party for rebelling over Brexit, said: "Boris may not be interested in the detail of policy but he’s not an idiot, he’s a very bright man and the Cummings thing can only last if Mr Cummings personal appearances stop and he vanishes and he goes back to being the back room apparatchik which he, of course, you need and what he’s supposed to be doing.

"I don’t know, he’s been given a caricature personality by the media. 

"I’ve never met him, so if I ever met him I’m told he's highly intelligent as well but I’ve no idea whether he’s the rather bizarre crackpot figure which the newspapers like to make him out to be."

The intervention comes amid a fierce backlash over the appointment of No 10 aide Andrew Sabisky, who quit his post on Monday over past remarks on eugencis, race and compulsory contraception.

The 27-year-old was understood to have been hired by Mr Cummings as part of a drive to recruit “weirdos and misfits” to work with him in Downing Street.

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng broke ranks on Tuesday by condemning “racist remarks” from Mr Sabisky and calling for an overhaul to recruitment processes in Downing Street.

“I think we should prevent racists from coming into No10 or wherever he was working. I think we do need to look at these processes,” he said.

On Mr Sabisky’s past writings, Mr Kwarteng said: “It was completely reprehensible – they were racist remarks.”

Outside house on Tuesday morning, Mr Cummings failed to answer a question about whether there would be “any more weirdos”, suggesting people should read about superforecasters instead.

He told reporters: “Read Philip Tetlock’s Superforecasters instead of political pundits who don’t know what they’re talking about.”