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Has Boris Johnson lost his ‘brain’?

By Keith Suter - posted Monday, 16 November 2020

The most talented strategist in British politics has been expelled from Number 10 Downing Street. On November 14 2020 Dominic Cummings - election campaigning genius, Brexit campaign mastermind, and "Boris's brain" - walked out of No.10 Downing Street for the last time (at least for now).

In all the insider politicking, he lost out in the war for Johnson's ear. UK politics is becoming more "presidential" and so the focus of lobbying is on the prime minister rather than cabinet. Johnson's current partner Carrie Symonds was among those urging Johnson to sack Cummings

This closes (at least for now) one of the most remarkable careers in British politics. Few political advisers get their own television docu-dramas with a big name star (Benedict Cumberbatch) playing them (Brexit: The Uncivil War).


The UK left the European Union on February 1 2020. Many Britons regretted the decision but there is currently no scope (or even political appetite) for a second referendum. The UK is now in an 11-month transitional period, which ends on December 31 2020.

The UK's entry into the then Common Market in 1973 was the biggest foreign policy change since at least 1945 and the end of World War II. May be one has to go back to the 19th century as the baseline for comparison.

The June 2016 Brexit referendum ("British exit from European Union") was therefore the biggest change since 1973. In the years 1973-2016, Common Market/ EU deepened the scope of its relationships with the member-states (28 including the UK) and so an exit was bound to be very complicated.

The EU is not just a trading arrangement: it is the European peace project. The EU was concerned with territorial expansion and integration to reduce the risk of violence, and to present a new Europe to the world.

Few Britons guessed just how complicated Brexit was going to be. EU treaties were all based on the assumption that countries want to join, rather than ever having a country leave, and so the exit has been a difficult "first" for the EU, operating without any precedents. The UK's turmoils have reduced demand in other countries (such as Italy) for their own exit.

Dominic Cummings was the mastermind behind the Brexit referendum campaign. He is blunt about the failure of politics, has contempt for most politicians and the masses, and writes candidly on his blog ( knowing that the stupid masses are unlikely to read it. How Brexit was achieved was set out in The Spectator.


Cummings was a genius at campaigning, with slogans like "Take Back Control" (Referendum) and "Get Brexit Done" (2019 general election)

But he was not so good at running a government. He alienated the civil service and could not work with politicians. He was not completing Brexit or his "levelling up" project for the economically depressed northern regions (which tended to support Brexit).

"Brains" are important in politics. Politicians are empty vessels that need to be filled with slogans. For example, "Bush's brain" Karl Rove coined "God, gays and guns" (we love God, hate gays and think we need guns to defend ourselves). "Trump's brain" were Steve Bannon and Roger Stone who talked about "Make America Great Again".

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About the Author

Dr Keith Suter is a futurist, thought leader and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. He is a prolific and well-respected writer and social commentator appearing on radio and television most weeks.

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