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  1. ITV Report

Ken Clarke says Dominic Cummings should 'vanish' as he attacks way Prime Minister Boris Johnson runs government

Ken Clarke appeared on the Acting Prime Minister podcast, which will be available to listen to from Wednesday morning. Credit: ITV News

Former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke has attacked the way Boris Johnson runs his government and said top adviser Dominic Cummings can only continue in his role if he "vanishes".

The former father of the House criticised Mr Cummings for frequently being in the news and claimed he can only last in Number 10 if the "personal appearances stop and he vanishes and he goes back to being the back room apparatchik".

In a candid interview for the Acting Prime Minister podcast - which will air in full on Wednesday - Mr Clarke laid into the Prime Minister for allowing policy updates to be made via leaks to newspapers by Mr Cummings.

"You can’t go on like this, you can’t govern a country and explain what you’re doing for the public by the medium of leaks from an exotic aide in Number 10," he said.

He told podcast host Paul Brand it is not Mr Cummings' job to brief newspapers and claimed what he tells them is "absolute nonsense".

He went on: "It will after time become ridiculous and actually it will go wrong there are plenty of bad news gaffs that keep occurring now."

When asked if Mr Cummings holds too much of a strong position, Mr Clarke said: "I don't know what power he has but he shouldn't have the power of the Prime Minister, he just has the ear of the Prime Minister".

Ken Clarke laid into the way Boris Johnson runs his government. Credit: ITV News

Mr Clarke, who served on the frontbench for three different prime ministers, said all leaders need a chief adviser but they "don’t normally dress exotically and pose for the photographers before giving quite blatantly briefings all over the place about what their views are on everything".

He says he doesn't know "whether [Mr Cummings] loves the vast amount of publicity he’s getting" but said in his experience it had "always been regarded as an absolute disaster if the chief adviser became the story in the newspapers".

Mr Clarke, who resigned as an MP ahead of the December general election after 49 years of service, also commented on the recent appointment and subsequent resignation of another aide, Andrew Sabisky.

He said: "I don’t think this needs this vast number of apparatchiks.

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"All this started with Tony Blair who started bringing these types of people in."

The Tory grandee said the media has made a caricature of Mr Cummings' personality, but Mr Clarke, having never met the PM's adviser, said he has "no idea whether he’s the rather bizarre crackpot figure which the newspapers like to make him out to be".

Mr Clarke said he does not think Mr Cummings has too much influence over the prime minister.

He said Mr Johnson, the man who expelled him from the Tory Party over Brexit, would not become “the creature of some Svengali, Machiavelli figure who’s some puppet master who’s running him”.

“Boris may not be interested in the detail of policy but he’s not an idiot, he’s a very bright man," he said.

You can listen to the full interview Wednesday morning on the Acting Prime Minister podcast: