Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave takeover of Downing St and the government’ has started

Boris Johnson and Vote Leave logo
Fréa Lockley

Boris Johnson is now leader of the Conservative Party and on 24 July officially became the UK’s new prime minister. Before confirming his cabinet appointments, Johnson’s gave key roles to many high profile names from the Brexit Vote Leave campaign.

In 2018, the Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 and reported it to the police for criminal investigation.

“Takeover”

ITV‘s Robert Peston called Johnson’s appointments “a Vote Leave takeover of Downing St and the government”:

Johnson appointed Dominic Cummings, former head of Vote Leave, as a senior adviser. In March, Cummings refused to appear before the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee. It was investigating fake news stories during the Brexit campaign. He was found in contempt of parliament.

As Peston also explained:

As proof that Johnson is placing serious trust in Cummings is that so many of Cummings’s Vote Leave team are moving in to Downing Street – Lee Cain as director of communications, Rob Oxley as press secretary and Oliver Lewis as a Brexit policy adviser.

Even the BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg acknowledged this “highly controversial” appointment:

As openDemocracy reported, former Brexit minister Steve Baker said of Cummings:

[He] is like political special forces. If you don’t care about what collateral damage you sustain, he’s your weapon of choice.

The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr – who led key investigations into Vote Leave – also expressed ‘despair’:

Cummings and goings

In 2016, Vote Leave deleted its website containing “all its election promises”. Shortly afterwards, Cummings also deleted his Twitter account. So Jon Worth, a political blogger and journalist, tracked them all down.

It’s revealing. For example, Cummings had “some choice words about David Davis” the former Brexit secretary:

He also showed an incredible disregard for democracy. In 2018, the High Court dismissed a challenge “to annul” the EU referendum result because of “‘corrupt and illegal practices’ by Vote Leave campaign”. Cummings said:

In 2014, an article on Conservative Home warned that “you underestimate [Cummings] at your peril”. It also called him “ruthless” and continued:

Cummings is more dangerous than that. He is an idealist… He takes a dim view of how decisions are taken in government, and believes this can be improved.

At the time, Cummings worked with Michael Gove at the Department for Education. Whilst there, he “helped to drive” the highly controversial “reform of exams and the curriculum; the free schools programme; and the expansion of academies”.

“Campaign team”

News about the new prime minister’s chief adviser prompted a strong reaction:

As the Guardian noted:

Gove and Johnson played key roles in Vote Leave, Gove as co-convener and Johnson as a figurehead for the official Brexit campaign. A series of other senior government or Tory figures also sat on its committee, including Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the former international development secretary Priti Patel.

And the Vote Leave ‘takeover’ also looks certain in both Johnson’s key staff and cabinet appointments:

Others, meanwhile, noted that these appointments may also signal an early general election:

Our worst fears about Johnson’s premiership are coming true. There now seems little chance that our country will be governed fairly, with accountability or much honesty. So standing strong and fighting back with truth is all we can do now.

Featured images via Flickr – BackBoris2012 Campaign / Facebook – Vote Leave

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