Rishi Sunak caught in Dominic Cummings ‘toxic smears’ storm: Ex-Chancellor is forced to deny links

Rishi Sunak was forced to deny links to ‘toxic’ former No10 adviser Dominic Cummings last night.

Mr Cummings has posted ‘poisonous’ claims online about Mr Sunak’s rivals for the Tory leadership, but the former Chancellor’s team insisted he had not spoken to the controversial adviser since he left No 10 in late 2020.

A rival Tory leadership campaign source said Mr Sunak should ‘come clean’ about whether his team had any links to Mr Cummings – or if they had been in contact with him.

Nadine Dorries, a close ally of ousted Boris Johnson, claimed the maverick aide had been working with Mr Sunak for ‘quite a long time’ – and was hoping to return to Downing Street. She told the Daily Mail: ‘People have to ask themselves the question: why is Cummings backing Rishi? 

‘The answer to that question is because Cummings believes he can control Rishi and sees a role for himself back in government, and that is quite terrifying.’

A senior Tory source said: ‘Dominic Cummings has done enough damage to British and public life and the last thing the party needs is his advice at this stage, with his brand of toxic, confrontational and destructive politics.’

Mr Cummings has issued a string of attacks on Tory leadership contenders via social media in recent days, particularly Liz Truss – widely seen as Mr Sunak’s main rival for the Tory crown. He suggested the Foreign Secretary was unfit to lead the country.

As the leadership contest reached fever-pitch:

  • Miss Truss launched her campaign last night with a pitch to unify the Red and Blue Walls and return to ‘proper Conservative policy’ with tax cuts and business rates reforms;
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to decide today whether to throw her hat in the ring, with an ally saying she is ‘coming closer and closer to standing’ but fears she could split the Right-wing vote;
  • Tory leadership hopefuls came out swinging with promises to slash taxes – with Sajid Javid and Tom Tugendhat pledging to scrap the hated national insurance hike;
  • Penny Mordaunt’s campaign got off to a bumpy start after it emerged that convicted killer Oscar Pistorius featured in her promotional video;
  • Leadership candidate and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi hit out at ‘smears’ over his tax affairs, saying he does not benefit from an offshore trust and has never held non-domicile status;
  • Former Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove backed Kemi Badenoch in the leadership race;
  • Candidate Suella Braverman said the scuppering of the Rwanda migrant flights proved the UK needs to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Allies of Miss Truss last night attacked Mr Sunak’s economic record.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, 42, is currently the lead candidate in the Tory leadership race with the highest number of MPs backing his campaign

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, 42, is currently the lead candidate in the Tory leadership race with the highest number of MPs backing his campaign

Mr Sunak's bid to be crowned Tory leader is already being countered by a 'mucky memo' of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs

Mr Sunak’s bid to be crowned Tory leader is already being countered by a ‘mucky memo’ of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs

Dominic Cummings, pictured in north London, is said to have worked with the former Chancellor for 'quite a long time'

Dominic Cummings, pictured in north London, is said to have worked with the former Chancellor for ‘quite a long time’

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi chairs a meeting with Andrew Bailey, The Governor of the Bank of England, and meets other Treasury ministers as he begins work in HM Treasury

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi chairs a meeting with Andrew Bailey, The Governor of the Bank of England, and meets other Treasury ministers as he begins work in HM Treasury 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then Chancellor Mr Sunak pictured leaving 10 Downing Street in December last year

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then Chancellor Mr Sunak pictured leaving 10 Downing Street in December last year

Mr Johnson and former senior aide Mr Cummings pictured leaving Downing Street together in September 2019

Mr Johnson and former senior aide Mr Cummings pictured leaving Downing Street together in September 2019

Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, leaves his home on Saturday after launching his campaign to be the next leader of the Conservative Party

Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, leaves his home on Saturday after launching his campaign to be the next leader of the Conservative Party

Boris accused of trying to secure lover a City Hall job

Boris Johnson has been accused of an ‘abuse of power’ after trying to secure a job for a young woman he was having an affair with.

The Prime Minister – who was mayor of London at the time – is said to have pushed for the woman, then in her 20s, to get the role just weeks after they first met while she was working on his 2008 mayoral campaign.

But the appointment was blocked by Kit Malthouse, who was then deputy mayor of London and now a Cabinet minister, over fears they were ‘too friendly’.

The woman – who has not been named but is now married with two children – told The Sunday Times that she regretted their sexual encounters, which included a liaison in Mr Johnson’s parliamentary office.

She eventually confronted Mr Johnson in the wake of the MeToo movement and secretly recorded their conversation in his office in 2017.

During the confrontation she told Mr Johnson of her regrets and said it was an example of how any young woman who ‘steps into this building is fair game’ and there to be ‘leered at’ by powerful men.

The woman revealed she secured an interview for a role at the Greater London Authority only weeks after her encounter with Mr Johnson. 

It was led by a three-person panel headed by Mr Malthouse. She was unsuccessful.

Mr Johnson – who was married with four children at the time of the affair – reportedly said in the taped conversation: ‘Can I just say something?

‘I did suggest you for a role and I was very disappointed when you didn’t get that role. I remember it.’

Cabinet Office guidelines state that any relevant interests or relationships must be declared for public appointments.

Greater London Authority (GLA) has not yet received a complaint about the matter but would investigate if one is received.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘This is not about his time as PM. We don’t talk about his private life.’ 

Miss Truss is expected to say today she has the experience to lead the country – and now is not the time for an untested leader. 

In a sign of the potential explosiveness of a ‘Rishi vs Liz’ run-off, her allies savaged the ex-Chancellor’s economic record, saying he had ‘f***** up’ on taxes.

Referencing the sum set aside for the Covid test and trace programme, an ally said: ‘Where has this idea come from that tax cuts would be inflationary but putting £37 billion into giveaways isn’t?

‘It’s going back to the Gordon Brown approach of taxing people so we can give it away to certain groups instead of trusting people to spend their own money.’

There were also claims of vicious briefing against Mr Sunak last night.

An extraordinary 400-word dossier being circulated on WhatsApp called Mr Sunak ‘a liar’ and a ‘schoolboy’. 

And a video was widely shared of a young Mr Sunak admitting he had ‘no working class friends’. 

On the involvement of Mr Cummings, one leadership campaign source said: ‘Candidates should come clean about whether they are receiving any advice at all from Cummings, because it is obvious he is trying to insert himself into the campaign.

‘I think he is poisoning the well of debate, and trying to turn this contest into something that it doesn’t need to be. This could be a completely clean and fair fight about Conservative values.

‘Rishi Sunak’s campaign should come clean. Are they having any contact with Dom, do they welcome any contact, are they receiving any advice?’

But a Sunak campaign spokesman hit back, saying: ‘Mr Cummings and Rishi have not spoken since he left No 10 almost two years ago.’

A source added that there was ‘absolutely no involvement whatsoever’ between Mr Sunak’s campaign and Mr Cummings, and that he would have ‘no role’ in a Sunak government.

Blue-on-blue attacks in the leadership race stepped up over the weekend, despite Mr Johnson last week urging his Cabinet to focus on voters rather than themselves.

Two rival campaign teams are said to have passed Labour a digital dossier containing lurid allegations about their opponents, the Sunday Times reported. 

The paper said the documents include claims about the hopeful leaders’ private lives and financial arrangements.

Mr Cummings, meanwhile, claimed on Friday that at least ‘three current candidates would be worse than Boris’ and ‘at least one is more insane than Truss, clearly unfit to be anywhere near nuclear codes’. 

He also said one candidate was romantically involved with an aide.

Former Tory party chairman David Davis said people should treat Mr Cummings’ claims with ‘a pinch of salt’ as he had ‘proven himself untrustworthy in the past’.

Mr Cummings did not respond to requests for comment last night. 

Carrie Johnson and her daughter Romy alongside Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries as Mr Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday

Carrie Johnson and her daughter Romy alongside Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries as Mr Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday

Rishi’s PM bid is targeted with ‘mucky memo’ accusing him of being ‘schoolboy’ and a ‘liar’ as clip of a young Sunak saying he has ‘no working class friends’ resurfaces and goes viral

By Stewart Carr and Greg Heffer, Political Correspondent for MailOnline

Rishi Sunak’s bid to be crowned Tory leader is being countered by a ‘mucky memo’ of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs, it has emerged.

The former Treasury chief has become the early frontrunner in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.

He has attracted the support of around 30 Conservative MPs so far, as the party divides between the nine officially declared candidates.

But Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign has been targeted by those hoping to prevent his ‘coronation’ as PM.

The ex-chancellor has also witnessed a TV clip of himself, from 20 years ago, talking about his circle of friends being ‘err… not working class’ go viral on social media.

And there have been claims that allies of Mr Johnson are aiming to stop Mr Sunak winning the Tory leadership contest over his ‘treachery’ in resigning from Government on Tuesday night – a move that precipitated the PM’s downfall.

According to the Telegraph, a 424-word criticism of Mr Sunak is being widely shared across Tory WhatsApp groups.

As well as claiming ‘there is nothing Conservative about the “Big Tax and Big Spend” agenda of Rishi Sunak’, Mr Sunak is also branded a ‘liar’ and accused of ‘schoolboy errors’.

The document is reported to state: ‘He added £400billion to the national debt to pay workers not to work, only to spend countless more billions for them to eat out a few weeks later.

‘(He) stated that as a Conservative he would not borrow money to pay £12billion for social care, only to magic up £18billion for ‘cost of living’ measures just a few months later.’

The ‘mucky memo’ is also said to claim Mr Sunak ‘publicly lied’ twice about his wife’s non-dom tax status, as well as savage attacks on his ‘failed’ mini-budget in March.

Meanwhile, in a TV clip from 2001, Mr Sunak has been revealed to have been interviewed by the BBC for the series ‘Middle Classes: Their Rise & Sprawl’.

Appearing on the documentary as a prodigious student in his final year at the University of Oxford, Sunak described his world.

‘I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are, you know, working class, but… well, not working class. 

‘But I mix and match and I go to see kids from an inner city state school and tell them to apply to Oxford and talk to them about people like me. 

‘And then I shock them at the end of challenging them for half an hour and tell them I was at Winchester, and my best friend is from Eton or whatever, and then they’re like, ‘oh okay.”

VelvickChris posted: 'Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign'

VelvickChris posted: ‘Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign’

Chops8592 tweeted: 'Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud...'

Chops8592 tweeted: ‘Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud…’

Several downloads of the clip have attracted millions of views on Twitter, with one scoring 2.5million hits alone.

And commentary about the former Chancellor has been swift.

Benjamin, 23, a student who did not wish to give his last name, said Mr Sunak was ‘completely out of touch’.

‘He’s completely out of touch,’ the student said.

‘Even (though) that was made over 10 years ago (the TV clip), it probably resonates with his current thinking.’

Chops8592 tweeted: ‘Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class  loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud…’ 

‘He’s so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,’ tweeted Common_Sense_71.

VelvickChris added: ‘Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign.’

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: ‘Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t go to Winchester or prep schools.’ 

'He's so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,' tweeted Common_Sense_71

‘He’s so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,’ tweeted Common_Sense_71

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: 'Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don't go to Winchester or prep schools'

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: ‘Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t go to Winchester or prep schools’

Eight other Tories have so far put themselves forward to replace Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, just days after a collapse in party support forced his resignation.

Former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have both pledged to slash corporation tax as they announced separate bids for the Tory leadership.

It comes after two serving Cabinet ministers, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, revealed their intention to run for the top job in the space of an hour.

Declaring their candidacies in The Telegraph, Mr Hunt and Mr Javid both said they would not only scrap the former chancellor’s plans to raise corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April, but reduce the rate to 15%.

Mr Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government.

Mr Zahawi, Rishi Sunak’s successor, had said earlier this week that ‘everything is on the table’ when questioned over the corporation tax rise.

The leadership contenders’ timescales for the change are different, with Mr Hunt slashing the tax to 15p in his first autumn Budget, while Mr Javid would set a ‘glide path’.

Jeremy Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government

Jeremy Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government

Mr Javid also said he would scrap the Government’s controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further ‘significant’ temporary reduction on fuel duty.

The pair spelled out their economic plans in separate interviews with the newspaper.

In addition to cutting corporation tax, Mr Hunt said he would remove business rates for five years for the communities most in need.

Most of those areas are in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of traditional Labour heartlands, the newspaper said, with a quarter of locations in England and Wales in line for the tax break.

Scotland and Northern Ireland would get money to match the policy.

‘What matters is wealth creation, which means that people don’t feel that they need to leave a Bolton or a Bolsover because they can get better jobs in Manchester or London. They can actually stay there,’ Mr Hunt said.

‘That means helping them have opportunities at home that makes talented people want to stay, not go.’

Meanwhile, he pledged to continue pushing legislation to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol through Parliament.

Sajid Javid (left) said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures - including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills - and a 'longer-term' vision for tax reform

Sajid Javid (left) said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures – including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills – and a ‘longer-term’ vision for tax reform

Mr Javid said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures – including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills – and a ‘longer-term’ vision for tax reform.

He said: ‘The Government can’t prevent the impact of high price rises on everyone. You can’t mitigate everything.

‘The long way out of this, the better way, is to turbo growth. I’ve always believed in free markets, in low taxation, in light regulation, as the conditions that are necessary for growth.

‘It was true 20 to 30 years ago, it was true under Margaret Thatcher, and it’s true now, because it’s how economies grow and how they work.’

Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that after ‘careful consideration’ and discussion with colleagues and family, he would not stand to be party leader and the next prime minister.

In addition to Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Mr Zahawi, Mr Shapps and Mr Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have launched their own bids.

Tory leadership candidate Suella Braverman has pledged to 'move heaven and earth to get this country back on track', writing that her views on Brexit are 'as much a part of me as my DNA'

Tory leadership candidate Suella Braverman has pledged to ‘move heaven and earth to get this country back on track’, writing that her views on Brexit are ‘as much a part of me as my DNA’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also widely expected to stand, with the Mail on Sunday reporting she will seek to advocate ‘classic Conservative principles’, and could declare her candidature as soon as Monday.

Another potential front-runner is trade minister Penny Mordaunt.

Ms Mordaunt has heavily suggested she will throw her hat in the ring, sharing an article on Saturday night from Dr Gerard Lyons, Mr Johnson’s former chief economic adviser as London mayor, which states she would make a ‘great prime minister’.

She also pushed back against those who may want to depict her as ‘woke’ in a Twitter thread early on Sunday morning, as she sought to clarify how she would define a woman.

It was reported on Saturday that Mr Johnson intends to stand down as Prime Minister on Monday in order to run again for Tory leader.

But this suggestion was knocked down by a spokesperson for Mr Johnson as completely untrue.

Grant Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis

Grant Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis

Tory MP Mark Francois has said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward.

He told GB News: ‘It looks like this is going to be the Grand National but without the fences, so we are probably heading for at least a dozen candidates at the moment.’

Launching his campaign, Mr Zahawi pledged to lower taxes for individuals, families and business, boost defence spending, and continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role.

Mr Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Badenoch announced a plan for a smaller state and a Government ‘focused on the essentials’.

Mr Sunak launched his leadership bid with the message: ‘Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.’

Former minister Steve Baker has thrown his support behind Ms Braverman’s campaign, despite previously saying he was seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

The Attorney General has pledged to ‘move heaven and earth to get this country back on track’, writing in The Telegraph on Saturday that her views on Brexit are ‘as much a part of me as my DNA’, and advocating a reduction to planned tax hikes ‘that are putting off investment’.

As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they ‘don’t knock lumps out of each other’.

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