PM Johnson and sorcerer Cummings have done Brexit – are they wise to take on the press and BBC?

So are prime minister Boris Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings (Dom as his friends call him, assuming he has any) a danger to democracy?

Well they might be if you think media access to our elected leaders is an importqnt part of it.

Lobby hacks (accredited political journalists) walked out of an EU briefing last week when it transpired that some of them were invited, others not. Apparently the PM’s official spokesman Lee Cain (a former journalist on the left-leaning Mirror bizarrely) divided the waiting group into the ones with passes and the rump. They all walked, including invitees the BBC and ITV.

This followed Johnson’s decision to shun interviews during the General Election (at one point hiding in an industrial fridge to escape Good Morning Britain) in favour of communicating directly with voters via social media, Facebook chiefly. Straight out of the Donald Trump songbook.

The Tory government also appears to be gunning for the BBC, intent on decriminalising licence fee evasion (fair enough but it will hit the BBC’s finances hard) and maybe even getting rid of the licence fee entirely.

But is this the work of Johnson or Cummings? Who’s the sorcerer and who’s the apprentice?

Express.co.uk.

Johnson is a former journalist of course, an ex-editor of The Spectator and highly-paid Telegraph columnist (around £500k a year). He’s also still listed as a contributing editor to GQ, where, as its motoring correspondent, he once observed that “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.”

As a journalist Johnson was a polemicist and joker, much like fellow Cabinet member Michael Gove, who toiled on The Times. Both, one suspects, would have been happy on Fox News.

In some respects one can understand politicians giving it back to the media who have become dramatically more intrusive over recent years. The relationship between the two groups, once arguably unduly cosy, went up in smoke when another former Mirror scribbler Alastair Campbell tried to boss everyone around on Tony Blair’s behalf.

Now we read, in the Mirror as it happens, that Johnson’s live-in girlfriend Carrie Symonds – a Tory apparatchik as well – is challenging Cummings on his war against the media (and desire to sack half the Cabinet), believing it will harm Boris.

Some big guns, most notably the Mail, are now being levelled at Cummings although it’s still bigging up Boris, most recently for his batty scheme to build a bridge/tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is unlikely to play well with English taxpayers.

Political commentator Steve Richards observed at the recent AA LEAD conference that, while everything was looking rosy for Boris with Brexit done and a big majority, problems would inevitably ensue. Cummings’ antics looks like a self-inflicted wound.

Does Johnson really want to go down in history as the man who tried to muzzle the press and destroy the BBC?

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.