LONDON — Want to know which direction the U.K. under Boris Johnson is headed? Then read the blog posts of the most powerful official on his team.
Dominic Cummings’ writings are a window into the world of the special adviser now shaping Johnson’s premiership, Brexit and the U.K.’s future.
They shed light on Cummings’ motivations for backing Brexit, his obsessions (Otto von Bismarck, the science of probability, chess), and his grudges (against David Cameron, George Osborne, most political pundits). They also point to a revolution in store for the civil service and a political system that, in Cummings’ view, has for too long let process and tradition stand in the way of clear goals, big and small — from fixing the office lifts (or elevators, if you will) to leaving the EU.
Fixing the lifts? Yes. “The [Department for Education’s] lifts were knackered from the start and still are,” Cummings wrote in 2014, reflecting on his first stint in government, from 2010 to 2014, as the right-hand man to then-Education Secretary Michael Gove.
“There were dozens of attempts to have them fixed. All failed. At one point the permanent secretary himself took on the task of fixing the lifts, so infuriated had he become. He retired licking his wounds.”
“I found him very impressive. But also slightly scary. He’s quite intimidating” — Government official on Dominic Cummings
The tale is one of many to be found on the blog. And it wasn’t really about the lifts.
“The insuperable problem of the lifts … gives a clue to what is really happening in Whitehall,”