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Sunak Slammed Over Secret Meeting With Cummings

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Rishi Sunak’s promising premiership has been plunged into controversy following explosive revelations that he secretly met with notorious political schemer Dominic Cummings.

The disgraced former adviser’s shadowy influence over Downing Street has provoked outrage among Tory MPs. They accuse Sunak of arrogant hypocrisy and lament his lack of transparency.

The revelations may irreparably damage public trust in a leader who vowed to restore integrity after Boris Johnson’s chaotic reign.

Sunak now faces accusations of being an unprincipled puppeteer cynically plotting strategy with a reviled architect of dysfunction.

This latest scandal seems certain to ignite fiery backlash and fresh turmoil within a divided Conservative party struggling to reconnect with disillusioned voters.

For a novice Prime Minister striving to steady a floundering government, reaching out to a contemptible figure like Cummings appears a calamitous misstep.

Rishi Sunak faced a furious backlash from Tory MPs over claims made by Dominic Cummings that he had discussed returning to Downing Street in a series of secret meetings with the Prime Minister.

The revelations emerged earlier this week that Cummings, who had been campaign director for Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum, held private meetings with Sunak in which he claimed they talked about him potentially joining Sunak’s team.

According to Cummings, his price for coming back would be that Sunak enact radical reforms within the government. Cummings said he “would rather the Tories lose than continue in office without prioritizing what’s important and what voters care about.”

The news of the clandestine meetings between Sunak and the controversial political strategist angered Conservative MPs, some of whom labeled Cummings as “toxic.”

One former cabinet minister stated, “The man is toxic. He caused chaos when he was in Number 10 before. He took down one Prime Minister and here he is damaging another.”

Cummings had become a divisive figure after he worked closely with Boris Johnson on the successful Vote Leave campaign and then became the Prime Minister’s chief adviser when Johnson took office in 2019.

However, Cummings left Downing Street in acrimonious circumstances in November 2020 following a bitter falling out with Johnson. Since his departure, Cummings has been highly critical of his former boss.

During the Conservative leadership contest in July 2022, Sunak had pledged that Cummings would have “nothing to do” with his government if he became Prime Minister. This made the recent revelations about him meeting secretly with Cummings all the more surprising and concerning to Tory MPs.

One former cabinet minister expressed disbelief, saying “I just cannot believe that after everything that has happened – and bearing in mind he was asked about it in the leadership campaign and said he would never do it – that he has met him not once, but twice. It is poor judgment and deeply disappointing that this has happened frankly. It will incense a lot of people across the party, and not just those on the center-Left.”

Another former minister who had served under Johnson claimed that Cummings played a key role in orchestrating the campaign to oust him as Prime Minister and that Sunak was complicit in that effort as well.

They said, “There is a group of us who were in government at the time and who saw the orchestrated campaign to remove Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings’ role in that and Rishi Sunak’s role in that. It is no coincidence that the truth is coming out of secret complicity between Rishi Sunak and Dominic Cummings in that and now to try to save his skin when he has moved so far away from Conservative values and beliefs.”

While the meetings themselves caused anger, the purported discussions between Sunak and Cummings about policy changes also raised eyebrows. Cummings reportedly urged Sunak to have an emergency budget that would reverse the tax increases implemented under Boris Johnson. One specific proposal was to raise the threshold for the 40p income tax rate from £50,270 to £100,000.

This idea has been gaining support from different factions within the Conservative Party. Lord Lamont argued it would benefit the largest number of people who have borne the brunt of massive spending increases during the pandemic.

Robert Buckland, the former Justice Secretary, claimed it would help many people, especially women who lose their child benefit payments when they pass the 40p threshold.

Backbench MPs like Jonathan Gullis in northern England have also advocated for raising the 40p threshold as a tax cut that would have broad appeal.

On Sunday, the Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden hinted at backing such a move when he said, “What you want is tax cuts which affect as many people as possible.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is said to be considering all options and will hold the first meetings at the Treasury this coming week to examine the choices available. But a Treasury source cautioned, “Whatever we ultimately do will depend on headroom available, and must not risk fuelling inflation when we’re winning the fight.”

The Opposition jumped on the revelations about Sunak’s covert meetings with Cummings as a sign of poor judgment. Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Paymaster General, said, “Out-of-touch Rishi Sunak is asking the wrong question if he thinks the lockdown rule-breaking architect of Boris Johnson’s failed premiership is the answer. After promising to restore integrity to Downing Street, he’s secretly begging Mr Barnard Castle to run Downing Street again. From Cameron to Cummings, the prime minister is admitting he’s out of ideas and too weak to come up with his own.”

The “Mr Barnard Castle” reference harked back to a controversial trip Cummings took during the first Covid lockdown in 2020. He claimed he drove his family to Barnard Castle in County Durham to test his eyesight, which became a source of public ridicule and damaged his and the government’s credibility.

More recently, at the public inquiry into the pandemic, Cummings drew further criticism when his abusive messages were revealed showing he tried to fire senior civil servant Helen MacNamara.

In one message, Cummings used highly inappropriate and offensive language to refer to Helen MacNamara in a derogatory way. The message demonstrated an abusive tone and attitude toward the senior civil servant.

For Rishi Sunak, the latest revelations threaten the pledges of integrity and professionalism he made during his campaign to become Prime Minister.

Rather than turning to a contentious figure like Cummings, Sunak should develop his own vision and policy agenda to present to voters. Cummings’ involvement could actually damage the Conservatives’ prospects at the next general election.

Sunak finds himself in a difficult political situation. He trails Labour significantly in opinion polls and faces growing backbench discontent over the scale of tax rises and spending cuts needed to stabilize the nation’s finances. Holding secret talks with a polemical figure like Dominic Cummings seems a strange move under these circumstances.

MPs who hoped Sunak would bring a fresh start after the turmoil of Boris Johnson’s downfall feel betrayed and disillusioned by these latest revelations. For a Prime Minister striving to unite his party and convince the country, reaching out to someone as divisive as Cummings is viewed as a spectacular error of judgment.

Whether any specific policies or plans emerged from the meetings remains unclear. But Sunak’s credibility is damaged by violating his own pledge not to involve Cummings in government. Tory MPs – and voters – will wonder what other promises he is willing to break for political advantage.

Sunak now faces an uphill battle to regain trust and build momentum before the next election. The path to victory seems steeper after damaging disclosures about the company he has been keeping.

However gifted a political strategist he may be, Dominic Cummings remains a liability – one Rishi Sunak should have steered well clear of for the good of his government and party. What seemed an attempt to bolster the Prime Minister’s standing could, if anything, end up weakening it even further.

The Cummings scandal casts further doubt on Rishi Sunak’s judgment and principles. As he tries to steady a floundering government, the Prime Minister has made a grave political miscalculation.
Seeking strategic advice from such a disreputable figure betrays the promises of integrity that won Sunak power. Both the Conservatives’ future prospects and the public’s trust now seem dimmer after this hypocritical affair.

For a leader professing noble intentions, Sunak has allowed murky cynicism to cloud his ascent. This regrettable episode may come to be a breaking point for his premiership.

The ultimate political fate of Rishi Sunak in the wake of this scandal remains uncertain. Only time will tell if he can weather the backlash and regain the public’s confidence after these damaging revelations.

His survival as Prime Minister is now in question given the fierce criticism from his own party and the blow to his credibility. The coming days and weeks will determine whether Sunak can move past this hypocritical misstep or if it will end his brief tenure in Downing Street.

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