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23 April 2021updated 21 Sep 2021 4:52am

Dominic Cummings’s statement still leaves him with questions to answer as well as No 10

The former Downing Street adviser’s denial that he leaked is less credible than he wants it to appear.

By Harry Lambert

Dominic Cummings has released a statement on the allegation by No 10 that he is behind recent leaks. He most notably denies being the source for the BBC’s Dyson story. The credibility of his statement comes down to how credible you find Dominic Cummings. Do you believe he drove 30 miles to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight last March? Or do you believe he drove there to celebrate his wife’s birthday, which happened to fall on the same day?

Note the precision of this sentence of denial from Cummings: “I have not found the ones [the texts] that were leaked to Laura Kuenssberg on my phone nor am I aware of being sent them last year.” He has not “found” them? He wouldn’t find them if he has deleted them. Nor did Cummings need to be “sent” these messages for him to know what they said: he could have seen the messages via someone else. There is a more categorical way of writing this – “I have never seen these messages until they appeared online” – that Cummings has studiously avoided.

Cummings’s statement then turns to the claim that he was not the source for the lockdown leak in November. Instead he points to Henry Newman (recently appointed as a senior adviser to Boris Johnson, having been a key adviser to Michael Gove) and suggests that Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, also believes Newman was behind that leak. It is true that those I have spoken with in No 10 did not think Cummings was behind that specific story – but that is an exception to what has been an undoubted rule.

Cummings has leveraged the force of the press throughout his career, and nothing in his statement proves he did not do so in recent weeks, as No 10 claimed in three papers today. He does not address whether he was the source for the Daily Mail’s Simon Walters on the Mohammed bin Salmam story. Nor, in reality, does he disprove that he leaked to Kuenssberg at the BBC on the Dyson story.

Perhaps the least credible part of the statement is Cummings’s continued claim that he left No 10 voluntarily in November and had planned to do so since July. If so, Cummings is claiming that he decided to leave just weeks after the Prime Minister expended much political capital in sticking with him after news of his lockdown breach broke. (Those inside No 10 were incredulous at the idea Cummings planned to leave in November, as I have detailed before.)

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The final part of Cummings’s statement includes this seeming concession: “I am happy for No10 to publish every email I received and sent July 2019-November 2020”. He is, it is clear, referring to his “official” email, which he notes that he has long lost access to.

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The problem is that Cummings also used his personal email while in office. Is he offering to give any leak inquiry access to those emails too? His concession may be considerably less extensive than it appears if many of Cummings’s communications in government were conducted on his personal account. (Note that he also offers to hand over only “some” private text messages.) This statement is less exculpatory that it appears.