Dominic Cummings steps up plan to replace Tories with new party

LONDON — One of Westminster’s most controversial figures is making fresh efforts to re-insert himself at the center of British politics.

Former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings has been organizing a series of focus groups to get the public’s views about a potential new anti-establishment party.

It marks a ramping up of the top Brexit campaigner’s plotting for what he’s called a “credibly anti-insider” party to “replace the Tories.”

The focus groups are up and running across the U.K., people familiar with the process told POLITICO, as he looks at creating a new right-wing party should the Conservatives go down in flames at the general election.

Cummings — architect of the Vote Leave Brexit campaign who went on to advise Johnson before a spectacular falling out — has often spoken about creating a new populist party since being ousted from No. 10 Downing Street in 2020.

He wrote in his Substack email last August that he wants a new party focused on issues including cutting immigration, closing tax loopholes for “the 1 percent,” investing in public services and dramatically reforming the civil service.

It has the placeholder name of The Startup Party (TSP) and Cummings wants it to be filled with entrepreneurs, NHS workers and military veterans.

He wrote that he needed to have a plan “immediately after the exit polls are live on election night 2024” to “divert energy and money away from ‘how to revive the Tories’ to ‘how to replace the Tories’.” Current polling suggests the Conservatives are on course for a hefty defeat on election night.

Controversy and loyalty

Cummings became a household name with the wider public in 2020 after breaking Britain’s Covid rules during the first lockdown.

The political strategist held onto his job, despite immense pressure, after he fronted a press conference in the Downing Street garden to defend his actions — an unprecedented step for an unelected adviser.

But he was eventually sacked just five months later and soon began a public vendetta against Johnson, which included a series of damning revelations about how the pandemic was handled.

He was once described by Foreign Secretary David Cameron as “a career psychopath” and was known to sign into Whitehall departments using the name “Osama bin Laden” while an adviser in the Department for Education.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron once described Cummings as “a career psychopath.” | Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

However, he has also inspired deep loyalty from his close circle of allies, who say he is a brilliant political strategist.

One senior Tory Brexiteer MP, granted anonymity to speak freely, predicted Cummings’ divisive reputation meant a party would never get off the ground.

“A political party actually needs to be collegiate,” they said. “Who would want to stand for election for his party? Almost everyone who has ever worked with Dominic Cummings has come away saying awful things about him.”

Cummings had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.