LONDON — Dominic Cummings — adviser-turned-nemesis of Boris Johnson — claimed Saturday he held talks with Rishi Sunak about a “secret deal” to help the prime minister win the next election.
The bombshell revelation is likely to anger Tory MPs who see the mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit as a divisive figure, who ferociously turned on Johnson after leaving Downing Street.
In a post on his Substack blog, Cummings said he had two conversations with Sunak — the first in 2022 just after Sunak became prime minister, and then again this past July.
“He wanted a secret deal in which I delivered the election and he promised to take government seriously after the election,” Cummings told the Sunday Times of the meetings.
Downing Street did not deny that Sunak met with Cummings, but stressed that no offer was made. “It was a broad discussion about politics and campaigning; no job was offered,” a Downing Street official said.
Cummings said the price of his support in building “a political machine to smash Labour and win the election” would have been prioritization of “the scandal of nuclear weapons infrastructure, natural and engineered pandemics, the scandal of MoD procurement, AI and other technological capabilities, and the broken core government institutions which we started fixing in 2020 but Boris abandoned,” according to the Times.
But, Cummings said in his blog post, Sunak had “decided against the deal I proposed” and instead wanted Johnson’s former adviser to “work secretly on politics and communication in return for a promise that I could come to No. 10 and sort out my priorities after the election.” Cummings said he declined that suggestion.
Cummings, who became Johnson’s top aide in 2019 when Johnson become prime minister, was at his side during his surprise 2019 general election victory, which saw the Conservatives’ win their biggest majority since the 1980s on the back of a promise to “Get Brexit Done.”
In November, Johnson accused Sunak of being a “stooge” installed at the behest of Cummings during an interview with Nadine Dorries, a staunch ally who had just published a book on what she calls the “political assassination” of the ex-prime minister.
Sunak’s political opponents have already criticized the prime minister for holding talks with Cummings.
“Out of touch Rishi Sunak is asking the wrong question if he thinks the lockdown rule-breaking architect of Boris Johnson’s failed premiership is the answer,” said Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Paymaster General, referencing the controversy around Cummings’ 260-mile round trip to Durham during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.