Dominic Cummings’ no-holds-barred attack on Boris Johnson shows the government is “fighting childish games” and squabbling “like rats in a sack”, Labour’s deputy leader has said.
The PM’s former chief adviser accused Mr Johnson of falling “far below the standards of competence and integrity” in an extraordinary blog post on Friday.
Mr Cummings denied leaking messages between the prime minister and Sir James Dyson in which Mr Johnson promised to “fix” a tax issue for some employees.
He then made a number of other explosive claims.
They included that the PM tried to get a Tory donor to secretly pay for Downing Street refurbishments, and that he suggested stopping an inquiry into another government leak as the suspect was “best friends” with his fiancee.
Mr Cummings also accused Mr Johnson of instructing Downing Street’s director of communications to make “false accusations to the media”.
Number 10 said the “government and ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law” and that the PM had “never interfered” in the leak inquiry.
Labour’s Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader and chair, said the claims showed the government was neglecting the British people and mired in “sleaze”.
“Who cares whether Johnson is lying or Cummings is lying?” she tweeted.
“After the Barnard eye test debacle who can trust a word that either of them say? What matters is that instead of governing in the interests of the people they are fighting childish games and running a government of sleaze.”
She said the affair showed “breath-taking contempt for the British people” and that the Tories were “fighting each other like rats in a sack”.
Following the allegations, former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a long-standing critic of the prime minister, said Mr Johnson must explain how the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat was paid for, describing him as a “vacuum of integrity”.
“My impression is there has been constant wriggling about the source of the money for this refurbishment,” he added.
Mr Cummings’ 1,000-word blog was in response to stories that he was behind this week’s leak of texts between the prime minister and Dyson’s billionaire boss.
The leak revealed Mr Johnson had promised to “fix” a tax issue for staff working to develop ventilators early on in the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Mr Cummings said: “I do have some WhatsApp messages between the PM/Dyson forwarded to me by the PM.
“I have not found the ones that were leaked to Laura Kuenssberg on my phone nor am I aware of being sent them last year. I was not directly or indirectly a/the source for the BBC/Kuenssberg story on the PM/Dyson texts.”
He said he was “happy to meet with the cabinet secretary” and to have his phone searched.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly defended his messages to Sir James at a time of national crisis and said “you’re out of your mind” if people think there is “something dodgy” about his texts.
Also in his blog, Mr Cummings wrote about the renovation of Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
He said the PM had “stopped speaking” to him about renovations last year.
“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,” said Mr Cummings.
The government said on Friday that the prime minister had met the costs of the refurbishment himself.
An email leaked this week suggested £58,000 of funding for a “Downing Street Trust” had come from a Conservative donor, Lord Brownlow, although no donation has been declared to the Electoral Commission.
Mr Cummings also claimed the PM considered shutting down an inquiry into who leaked news of England’s second lockdown last autumn as the purported suspect, Number 10 adviser Henry Newman, was a close friend of Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
He quoted the prime minister as telling him: “If Newman is confirmed as the leaker then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends… [pause] perhaps we could get the Cabinet Secretary to stop the leak inquiry?”
Sky News has contacted Henry Newman for comment.
Mr Cummings ended his attack on Mr Johnson by saying: “It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.”
The blog marks a remarkable falling out between Mr Cummings – who previously ran the Vote Leave Brexit campaign – and his former boss.
His 18-month tenure ended in December 2020 after he lost what was seen as a bitter internal power struggle with Carrie Symonds.