BORIS Johnson’s most senior adviser Dominic Cummings is to leave his Downing Street position by Christmas.
He is quitting after his closest ally was ousted in a power struggle with Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds with the PM wanting to use his Svengali’s exit as a chance to ‘reset his premiership’.
The chief aide had been on the brink of resigning since the departure of No 10 communications director Lee Cain on Wednesday.
Last night he was understood to have handed the Prime Minister his resignation and will leave his role before the New Year.
Tories backbenchers turned against the top aide blaming him for the Conservative Government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic which has left the UK having the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe.
Health experts also blamed Johnson’s failure to sack Cummings over the aide’s lockdown breaches to Durham in April as weakening compliance in the rules among the wider population.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that Cummings “will be missed” when he leaves No 10 but “advisers do come and go”.
Asked why Johnson’s chief adviser will be departing, Shapps told Sky News this morning: “As he wrote right at the beginning of the year in his own words, he planned to make himself largely redundant this year with the big thing that he worked on, of course, which was Brexit, coming to an end at the end of the transition period, which is December 31.
“Of course, the other big thing is helping to ensure we have the roll-out mass testing to defeat this virus. Both these things are on the near-term horizon now.
“He will be missed but then again we’re moving into a different phase and Brexit will be, we’ve already left Europe, but the transition period will be over and things move on and advisers do come and go.”
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy tweeted: “Like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Dominic Cummings has been one of the most malign influences on the British government in modern history.
“His legacy is one of bullying, deception, hypocrisy and hubris. The super-forecaster who ignored the pandemic. His damage is irreparable.”
Government sources revealed Cummings announced his intention to step down in a crisis meeting with Johnson yesterday afternoon.
It comes just a day after a bitter power struggle in Number 10 led to the resignation of Cain.
He had been offered the post of chief of staff but a backlash among Tories and Mr Johnson’s inner circle ultimately led him on Wednesday to announce his departure from Number 10 rather than a promotion.
Cummings and Cain are close political allies, having worked together since the Brexit campaign. Cummings was said to be unhappy with the way his friend had been treated.
The Telegraph reported an “associate” of Cain as saying the communication chief’s departure was the “beginning of the end for Dom”.
“Lee is the person who has been covering Dom’s flank 24 hours a day and he will soon be gone,” the source told the paper.
Conservative MPs have urged Johnson to use events to reshape the team inside Downing Street and reconnect with the parliamentary party, some of whom feel he has been “lost” to advisers over the past year.
Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee, told BBC Two’s Newsnight last night: “If Boris, the Prime Minister, gets the chief of staff position right – he gets the right person in that position – he will plant his standard firmly back in the middle of the Conservative parliamentary party.
“We feel we’ve lost him for the last year. We want him back – he belongs to us, he doesn’t belong to the advisers, he belongs to the parliamentary party that elected him and he got elected at the last general election.”
The infighting spilling into the open sparked criticism from Tory MPs.
Conservative backbencher Sir Roger Gale told the PA news agency: “The Government, and Downing Street particularly, should be concentrating all of its efforts on the pandemic and on the end game of Brexit, and frankly this is a distraction that cannot and should not be allowed to take place and the Prime Minister has got to get a grip on it.”
And senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told Sky News: “Let’s move a little bit away from Eastenders and more to the West Wing.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman James Slack, who confirmed he would be replacing Cain when he departs in the new year, insisted that Johnson was not being distracted from the national crisis by the bitter row.
“You’ve seen from the Prime Minister this week that he’s absolutely focused on taking all the steps that are required to equip the country to beat coronavirus,” the spokesman said on Thursday.
Slack, a former journalist who also served as Theresa May’s official spokesman when she led the country, said he would remain a civil servant when he succeeds Cain.
Symonds is a former Tory press chief who has served as a special adviser in previous governments.
Allegra Stratton, the former broadcaster brought in to host televised No 10 news conferences from next year, was also said to have objected to the appointment.