‘Totally and utterly stupid’: Cummings rejects idea of appointing Brexiteer cabinet secretary

PM’s top aids sets out recommended reading for spads, including a book that concludes “only the paranoid survive”
Dominic Cummings with photographers on his doorstep. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

01 Jul 2020

Dominic Cummings has appeared to rule out the appointment of a Brexiteer as cabinet secretary after telling special advisers that it would be a “dumb idea” to promote officials based on their support for leaving the UK.

In his weekly meeting with special advisers, Cummings appeared to dismiss the possibility that the prime minister wanted to replace Sir Mark Sedwill with a Brexiteer.

According to The Times, Boris Johnson's top spad said doing so would be “totally and utterly stupid” and a “dumb idea”.

Instead, Cummings told the meeting that No.10 wanted people in civil service roles who “could get stuff done” and didn’t care how people had voted in the referendum.

According to the report, he said there had been no briefings against Sedwill from Downing Street, and added that many senior officials agreed with the government’s approach and wanted to resolve longstanding issues in the way Whitehall was run.

Cummings also set out a reading list for the cohort of special advisers ahead of a weekend boot camp for the ministerial aides.

The recommended reading included Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock, a book that deals with predicting the future, and High Output Management by early Intel employee Andrew Grove. Among the lattern book’s lessons is a claim that “only the paranoid survive”.

Cummings also said each adviser should bring to meetings a list of issues that are blocking progress in their department, and that the Cabinet Office was working to ensure there was a better flow of information between departments.

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