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18 November 2020

Commons Confidential: Dom lost in space

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Rambo Cummings blew himself up on the way out of Downing Street, dropping one of those imaginary grenades he’d unpin and mime throwing over a shoulder. Boris Johnson intended, whispered a well-placed snout, to appoint his chief geek the first head of a UK blue-sky science agency unveiled in the Queen’s Speech. Between the Cain Mutiny and fighting with Carrie “Princess Nut Nut” Symonds, Dom has as much chance of flying to Uranus as overseeing UK space policy.

Johnson’s dislike of personal confrontation prompted him to reassure departing Cummings and Cain he’d like to “get the band back together” at the next election. My informant insisted a cynical coward who’s out of his depth as Prime Minister merely wished to sidestep further immediate unpleasantness as he showed his former Vote Lie allies to the door. That Johnson rang Lynton Crosby, who ran his 2008 London mayoral campaign, for reassurance and advice three times, when he’d blanked the Lizard of Oz for months, reinforces evidence that it’s his City Hall team the PM wishes to reassemble.

Things are awkward with no love lost between Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid. The Chancellor has demanded the rival banker, whom he replaced at the Treasury, doesn’t return as Johnson’s chief of staff. Meanwhile, I’m told Tory ex-chief whip Andrew Mitchell was overheard articulating a job spec, coincidentally presenting himself as the ideal candidate. Minus the bit about resigning for allegedly snarling “pleb” at a police officer before losing an expensive libel battle, obvs.

No 10 staffers and Spads are resuming meetings in Downing Street. To avoid discussions reaching the ears of Cain and Cummings, nervous advisers would sneak next door into the Cabinet Office. When that hideaway was compromised, they decamped to the Supreme Court café. The end of the cappuccino run is a sweet taste of success for survivors.

Fears that flibbertigibbet Johnson is unable to focus on what’s important during a deadly coronavirus crisis and vital Brexit negotiations are fanned by Westminster rumours that he called the Mail on Sunday to plead with editor Ted Verity over photos of Carrie Symonds at a toga party during her student days at Warwick. Perhaps it’s more worrying the newspaper published the pictures and wasn’t damned for ignoring the PM.

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Perusing the Register of Members’ Interests, I spotted Ian Paisley Junior was paid £200 for writing in the Catholic Herald why he loves Catholics. Think of all the Troubles that would have been averted and lives saved if his dad had preached that 50 years ago. 

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This article appears in the 18 Nov 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Vaccine nation