Boris Johnson’s decision to hire Dominic Cummings is more than controversial – it’s dangerous

If this were a popular wizard themed series of novels, this is book five of seven.

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Today it was confirmed that Dominic Cummings has been officially hired by our new Prime Minister as an advisor in Number 10. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that the appointment was “controversial”.

But it’s not just controversial. It’s dangerous. Even more so than Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister. This shift in tone leaves Liberals like me in no doubt that we are now in a battle for the very future of our democracy.

Let us remind ourselves of what Dominic Cummings stands for. Made famous for masterminding the Leave Campaign, immortalised by Benedict Cumberbatch in a C4 drama, this is a man who commentators describe as either an “eccentric” or an “evil genius”. He is responsible for the iconic £350m a week bus slogan, the lie that the Turkish migrants were ready to join the EU and flood our borders with kebabs and cheap labour and fined by the Electoral Commission for illegal spending in the 2016 referendum. Lies are his currency. At his own admission, “accuracy is for snake-oil pussies”.

He has shown nothing but contempt for our judicial system, and parliament, indeed any vehicle that asks questions of him and his methods and sees the eyes of scrutiny set upon him. Not even the disintegrated and discredited Cambridge Analytica refused to be questioned by the DCMS select committee; not even Rupert Murdoch.

As a master of the dark arts he makes Peter Mandelson look like a choir boy. I’m deeply disturbed by this development. Scared even. If this were a popular wizard themed series of novels, this is book five of seven. The plot is now perpetually sinister, and it looks like the forces of evil have got their hands firmly gripped on the levers of power.

But this is not a story, this is happening; and it is not at all certain how this will end. This week there are those rejoicing at this changing of the guard, but for me it has never been clearer. We are now in the fight of our lives for the very soul of our country.

Is this a country that uses immigration and ethnic minorities to stoke fear and division? Is this a country that prefers to look to Trump and Putin as allies rather than our nearest neighbours in Europe? Is this a country that would wantonly run down the economy by pursuing an ideological, power motivated Brexit that will leave public services on the brink? That’s the country of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings. I cannot and will not stand by. I will fight to the last to stop this from happening.

As Jo Swinson, our new LibDem leader said in her acceptance speech, politics is no longer a spectator sport. Shouting at the television is no longer enough. You are either against these people or you are complicit in the future they offer. Remainers must now look deep. Band together and fight. This is no longer just about stopping Brexit. It is about the very nature of what it means to be British. And it needs to be done under one banner.

The Labour Party are discredited. Corbyn has failed, and there seems no prospect of them changing him in time. The Greens are on the side of the angels but do not have the infrastructure or momentum to deliver the change we need on their own.

We saw an attempt at a breakaway with The TIGs, but what that showed, is that working at cross-purposes is counterproductive. Plaid and the SNP are pro Europe too, but are rubbing their hands as all they ultimately care about is independence and breaking apart our precious union, a prospect now more likely than ever before. Given this is their raison d’etre, what will they put first? 

There is only one answer left and that is to rally around Jo Swinson’s rallying call and join the Liberal Democrats. Politics is fracturing and unless we hold our nerve and hold together, we risk that splinter becoming an abyss.

Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West & Abingdon.