What is the background between Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson?

Dominic Cummings lashed out against Downing Street with a series of allegations, ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

Dominic Cummings has thrown Downing Street into turmoil after accusing Boris Johnson of telling aides to make a series of false accusations about him in the media.

What is the latest row about?

Dominic Cummings was accused by Downing Street sources of leaking private text messages between the prime minister and businessman Sir James Dyson to the media, regarding the procurement of ventilators at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an explosive blog post published on Friday, Mr Cummings accused the PM of being responsible for the allegations about him in the media.

Texts showed the prime minister telling Sir James he would "fix" an issue on the tax status of Dyson staff working in the UK.

At the start of the pandemic, the government asked several companies, including Dyson, to make ventilators.

Why did Dominic Cummings speak out? ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains

Sir James sought assurances from the Treasury that his workforce would not face additional taxes.

Sir James contacted the prime minister directly after not getting a response from the Treasury.

In the messages seen by the BBC, Mr Johnson told Sir James: "[Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] says it is fixed!! We need you here."

In a later message, Mr Johnson said: "I am First Lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need."

In an explosive blog post today, Mr Cummings also defended himself on accusations he leaked reports of the November lockdown, and made allegations regarding the financing of refurbishment of a Downing Street flat.

Why was Mr Cummings so important to Mr Johnson?

Mr Cummings was credited as the “maverick genius” behind the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum which Mr Johnson fronted.

When Mr Johnson became prime minister in 2019, he controversially brought Mr Cummings into Downing Street as his top adviser.

In No 10, he was seen as the architect of the strategy which broke the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit and resulted in a crushing general election victory for the Tories.

Dominic Cummings was seen as the architect of the Vote Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Why was he such a controversial figure?

From the start, Mr Cummings made clear his impatience with the traditional ways of Whitehall, promising to bring down a “hard rain” on the Civil Service.

One aide suspected of leaking was marched out of Downing Street by armed police on his orders while he appealed for “weirdos and misfits” to shake up No 10.

However it was his infamous trip to Barnard Castle in County Durham, in an apparent breach of lockdown regulations, which sealed his notoriety with the wider public.

Dominic Cummings takes a press conference in the No 10 rose garden following his trip to Barnard Castle Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Why did he fall out with Mr Johnson?

There were reported strains last autumn with Mr Cummings said to be frustrated with Mr Johnson’s delay in ordering a second lockdown in England.

Matters came to a head when the prime minister chose former ITV News home editor Allegra Stratton to take planned new televised daily press briefings (although it was revealed this week that these had been scrapped).

The appointment led to the resignation of No 10 communications director Lee Cain – a close ally of Mr Cummings from their Vote Leave days.

Mr Cummings himself then dramatically departed after losing out in what was seen as a bitter internal power struggle with Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

Dominic Cummings left Downing Street in November 2020 following a bitter power struggle Credit: Yui Mok/PA

What happens now?

Mr Cummings is due to give evidence to MPs investigating the government’s response to the pandemic on May 26.

He has already blasted the performance of the Department of Health and Social Care – saying it had been reduced to a “smoking ruin” – and there is likely to be plenty more in that vein when he returns to Westminster.