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30 August 2019updated 03 Aug 2021 1:01pm

What prompted the dramatic sacking of an aide to Sajid Javid yesterday?

By Ailbhe Rea

Yesterday evening, Dominic Cummings summoned one of the Chancellor’s special advisers to a meeting in Downing Street, where she was accused of leaking secrets about No Deal preparations to Philip Hammond, her former employer. When she denied the allegations, Cummings reportedly demanded to see her phone, and a heated exchange followed in which the Spad protested her innocence. She was promptly fired, her security pass removed, and she was escorted out of Downing Street by a police officer.

The sensational story is the juiciest example of Dominic Cummings’ famed “jihad on spads”: his strategy to have special advisers report directly to him, rather than their ministers, as a means of maintaining discipline and loyalty within government.  Cummings has previously vetoed the choice of special advisers by other Cabinet ministers – deeming them insufficiently committed to the government’s strategy of leaving the E.U. on Oct 31st, “do or die” – and others have been quietly sacked in recent weeks, but without the publicity of this recent firing.

Downing Street has not confirmed the reasons for this recent sacking, but one No 10 source told the Mail: ‘There are very good reasons this has happened. Reasons that were proved beyond doubt.’

Privately, however, it is considered unlikely that the aide in question could have been leaking to Philip Hammond: she is a former employee of the TaxPayers Alliance and a known Brexiteer, hired by Hammond to shore up his own Brexit credentials.

Rather, sources suggest that the decision to fire this aide was taken because of her perceived social connections to another ex-spad, now suspected (also, probably, incorrectly) of the Operation Yellowhammer leak. Others, meanwhile, have suggested that the decision was furthered by a feeling that the aide is too close to the politics team at a Sunday newspaper. (Media spads do typically maintain good relationship with the, um, media.) 

It is, of course, entirely possible that Cummings has indeed founded this decision on hard evidence, and has weeded out a prolific leaker set on thwarting his project to deliver Brexit at all costs. But, the above things considered, it looks unlikely.

Far from a show of strength from Cummings, this move smacks of implusiveness and paranoia. 

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