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Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# The Battle of Britain
Dominic Cummings hits back at Downing Street sources who blamed him for leaking Dyson texts
A series of allegations about Boris Johnson’s handling of leak inquiries, and the Covid-19 crisis, have been made by his former adviser.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 23rd 2021, 6:09 PM

BORIS JOHNSON’S FORMER aide Dominic Cummings has been blamed for the leaking of text messages between the Prime Minister and the businessman James Dyson.

But Cummings has released a blog-post statement this evening, strongly rebuking those accusations, and forcefully hitting back at Johnson and his No 10 team.

He said that though he has some WhatsApp messages between Dyson and the Prime Minister, they were not the ones reported by the BBC this week. He said that he is “not directly or indirectly a/the source for the BBC/Kuenssberg story on the PM/Dyson texts”.

An internal inquiry has been launched into how messages between the Johnson and the billionaire were leaked to journalists and reported in the media this week.

Who exactly blamed Cummings?

Reports indicate that Downing Street figures are pointing the finger at Cummings, who quit as Johnson’s senior adviser last year following a behind the scenes power struggle.

The Times, Daily Telegraph and Sun all reported comments from an insider naming Cummings.

“Dominic is engaged in systematic leaking,” a source told The Times. “We are disappointed about that. We are concerned about messages from private WhatsApp groups which have very limited circulation.”

The source suggested the Prime Minister was “saddened” and Cummings was “bitter” after his exit from Downing Street.

The leak of the texts to Dyson, in which Johnson promised the entrepreneur he would “fix” a tax issue for the businessman staff working to develop ventilators at the height of the coronavirus crisis last year, was not the first time the Prime Minister’s messages have been made public.

Johnson was sent a text message by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a bid to buy Newcastle United ran into difficulties last June.

A Downing Street source told The Sun that Johnson “fears Dom was responsible for the text message leaks about James Dyson and Mohammed bin Salman”.

The Telegraph said it is understood Cummings would have had legitimate access to the messages while he worked at Downing Street.

“If you join the dots it looks like it’s coming from Dom,” a source told the newspaper.

What has Dominic Cummings said to that?

Quite a lot.

He said that he was not the source of the leak, and though he has access to some WhatsApp messages, that these are not the same ones that were reported on by the BBC this week. 

He also said that some Downing Street officials had warned him that he was to be blamed, and that the more likely source of the leak was a correspondence between Dyson’s office and a number of officials – including Treasury civil servants. Text messages were apparently attached to this correspondence, Cummings says he was told – but he cannot check as he no longer has access to his work email.

He also said that with regards to another leak inquiry, Johnson asked whether Cabinet could stop such an inquiry.

In the strongest part of his statement, Cummings made a claim that Johnson’s idea to use a private donor to renovate his flat was “possibly illegal”:

The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended. I refused to help him organise these payments. 
My knowledge about them is therefore limited. I would be happy to tell the Cabinet Secretary or Electoral Commission what I know concerning this matter.

He also called for an “urgent parliamentary inquiry into the government’s conduct over the Covid crisis which ought to take evidence from all key players under oath and have access to documents”. He said that he would be happy to give evidence under oath in such an inquiry.

“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” he concluded.

Who is Dom again?

The former Vote Leave mastermind worked closely with Johnson on the Brexit campaign and was a major figure in Downing Street after the Prime Minister took office.

The Prime Minister stood by him after Cummings found himself in the eye of a media storm after driving his family to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

But Cummings was subsequently ousted from No 10 amid the fallout from an internal power struggle with the Prime Minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

Downing Street had initially said there would not be a probe into how the exchange with Dyson was made public, but a change of course was announced on Thursday as it said an internal inquiry will be led by the Cabinet Office.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “I can confirm that, yes, we have instructed the Cabinet Office to look into this.

“The position has changed from yesterday – it was correct at the time yesterday but, as usual, we keep things under review and we have now decided to undertake this internal inquiry.

“As you would expect, we continually look at this and the position we decided today is that we want to make sure we have this internal inquiry into that.”

The spokesman confirmed the inquiry will examine the source of leaks of Johnson’s private communication “as related to this issue of Dyson”.

‘I will fix it’

The BBC reported that the messages between Johnson and Dyson were exchanged in March last year after the businessman was unable to get the assurances he was seeking from the Treasury.

Dyson, who has changed his main address in business filings to the UK from Singapore, wrote to the Treasury requesting that his staff would not have to pay additional tax if they came to the UK to work on the ventilator project.

But when he failed to receive a reply, Dyson reportedly took up the matter directly with the Prime Minister.

He said in a text that the firm was ready but that “sadly” it seemed no-one wanted them to proceed, to which Mr Johnson replied: “I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic.”

The Prime Minister then texted him again saying: “(Chancellor) Rishi (Sunak) says it is fixed!! We need you here.”

Two weeks later, 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.

Downing Street has said it will publish correspondence between Johnson and Dyson “shortly”, after the Prime Minister told the Commons he was “happy to share all the details” of the exchanges.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said in the House he’s happy to share all the details with the House, as he shared them with his officials.

“That’s what we’re working on, we’re pulling together that information, it will be published shortly.”

With reporting from the Press Association.

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