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A scandal in British politics: Cummings vs Johnson

A political scandal is breaking out in Britain: former senior adviser to Prime Minister Dominic Cummings, who was called the “architect of Brexit” and the gray cardinal of the government by the press, is now sharply criticizing Boris Johnson.

Cummings spoke out against the former boss on Friday night. In his blog, he questioned the competence of the government, negatively assessed the actions in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that the prime minister offered unethical or even illegal, in his opinion, schemes to finance the renovation of his apartment.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister denied the accusations and said that the government complies with all ethical standards and laws, and Johnson paid for the repairs himself.

Cummings is considered a key political strategist in the campaign for Britain's exit from the European Union, and he was credited with significant influence on the Prime Minister until resigning as a senior adviser in November 2020.

“Cummings has declared war on the prime minister” — with such a headline emphasizing the surprise attack from Johnson's once closest ally, several British newspapers appeared on Saturday.

What did Cummings write?

On Thursday, reporters linked Cummings, who left his government post in November 2020, to recent leaks of Johnson's correspondence to the press.

Cummings responded in a blog post and not only sharply denied the allegations, but also called them the author of the Prime Minister's press secretary, who is allegedly Johnson himself.

In the same post, the “architect of Brexit” launched a counterattack. He accused Johnson of interfering in internal audits and wanting to save his other adviser, Henry Newman, from being fired for leaks because he was the Prime Minister's fiancee's best friend.

Cummings also said that he strongly opposed Johnson's plans to renovate his apartment.

“<...>I told him that I thought his plans to secretly pay for repairs at the expense of [political] donors were unethical, stupid, potentially illegal, and almost certainly in violation of the rules for disclosing information about political donations, “ Cummings writes.

He adds that he refused to help with the organization of payments for this purpose.

We are talking about a four-bedroom apartment at 11 Downing Street, above the official residence of the Minister of Finance.

It is significantly larger than the apartment above the Prime Minister's residence next door, and Johnson and his fiancee chose to live in it, as did a number of their predecessors.

According to sources of the BBC, by the spring, the repairs were almost finished, but not paid for, as the costs exceeded the 30 thousand pounds a year allocated to the prime minister (3.1 million rubles) for the furnishing of office housing.

Several British media outlets reported in March that Johnson was considering setting up a charitable foundation to attract private donations — in imitation of the model used by US presidents to renovate the White House.

However, on Friday, the government said that Johnson personally covered the cost of repairs.

How did it all start?

This scandal has its roots in another: earlier this week, the BBC published excerpts from Boris Johnson's correspondence with billionaire Sir James Dyson, known among other things for actively supporting Brexit.

In the messages, Johnson promises Dyson to resolve tax issues related to the operation of his company from Britain instead of the headquarters in Singapore.

The reports date back to March of last year, when the government was doing everything possible to get the necessary number of ventilators for patients with complications from Covid-19, and invited Dyson's company to participate in the development.

The opposition called the report's evidence of nepotism and privilege for conservative businessmen. But Johnson says it's crazy to see something objectionable here. The government insists that they acted in the conditions of the pandemic and in the interests of the country.

The office began checking to identify the person responsible for the leak. But this week, front-page headlines in several British newspapers directly linked her to Cummings — and that's exactly what the former adviser to the prime minister responded to in a blog post.

“I was not the direct or indirect source of the BBC/Kunsberg note on the Prime Minister's communications/Dyson, “ Cummings wrote, referring to the BBC's political editor Laura Koonsberg, who was the first to quote the correspondence between Johnson and Dyson.

What to expect next?

Cummings promises to answer all questions on May 26 — on this date, he is scheduled to address a parliamentary committee examining the government's actions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

He also writes that he is ready to publish all the emails he received from July 2019 to November 2020 - that is, while working as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister.

"The right way to deal with such matters is to have an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the government's handling of the Covid crisis, which must collect the affidavits of all key players under oath and access the documents," Cummings writes.

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