The feud between Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings could be disastrous for all Tory factions

The political gains from the vaccine roll-out could be squandered by a new Conservative civil war.

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Did Boris Johnson really say he would rather “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown in October last year? That’s the sensational claim in this morning’s Daily Mail

Downing Street has denied that Johnson made the remarks. But “allies” of Dominic Cummings have claimed that the Prime Minister’s sacked chief adviser made recordings while he was in Downing Street and that he has a slew of embarrassing revelations ready to go.

[Hear more on the New Statesman podcast]

Who to believe? I don’t think it would stretch anyone’s sense of who the Prime Minister is to learn that he had made the remark. Equally, I don’t think it would shock anyone if it turned out that his opponents and former allies were themselves making up tall tales in order to hurt someone who had wronged them. 

Elsewhere, there are further questions about who paid for the upfront cost of the Downing Street flat’s refurbishment: and it’s that story that could, I think, prove more damaging than anything else, because unlike the Greensill affair, or the questions about the government’s handling of Covid-19 in November and December, it is tangible and easy to grasp. 

But the danger of both stories is that the Conservatives are currently feeling the benefit of the successful vaccine roll-out: the story that the government faced an impossible task and in the end emerged from it all right, all things concerned. A spat between warring Conservative factions that highlights the other side of the story could be a disaster for the Prime Minister and his internal opponents alike. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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