London, Apr 24 (PTI) Dominic Cummings, once Boris Johnson’s top aide and closest ally as his Chief Strategy Adviser, has unleashed a fierce war of words against his former boss after Downing Street pointed to him as the leak behind a controversial text message exchange between the UK Prime Minister and vacuum cleaner entrepreneur James Dyson.
In a lengthy blog post published on Friday, Cummings vehemently denied leaking any text messages and goes on to reveal several of Johnson’s actions during his time as his aide as being “foolish and unethical” and ends by questioning his 'competence and integrity'.
Downing Street has responded to deny any impropriety and stressed the adherence to all “codes of conduct” and transparency norms.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” writes Cummings.
“I am happy to meet with the Cabinet Secretary (Simon Case) and for him to search my phone for Dyson messages. If the PM did send them to me, as he is claiming, then he will be able to show the Cabinet Secretary on his own phone when they were sent to me,” he writes, in reference to the scandal which the Opposition Labour Party has branded as “sleaze” after it emerged that Johnson had made tax-related assurances to the entrepreneur at the peak of the pandemic in March 2020.
The war of words follows a very high-profile row between Johnson and Cummings in November last year, which ended in him being pictured walking out of 10 Downing Street with a box in hand, symbolic of an unceremonious exit from a job.
It had been reported at the time that the final showdown came after Cummings was accused of briefing against the Prime Minister and his fiancée Carrie Symonds – a former Conservative Party communications chief.
Now, the former aide used his blog post to deny those accusations and went on to reveal unsavoury details about the couple’s planned renovations of their Downing Street flat.
He writes: “The Prime Minister’s DOC (Director of Communications) has also made accusations regarding me and leaks concerning the PM’s renovation of his flat. The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as 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.
“I refused to help him organise these payments.” The UK’s Electoral Commission says it is working to establish whether any of the spending on the flat needs to be examined within its own remit on political donations.
In its response to the allegations, Downing Street said: 'At all times, the government and ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law. Cabinet Office officials have been engaged and informed throughout and official advice has been followed.
'All reportable donations are transparently declared and published - either by the Electoral Commission or the House of Commons registrar, in line with the requirements set out in electoral law. Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in transparency returns.' Like Prime Ministers over the years, Johnson occupies the flat above No. 11 Downing Street and each new incumbent is allocated a budget to refurbish the place to their taste.
Johnson and his fiancée are said to have decided to opt for a grander makeover, which was allegedly sought to be funded through Conservative Party donations.
In a statement released to Parliament this week, the Cabinet Office said that the UK Prime Minister had “personally met” all the costs of the redecoration, estimated at around 60,000 pounds (USD 83,240).
The Opposition, however, is ramping up pressure on the government, and Labour Leader Keir Starmer has called for a full inquiry into the flat refurbishment allegations.
'Publish the details, have the full inquiry. If there's nothing to see here... have a full inquiry,' said Starmer.
Further revelations are expected in the former aide versus Downing Street clash as Cummings committed himself to answering questions about 'any' issues when he appears before a pre-scheduled parliamentary inquiry into the government's pandemic response on May 26. PTI AK CPS