Dominic Cummings leaves role with immediate effect at PM’s request

Dominic Cummings has left Downing Street this evening for good, a government source has told Sky News.

They said Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked his senior adviser to step down today with immediate effect, along with head of broadcast Lee Cain.

Both had been expected to leave their jobs but not until the end of the year.

A Downing Street statement later said the pair will be employed until mid-December, but Sky News’ Beth Rigby said a source told her they are not expected to return to the office again because Mr Johnson wants to “clear the air and move things forward”.

Mr Cummings left Number 10 on Friday carrying a storage box and was then seen back at home a few hours later, receiving a package.

Sir Edward Lister, Mr Johnson’s chief strategic adviser, has been promoted to interim chief of staff.

According to The Daily Telegraph, former chancellor Sajid Javid is front-runner to become the permanent holder of that position – signalling a major shake-up to Downing Street’s operations.

An ally of his told Sky News that Mr Javid thought getting someone experienced was a “good idea” though it is “not a role he has been offered or considered for himself”.

Mr Javid quit in extraordinary circumstances during the cabinet reshuffle in February, reportedly when Mr Cummings said he should only stay in Number 11 if he relinquished his choice of special advisers.

That, and police finding he may have committed a “minor breach” of the rules during the first national lockdown, marked Mr Cummings’s card among some Conservative MPs.

Backbencher Sir Roger Gale told Sky News on Friday the former Vote Leave boss had “become a distraction” and a “malign influence at the centre of Downing Street for too long”.

“It’s right that he should go,” he said, adding: “The sooner he leaves the better.”

While Theresa Villiers, a former cabinet minister, welcomed the “good opportunity for a fresh start”.

“Clearly there are concerns about the dismissive attitude sometimes shown by Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings towards people in Government and MPs on the backbenches,” she said.

Another Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told Sky News: “Let’s move a little bit away from EastEnders and more to the West Wing.”

Guto Harri, an ex-aide to Mr Johnson, also said it was “goodbye and good riddance” to Mr Cummings, whom he claimed had done “enormous damage”.

“He was player on the field who wasn’t scoring any goals but wouldn’t pass the ball to anyone else,” he said. “These guys light the fuse and leave the scene before the bomb goes off.”

In a blog post in January, Mr Cummings revealed he planned to leave his role by the end of the year, saying he hoped to make himself “largely redundant” by then.

But news of his expected departure comes after a bitter power struggle behind the scenes in Downing Street that ended with Mr Cain quitting – something that is likely to have hastened his decision.

The news was described as a “big moment” by Theresa May’s former chief-of-staff Lord Gavin Barwell.

He tweeted: “Boris now has an opportunity to get a more harmonious, effective Downing Street operation (like he had at City Hall); improve relations with the parliamentary party; and lead a less confrontational, more unifying government that better reflects his own character.”

Mr Cummings, who as a special adviser would normally be a backroom figure unknown to most, was thrust into the limelight in May – after it was revealed he defied the “stay at home” order during the first lockdown to drive his wife and child to his family’s farm in Durham.

He said it was so his relatives could look after them in case he and his wife became incapacitated due to having coronavirus, after displaying symptoms.

Mr Cummings was also investigated by police for claiming he then drove to Barnard Castle – a beauty spot 30 minutes away – to test his eyesight to make sure he was well enough to drive back to London.

In a Downing Street news conference, he said “I don’t regret what I did” – though dozens of Tory MPs continued to call for his sacking.

When news of his departure from the government emerged, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps heaped praise on him, telling Sky News: “He’ll be missed… but advisers come and go.

“In any government, you require people who are going to shake things up and come up with ideas, and he’s actually been that person.”

Mr Cummings – once reportedly described by former prime minister David Cameron as a “career psychopath” – is a former Conservative Party director of strategy and ex-aide to senior cabinet minister Michael Gove.

Analysis: Why have Cummings and Cain gone so suddenly?
By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Dominic Cummings has tonight left Downing Street for the final time, having tendered his resignation following the departure of his ally and fellow advisor Lee Cain.

Boris Johnson’s most senior aide had been expected to serve until the new year, but left tonight carrying a large box of his belongings.

A furious row had broken out after Allegra Stratton, a former journalist and more lately adviser to Rishi Sunak, was appointed by the prime minister to lead on-camera briefings for him.

This prompted concern among some in Mr Johnson’s top team that they were being replaced and led to the resignation of Mr Cain on Thursday.

Mr Cummings had previously said he would leave Downing Street in 2021 after setting in motion a number of key reforms within government, but the timing and public nature of his departure is said to have more to do with Mr Cain’s decision to leave.

Mr Cummings left by the front door of Downing Street this evening carrying his belongings in a packing box.

There are a number of alternative exits to the building which would have avoided the glare of the press lenses.

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