6 Key Takeaways From Dominic Cummings’ BBC Interview

The former chief advisor was asked about Brexit, the government’s COVID-19 response, and his trip to Barnard Castle.

by Alice Broster
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Dominic Cummings leaves his home on March 17, 2021 in London, England. F...
Hollie Adams/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On July 20 former chief advisor to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings sat down with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg for a one-hour interview to discuss his time in Downing Street, including his involvement in Brexit and what he witnessed of the government’s COVID-19 response. It’s the first major interview Cummings has given since he left his position in November last year following “internal battles” over his position.

Cummings has been a fundamental player in British politics since the EU referendum. For a long time, he was seen as Boris Johnson’s right-hand man. Last night, however, the former aide made several statements about the PM and operations within No 10 that shocked both Kuenssberg and viewers. Here are six of the most crucial.

Boris Johnson Allegedly Said “I No Longer Buy All This NHS Overwhelmed Stuff”

Cummings told the BBC that Johnson changed his mind several times on whether a second lockdown was the right idea. The former aide shared WhatsApp messages with the BBC allegedly sent by Johnson 2020. Referring to the age at which people were dying of COVID-19, the Prime Minister allegedly wrote “That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks, I think we may need to recalibrate.”

Last night, Cummings told Kuenssberg: “[Johnson’s] attitude [in the autumn of 2020] was a weird mix of partly ‘it’s all nonsense and lockdowns don’t work anyway’ and partly ‘well this is terrible but the people who are dying are essentially all over 80 and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80.’”

In 2019, He Wanted To Oust The Prime Minister

Before leaving his job in Downing Street, Cummings was seen as a key ally for the Prime Minister. However, that may not always have been the case.

Last night, Cummings said that, within days of the Conservatives winning the 2019 general election, he was talking people within Downing Street about getting rid of Johnson.

“We were already saying, ‘By the summer either we'll all have gone from here, or we'll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister. He doesn't have a plan, he doesn't know how to be prime minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem not because he was the right person to be running the country.”

He Hasn’t Spoken To The PM Since Leaving Downing Street

Cummings said that Johnson had tried to contact him after he left his job last year but he didn’t pick up the call. He added that it doesn’t “bother [him] one way or the other” if he and his former boss ever speak again.

Carrie Johnson Allegedly Played A Key Role In Appointments At No 10

Throughout the interview, Cummings made references to the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson, claiming that she had significant influence over her husband and the appointments he made within his team.

“The situation we found ourselves in was that, within days [of the 2019 general election, we] were in a situation where the Prime Minister's girlfriend is trying to get rid of us and appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs,” he said.

The Truth About Barnard Castle

Cummings hit headlines in May 2020 after it was revealed that he drove his family to County Durham despite the strict lockdown rules. He addressed the trip in a press conference at Downing Street soon after, saying that he and his family “ended up” on the outskirts of Barnard Castle after a journey to test his eyesight.

However, last night he admitted to the BBC that he hadn’t told the full truth about the journey to Durham. Cummings said that he was experiencing security issues at his family and home and that, after discussions with the Prime Minister, it was decided and and his family would go and stay with his parents on their farm in Durham. When everything came out in the press, Cummings said that the original plan was that the government would avoid discussing what happened until the outrage had passed. However, Johnson later changed his mind.

When asked why he didn’t tell the truth at the time Cummings said, “I said I wasn’t going to go into the security stuff and the whole thing became a huge mess ... There’s absolutely no doubt that the way we handled the whole thing was wrong on the Monday. What I should have done is either just resigned and said nothing or spoken to my family and said ‘We just have to come clean about the whole thing.’”

He Has No Definitive Answers On Brexit

As a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, Cummings was asked whether he thought the country’s decision to split from the EU was a good idea. “I think anyone who says they’re sure about questions like that has got a screw loose, whether you’re on the Remain side or our side,” he said. “Questions like ‘Is Brexit a good idea?’ No one on Earth knows what the answer to that is.”

However, he want on to add: “Obviously, I think Brexit was a good thing."