Weirdo! Thatcher’s bulldog takes a bite out of Boris’s adviser Dominic Cummings

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Mr Cummings, at the centre of a political storm earlier this year over his controversial 250-mile trip to Durham in the north-east at the height of the lockdown, has rarely been far from the headlines after he was appointed to Downing Street within days of Mr Johnson becoming Prime Minister. However, Mr Ingham, 88, who himself became a familiar figure during the 11 years he spent at Mrs Thatcher’s side, from 1979 to 1990, made his disdain clear during his regular column in the Yorkshire Post as he explained in no uncertain terms why he had no desire to return to Downing Street as Mr Johnson’s official spokesman – and warned of the folly of them holding Presidential-style briefings.

Describing the role as a “constitutional outrage”, Mr Ingham listed the reasons why it should not exist, declaring: “The Government is not short of official spokesmen.

“What it lacks is a coherent approach to as tough a set of problems as any faced by a British government since the Second World War.”

He adddd: “First, I think the system has been weakened by the departure of some of the brightest who saw richer pickings elsewhere because of the curb on public expenditure – and pay – following Gordon Brown’s £153bn deficit 10 years ago.

At its heart is the malevolent presence of Dominic Cummings, the PM’s principal adviser, who thinks the Civil Service is pretty useless and the machine would be in the better hands of weirdos like himself

Bernard Ingham

“Second, it is demoralised by the removal of a number of heads of government departments – whether or not up to it or insufficiently eurosceptic.”

Turning his attention to the man who famously dreamed up Vote Leave’s slogan, Take Back Control, he said: “Third, at its heart is the malevolent presence of Dominic Cummings, the PM’s principal adviser, who thinks the Civil Service is pretty useless and the machine would be in the better hands of weirdos like himself.

“Fourth, nobody in their right mind should take the job without a clear understanding of their unlimited access to and close relationship with the PM.”

Returning to the subject of the Oxford-educated political strategist, he said: “As I know only too well, you cannot properly represent the boss through somebody else’s filter, whether in the shape of Cummings or arrogant administrators who think their job is to protect you from too much knowledge.

“Fifth, attitudes are all wrong. It is not hindsight to say that a certain humility was required at the outset of a pandemic caused by a new virus with still no antidote.

“Yet, while the uncertainties have been implicit in the ‘following the science’ mantra, Ministers have tended to convey a certain command instead of admitting they are learning as they go along.”

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Mr Ingham also suggested only common sense would get Britain through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “in a reasonable state”.

He explained: “The crucial message now should be: take care, get back to work, rescue the economy and save jobs. But would our new televised spokesman be allowed to say it?

“Coronavirus, however, is only one subject the proposed new TV figure would have to cope with.

“The media have an unquenchable thirst for stories and, as I know only too well, you may have to cope with anything from the significance of Mrs Thatcher wearing black – a media alert that someone is in for a hand-bagging – to the intricacies of East West relations.

Mr Ingham asked: “How is a political spokesman (or no doubt preferably a pretty woman) to be armed not merely with knowledge of issues likely to be raised but, just as important, the background to them?

“Don’t forget Brexit is still unresolved, Europe and the USA are in a mess. China and Putin’s Russia are a serious threat to the world’s well-being.

“And what about all those economic, social and infrastructural problems lying around?

“My advice is that Government spokesmen, however fast on their feet, should not regularly reveal their inevitable ignorance to the nation.

“It is bad enough Ministers being occasionally all over the show.”

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