Boris Johnson comments on Cummings leak rumour
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Downing Street sources blamed the former adviser for the exchanges between the Prime Minister and businessman Sir James Dyson ending up in the media. But Mr Cummings insisted he was not responsible and turned his fire on Mr Johnson. In a statement running to more than 1,000 words, the political strategist said he was “not directly or indirectly a/the source for the BBC/Kuenssberg story on the PM/Dyson texts.”
The Prime Minister brushed off the attack by insisting the public “aren’t so much interested in who’s briefing what to whom” but rather the substance of the issue.
The messages revealed he promised Sir James he would “fix” a tax issue for Dyson staff working to develop ventilators early in the pandemic.
Mr Johnson said: “It was right to talk to him, it was right to talk to any British manufacturer as I did.” The PM previously stood by Mr Cummings when his old adviser was in the eye of a media storm after driving his family to County Durham during last year’s first lockdown.
But the former Vote Leave strategist was later forced out of Downing Street in a power struggle with Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.
In his blogpost, Mr Cummings also denied being the “chatty rat” who caused chaos by leaking details of the second lockdown.
He claimed the PM was told all the evidence pointed to Henry Newman, who was a special adviser to Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove, and “others in that office”.
But Mr Johnson wanted to drop an investigation to get to the truth because the aide
was “best friends” with Ms Symonds and it would cause him “serious problems” if he had to sack him.
Mr Cummings wrote: “I told him this was ‘mad’ and totally unethical, that he had ordered the inquiry himself and authorised the Cabinet Secretary to use more invasive methods than are usually applied to leak inquiries because of the seriousness.
“I told him he could not possibly cancel an inquiry about a leak that affected millions, just because it might implicate his girlfriend’s friends.”
But a No 10 spokesman insisted yesterday: “The PM has never interfered in a Government leak inquiry.”
Mr Cummings called for an urgent investigation into the Government’s conduct during the pandemic He added: “It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.”
As the PM’s most senior aide, Mr Cummings had access to sensitive political and personal information. He confirmed he will appear before MPs next month, saying: “I will not engage in media briefing but will answer questions to Parliament on May 26.”
The spat between Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson erupted after the messages with Sir James were used by Labour to attack the PM, accusing the Government of “sleaze”.Sir James requested that his overseas staff would not have to pay additional tax if they came to the UK to work on the ventilator project after initially not receiving a reply from the Treasury.
The entrepreneur said the firm was ready but that “sadly” no one wanted them to proceed, to which Mr Johnson replied: “I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic.”
Two weeks later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee that the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.
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