Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has been absent from the Government for the past few weeks due to having surgery. He was originally due to have an operation for an undisclosed condition last summer. However, he is said to have postponed the procedure twice in order to help Mr Johnson into Number 10 and then to win the general election last December.
The Brexit guru is expected to return to work next week but his time away from Downing Street has once again fuelled rumours that he may step down from his powerful role within months.
In May, the Spectator suggested he could resign by the end of the year if he completes his ongoing attempt to reform the civil service.
The publication employs his wife, Mary Wakefield, as a senior journalist.
An insider, who knows Mr Cummings well, also said he intends to step back from the political front line after the UK finally leaves the EU in December.
According to Tony Blair‘s former chief of staff, though, not only his efforts to overhaul the state will go in vain but he will also lose his job in the process.
Jonathan Powell told the Financial Times in March: “On the basis of my experience, the sensible thing for an unelected official in Number 10 to do is keep a low profile.
“I give him 12 months max.
“If you try to be in the papers every day your political life expectancy is short – and like Rasputin, you end up on the bottom of the River Neva in chains.”
In a recent entry for the London School of Economics (LSE) ‘s blog,, another former special adviser in Number 10 argued Mr Cummings’ rhetoric might end up in failure.
Patrick Diamond explained: “At the core of Cummings’s plan is the ambition to challenge fundamentally the ‘governing marriage’ between civil servants and ministers where both sides worked together harmoniously to delineate effective public policy.
“What made the marriage so compelling was that civil servants, by virtue of their carefully protected independence and neutrality, were willing to ‘speak truth to power’.
“By and large, civil servants accepted that they must help the elected government of the day to achieve its chosen objectives, as stipulated in the manifesto.
“Of course, there is a danger of viewing the past through rose-tinted spectacles.
“Relationships between officials and their political masters did break down, as Richard Crossman’s diaries from the Wilson governments in the Sixties indicate.
“Yet by and large, the Whitehall model persisted in surviving changes of government over the last 40 years. Britain is regarded as having one of the most efficient and stable government bureaucracies in the world.
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“Cummings’s rhetoric thus signals a potentially seismic shift.
“His aim is to install a ‘them and us’ model where officials merely carry out the wishes of ministers, focusing on the delivery and implementation of policy.”
Mr Diamond noted: “Officials’ substantive function will be to say ‘yes, Minister’.
“Cummings’s thinking is a potent challenge to the traditional Whitehall system. Two points are striking, however.
“Firstly, little of what he is proposing is actually very new. Secondly, it will be extremely difficult to make it happen, regardless of the power and patronage Cummings presently enjoys at the heart of Downing Street.”