London: Dominic Cummings has not been cleared in the “chatty rat” leak inquiry, Britain’s top civil servant is expected to make clear on Monday (Tuesday AEST) as Number 10 fights back against his claims.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will be grilled by MPs about a string of allegations made by Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, in a blog post.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson practices his football skills as he visits Hartlepool United Football Club, ahead of the May 6 by-election. Credit:Getty
A Cabinet Office source said that, if asked, Case will undercut two core claims made by Cummings in his 1000-word blog on Friday night (Saturday AEST).
Case’s office argues that the inquiry into who leaked plans for a second national lockdown in October is ongoing and nobody has been exonerated.
That counters Cummings’ claim that he was cleared by Case of being the source – described as the “chatty rat” – who told reporters about the imminent lockdown.
“His position will be that the inquiry is still open. With the inquiry still open, it would be wrong to say that anyone is absolutely in the clear,” a Cabinet Office source said.
Case is also expected to say publicly that Johnson has not interfered in the inquiry, despite Cummings claiming that the Prime Minister had considered doing just that.
He quoted Johnson as saying that because the leak inquiry could lead to an ally of his finance, Carrie Symonds, perhaps he should “stop” it.
Case, 42, who became the youngest Cabinet Secretary when he took up the post last September, will appear before the public administration and constitutional affairs committee on Monday afternoon.
While the appearance is meant to be about the general work of the Cabinet Office, MPs on the committee have told The Telegraph that they expect Cummings and the issue of leaks to be discussed.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’ senior aid, Dominic Cummings, leaves his house in London.Credit:AP
On topics such as payment for Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment, Case is expected to stick as closely to the facts as possible and avoid making news.
His parliamentary committee appearance comes as the impact of the Cummings allegations continues to reverberate around Westminster.
In broadcast interviews on Sunday, Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, failed to deny that Johnson had help from Conservative donors to cover the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, which he has since paid back.
Allies of Symonds said suggestions the Prime Minister had acted to protect her bore the traits of “1950s sexism”.
Former parliament adviser Dominic Cummings.Credit:AP
The latest dispute between “Team Carrie” and “Team Dom” has also led to new claims about Symonds’ alleged influence on government policy, including the suggestion that she asked Johnson to sack Environment Secretary George Eustice because he was “too close to the farmers and insufficiently robust on her cherished animal welfare issues”.
The claim Symonds had attempted to have Eustice fired was dismissed by Lord Goldsmith, a Tory peer and junior environment minister, as “the opposite of the truth”. Sources close to Eustice declined to comment on the story.
Meanwhile, well-placed figures have said Cummings will accuse Johnson of risking lives by not closing the borders earlier in the COVID pandemic when he appears before MPs next month.
Some Conservative MPs fear the Downing Street controversies could have an impact on the local elections on May 6.
Bob Blackman, the executive secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, urged Number 10 to draw a line under the row and move on, saying: “We’re still in the midst of a pandemic and we’re coming into very important elections.
“These sorts of comments and tittle-tattle can only do damage. Let sleeping dogs lie in relation to this and get back to the important business of delivering for the people of this country.”
The former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that the row between Cummings and Number 10 was a “classic Westminster story” that “comes around like bad bus services”.
Sir Iain said it was a “dangerous” distraction that had caused government ministers to “start talking about it, thinking about it, worrying about it and doing stupid things because of it, which then damage them”.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, with partner Carrie Symonds.Credit:AP
Appearing in front of MPs, Case is expected to push back on at least two claims Cummings made in his blog post on Friday, should MPs ask.
The first is that the former adviser had been cleared of being the “chatty rat” source by the inquiry, which is being run by the Cabinet Office.
Cummings wrote that Case told the Prime Minister that he was not the leaker, instead pointing the finger at others including Henry Newman, then an adviser to Michael Gove.
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