BORIS Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has left Downing Street following days of in-fighting at Number 10.
The controversial aide was seen leaving Number 10 carrying boxes on Friday evening amid reports he had quit his post with immediate effect.
The PA news agency understands both he and Lee Cain, who resigned as communications chief, will still be employed until the middle of next month. However, reports suggested Mr Cummings would be working from home on projects such as mass testing.
Sir Edward Lister was announced as the interim chief of staff pending a permanent appointment.
The news came amid a bitter power struggle over the past few days, which started with the resignation of Mr Cummings’s fellow Vote Leave veteran Mr Cain on Wednesday.
On Thursday night, Mr Cummings insisted to the BBC that “rumours of me threatening to resign are invented” after it was suggested he would exit in protest over the treatment of Mr Cain.
But Mr Cummings also said his “position hasn’t changed since my January blog” in which he said he hoped to be “largely redundant” by 2021.
The Sun reported there was a “shouty” confrontation between Boris Johnson and Mr Cummings over the ousting of Mr Cain and that a “livid” Prime Minister wanted both out “sooner rather than later”.
The BBC reported that Mr Cummings’ departure had been brought forward given the “upset in the team” and that the PM wanted to “clear the air and move on”.
Tory backbenchers urged Number 10 to use the exit of the aide – whose mid-lockdown trip to Durham cemented his notoriety – as an opportunity to restore the values of “respect, integrity and trust”.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s an opportunity to reset how the Government operates and to emphasise some values about what we want to project as a Conservative Party in Government.
“I’m not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his Government’s communications and crowding out the proper messages the Government wants to convey.
“Nobody is indispensable.”
Gavin Barwell, former chief of staff to then prime minister Theresa May, said Mr Cummings’s departure was a “big moment”.
He tweeted: “Boris now has an opportunity to get a more harmonious, effective Downing Street operation (like he had at City Hall); improve relations with the parliamentary party; and lead a less confrontational, more unifying government that better reflects his own character.”
Highly publicised in-fighting at the heart of Government led to Mr Cain’s resignation on Wednesday.
He had been offered the post of chief of staff but a backlash among Tories and Mr Johnson’s inner circle sealed his departure.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth highlighted the strain being heaped on the NHS and the public by Covid-19 while “Downing Street is paralysed by the soap opera of these self-indulgent spin doctors”.
He added: “It’s pathetic.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, James Slack, who will replace Mr Cain when he leaves in the new year, continued to insist that Mr Johnson is not being distracted from the national crisis by the row.
“What the Prime Minister and the Government are focused upon is taking every possible step to get this country through the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Reporting By The Press Association