Dominic Cummings

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Dominic Cummings
Born (1971-11-25) 25 November 1971 (age 47)
Durham, England, UK
EducationExeter College, Oxford (1994)
OccupationPolitical adviser
Years active1999–present
Known forSpecial adviser to Michael Gove, 2010–2014;
Campaign Director Vote Leave, 2015–2016
Notable work
"Some thoughts on education and political priorities"
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)Mary Wakefield

Dominic Mckenzie Cummings (born 25 November 1971)[1] is a British political advisor and strategist. He served as the Campaign Director of Vote Leave, the official campaign in favour of leaving the European Union for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016.[2] He is a former special adviser to Michael Gove and was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2019 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War.

Early life[edit]

Cummings was born in Durham, son of an oil rig project manager and a special needs teacher. He was educated at Durham School and Exeter College, Oxford, graduating in 1994 with a First in Ancient and Modern History.[3] He has stated that he has never been a member of a political party.[4]


1999 to 2014[edit]

After university, Cummings moved to Russia for three years and attempted to set up an airline connecting Samara in southern Russia and Vienna, which had only one flight.[3]

From 1999 to 2002, Cummings was campaign director at Business for Sterling, the campaign against the UK joining the Euro.[3] He was Director of Strategy for Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith for 8 months in 2002, aiming to modernise the Conservative Party (though he has never joined a political party). He soon quit in frustration at the introduction of what he saw as half-measures, labelling Duncan Smith "incompetent".[5] With James Frayne he founded the New Frontiers Foundation think-tank as its director; it launched in December 2003 and closed in March 2005.[6] Cummings led the campaign against a North-East Regional Assembly in 2004 and then moved to his father's farm in County Durham and read widely.[3]

Cummings worked for Conservative politician Michael Gove from 2007 to January 2014, first in opposition and then as a special adviser in the Department of Education after the 2010 general election. He was Gove's chief of staff,[5] an appointment blocked by Andy Coulson until his own resignation.[3][7] In this capacity Cummings wrote a 240-page essay, "Some thoughts on education and political priorities",[8] about transforming Britain into a "meritocratic technopolis",[5] described by journalist Patrick Wintour as "either mad, bad or brilliant – and probably a bit of all three".[7] He became known for his blunt style and "not suffering fools gladly", and as an idealist.[5][3] Many in Conservative Party headquarters disapproved of Cummings.[3] He left that post to start a free school. He had previously worked for the New Schools Network charity that advises free schools, as a volunteer from June 2009 and then as a paid freelancer from July to December 2010.[9][10] In 2014 Prime Minister David Cameron criticised Cummings as a "career psychopath".[11]

Vote Leave (2016)[edit]

Dominic Cummings became Campaign Director of Vote Leave upon the creation of the organisation in October 2015. He is credited with having created the Vote Leave slogan, "Take back control," and with being the leading strategist of the campaign.[12][13] His campaign strategy was summarised as: "Don’t talk about immigration"; "Do talk about business"; "Don’t make the referendum final"; "Do keep mentioning the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the over-reach of the European Union’s Court of Justice". Board member of Vote Leave Bernard Jenkin tried to remove Cummings and merge Vote Leave with the other campaign, Leave.EU.[14] Cummings and Vote Leave CEO Matthew Elliott left the board in February 2016 following reported infighting.[15]

Vote Leave emerged victorious in the June 2016 referendum which resulted in a 51.6% vote to 'leave' the European Union. Upon victory, Cummings was praised alongside Vote Leave CEO, Matthew Elliott, as being one of the masterminds of the victorious campaign.[16] He was named as one of "Debrett's 500 2016" people of influence.[17]


In June 2017, the Financial Times reported that "Now the man who came up with the slogan Take Back Control says he spends his time studying. He has not been involved in the general election, and his Twitter posts focus on the topic of machine learning.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In December 2011, Cummings married Mary Wakefield, who became the deputy editor of The Spectator, and is the daughter of Sir Humphry Wakefield, of Chillingham Castle in Northumberland.[3] As of January 2019, they had a two-year-old son.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

Cummings was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2019 Channel 4 drama, Brexit: The Uncivil War.[20][21]


  1. ^ "Dominic Mckenzie CUMMINGS". Companies House. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Bagehot" (21 January 2016). "An interview with Dominic Cummings". The Economist. London. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Gimson, Andrew (15 May 2014). "A profile of Dominic Cummings, friend of Gove and enemy of Clegg". Conservative Home.
  4. ^ Dominic Cummings. "Dominic Cummings's Blog: About Me". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Bagehot (21 January 2016). "An optimistic Eurosceptic. For Dominic Cummings, leaving the European Union is a first step in a British renaissance". The Economist.
  6. ^ "It could have been so much worse". Social Affairs Unit blog. 4 May 2005. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (11 October 2013). "Dominic Cummings: genius or menace?". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  8. ^ Cummings, Dominic (2013). "Some thoughts on education and political priorities" (PDF).
  9. ^ Garner, Richard; Cusick, James (7 October 2013). "Michael Gove's controversial adviser Dominic Cummings 'quits to open new free school'". The Independent. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  10. ^ McClenaghan, Maeve (18 November 2011). "Gove aide given parliamentary pass while at New Schools Network". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  11. ^ Mason, Rowena (18 June 2014). "PM backs Michael Gove but suggests former aide was a 'career psychopath'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  12. ^ Mance, Henry; Parker, George (14 June 2016). "Combative Brexiter who took control of Vote Leave operation". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Matthew Elliott on Vote Leave's 'genius moment'". BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  14. ^ Dico, Joy Lo (24 February 2016). "How Will Straw and Dominic Cummings are pulling the strings of the EU Referendum power players". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  15. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (4 February 2016). "Everyone in the campaign to get Britain out of the EU is stabbing each other in the back". Business Insider UK. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  16. ^ Payne, Sebastian (24 June 2016). "How Vote Leave won the EU referendum". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Dominic Cummings". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  18. ^ Manace, Henry (June 2017). "Where are the Brexit campaigners now?". Financial Times. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  19. ^ Rabbett, Abigail; Morley, Nicole (January 8, 2019). "Who is Dominic Cummings? The Durham man behind Brexit played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4 show". Evening Chronicle.
  20. ^ Bennett, Asa (28 December 2018). "Brexit: The Uncivil War review: Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in this thrilling romp through the referendum". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  21. ^ Matthew Elliott (4 January 2019). "Vote Leave's Matthew Elliott on Channel 4's Brexit: The Uncivil War". Financial Times. Screenwriter James Graham has turned the campaign into a compelling story — and nailed my mannerisms

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