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Dominic Cummings was criticised for refusing to take part in a parliamentary inquiry into fake news
Boris Johnson is the UK's new prime minister and is assembling his cabinet. But apart from the high-profile ministers, he will also rely on a number of key advisers behind the scenes.
Dominic Cummings
Outside the cabinet, the most eye-catching appointment of the day so far is that of Dominic Cummings as senior adviser to the new prime minister. Cummings, who has a reputation for being extremely quick-witted but also brash and outspoken, was previously an adviser to Michael Gove at the education ministry and thereafter campaign director for Vote Leave during the EU referendum. The Oxford-educated 47-year old is credited with devising the Leave side's winning strategy, including coming up with its hugely resonant "take back control" slogan. He was the main character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in James Graham's TV dramatisation of the campaign earlier this year.Prior to that, he worked for Business for Sterling, a campaign group formed in the late 1990s to oppose membership of the euro. He was also a key figure in the successful campaign against a regional assembly in the north-east of England.
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Mr Cummings, who is married to the Spectator writer Mary Wakefield, comes with political baggage. Vote Leave was found to have broken electoral law over spending limits by the Electoral Commission, and Mr Cummings was held in contempt of Parliament for failing to respond to a summons to appear before, and give evidence to, the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. On the few occasions that he has been scrutinised by MPs, there have often been rhetorical fireworks and bad blood on both sides.
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At the Department for Education, he railed against the "blob" - the informal alliance of senior civil servants and teachers' unions that sought, in his opinion, to frustrate his attempts at reform. He left of his own accord to set up a free school, having rubbed up a number of people in the ministry and in the Conservative Party the wrong way.He once described Brexit Secretary David Davis as "thick as mince" and as "lazy as a toad" and so irritated David Cameron, that the ex-prime minister once famously described him as a "career psychopath".No doubt Mr Cummings will bring the same disrespect for authority and intellectual zeal to his new role inside No 10 and will concentrate on resolving Brexit and other issues.
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His appointment has been welcomed by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has said Mr Johnson needs people around him "dedicated to getting this thing over the line". But his arrival in Downing Street will give cause for concern to civil servants, as well as many Brexiteers and Remain-supporting Tories alike. A prolific blogger, Mr Cummings has criticised the failure of MPs to devise a plan for Brexit and believes the government should have waited longer to trigger Article 50.
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While associated in the public mind with senior Tory Brexiteers, Mr Cummings regards himself as being above the fray of day-to-day politics and has been particularly dismissive of the European Research Group of Tory MPs. He insists he has never been a member of a political party.The BBC's political correspondent Alex Forsyth said while he was not regarded by some as a team player or, indeed, being particularly likeable, Mr Cummings was able to marshal a team and take it with him through sheer force of personality and intellectual brilliance.Utterly convinced of his own rightness, she said he was scathing of the social and economic status quo in the UK and what he saw as the malaise and dysfunction of government and of the civil service.She said he had "latched on" to Brexit as the way of upending traditional political and economic structures, which he believed had contributed to so many people being "left behind".
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Dominic Cummings
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