Friday, 29 May 2020

The Dangers of “politicised science”

Letter submitted to The Guardian, 29 May 2020:

Your brilliant sketch writer, John Crace was in sparkling form as he coruscatingly demolished the diminished integrity of the Government’s chief medical officer, Prof. Chris Whitty and chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance (“A little censoring here, psycho failed state there, and the demeaning of our scientific experts, “ 29 May).

Crace suggests they should have walked out of the media briefing room when the prime minister censored them live on national tv. I agree.

It reminded me of the US equivalent top medical advisor staying put on her chair (albeit squirming) and not intervening when President Trump proposed In a similar media injecting or drinking disinfectant to combat Coronavirus threats.

Two months ago I wrote in my blog that the only way to explain the perverse decisions announced by ministers being endorsed, in their words, “by the science,” was that advisors were meekly backing “politicised science”, under pressure from Dom Cummings.

Events of the past two months have served to re-inforce my evaluation.

The CMO and CSA need to grow a collective back bone, and stand up to serious science from Sage being cherry -picked and distorted for political purposes.

Unless they do, they will start to deserve the cruel moniker now created for them on social media: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dummer.
And here is all the latest SAGE evidence, published late afternoon on 29 May 2020
Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE): Coronavirus (COVID-19) response
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies.


SAGE is responsible for ensuring that timely and coordinated scientific advice is made available to decision makers to support UK cross-government decisions in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR). The advice provided by SAGE does not represent official government policy.
Find out more about SAGE (PDF, 101KB, 4 pages).


The group is chaired by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance and co-chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and includes experts from within government and leading specialists from the fields of healthcare and academia.
View the full list of participants of SAGE and related sub-groups.

Expert groups

SAGE relies on external science advice and on advice from expert groups. During COVID-19 this includes the:
These groups consider the scientific evidence and feed in their consensus conclusions to SAGE.

Scientific evidence supporting the government response to COVID-19

The national and global response to the spread of COVID-19 continues to develop quickly and our knowledge of the virus is growing. These statements and accompanying evidence demonstrate how our understanding of COVID-19 has evolved as new data has emerged.
The evidence was often complied very rapidly during a fast-moving response and should be viewed in this context. The papers presented here are the best assessment of the evidence at the time of writing, and their conclusions were formed on this basis. As new evidence or data emerges, SAGE updates its advice accordingly. Therefore, some of the information in these papers may have been superseded at a later date.
Dynamic reports from the COVID-19 Clinical Information Network (CO-CIN) have been provided to SAGE to highlight ongoing information and evidence about COVID-19 for a large sample of hospitalised UK patients. As the reports are dynamic, the data included and analyses change over time and in each report. Particularly for early reports, there may be a risk of misinterpretation – it is important that any potential signals have been confirmed as robust and not taken out of context. A peer reviewed publication is forthcoming which reports summary results between 6 February and 19 April 2020. A preprint is currently available at:
The minutes of SAGE meetings and supporting documentation (scientific data and analysis used to inform SAGE discussions) are typically published at the conclusion of the relevant emergency. This reflects the need to balance building the public’s understanding of the advice provided by the Group, with the need to protect any national security or operational considerations, and ensure there is a safe space in which Group can provide – and Ministers can consider - free and frank advice.
We have revisited this approach in the light of the current exceptional circumstances, recognising the high level of public interest in the nature and content of SAGE advice, the likely need for the provision of advice over an extended period, and the very wide-ranging impact across UK society.
Specifically in respect of its work on coronavirus, SAGE will publish:
  • all past minutes and supporting documents. Papers will be published chronologically and thematically in the coming weeks.
  • future minutes and supporting documentation will be published within 1 month of the meeting having taken place, and earlier where possible.


Redactions will be limited and will be applied to protect the personal data of individuals, in particular junior officials and those participants in scientific advisory groups who have asked not to be named, or to protect the national security. A very small number of papers have been prepared for use in Cabinet Meetings and will not form part of this publication scheme, and in line with wider practice.
This page will be updated on a regular basis with the latest available evidence provided to SAGE.

Introduction to the evidence

R number

SAGE meeting papers

View the full list of meeting papers (CSV, 10.3KB).

Meeting 4, 4 February 2020

Meeting 6, 11 February 2020

Meeting 8, 18 February 2020

Meeting 9, 20 February 2020

Meeting 10, 25 February 2020

Meeting 11, 27 February 2020

Meeting 12, 3 March 2020

Meeting 13, 5 March 2020

Meeting 14, 10 March 2020

Meeting 15, 13 March 2020

Meeting 16, 16 March 2020

Meeting 17, 18 March 2020

Meeting 18, 23 March 2020

Meeting 19, 26 March 2020

Meeting 21, 31 March 2020

Meeting 22, 2 April 2020

Material was redacted from the first document in accordance with the standard principles governing Freedom of Information when it was first published. However Sir Patrick Vallance and No10 agree that such SAGE documents relating to COVID-19 should be published in full, in the interests of maximum transparency, with exceptions only for matters relating to national security.

Meeting 23, 7 April 2020

Meeting 24, 9 April 2020

Meeting 25, 14 April 2020

Meeting 26, 16 April 2020

Meeting 27, 21 April 2020

Meeting 28, 23 April 2020

Meeting 29, 28 April 2020

Meeting 30, 30 April 2020

Meeting 31, 1 May

Meeting 33, 5 May 2020

Meeting 34, 7 May 2020

Meeting 35, 12 May 2020

Meeting 36, 14 May 2020

SPI-B background papers

These papers were produced by SPI-B participants to aid early discussions and understanding of the group.

Modelling inputs

Emerging evidence about COVID-19

Reports from Imperial College London

The models

Specific pieces of modelling on interventions provided to SAGE

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Cassandrafreude over Cummings

Latest letters to the Editor sent  respectively to The Times, Guardian and Financial Times:

You report the Prime Minister as telling the Liaison Committee hearing in Wednesday (“ Move on from Cummings, PM urges as Tory rebellion swells,” The Times,  May 28) that while he had evidence to back up Mr Cummings various claims  he did not break  rules, but refused both to publish it or hand it to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, to be verified.

In a phrase classicist Boris Johnson would comprehend “nullius in verba” ( don’t just trust what someone says)
That also happens to be the basic research principle of the Royal Society, dating from 1660.

I watched with increasing incredulity Dom Cummings extraordinary press conference on Monday afternoon. 

Archie Bland did a good job in summarising what Cummings told reporters and the wider nation via the broadcast media ( ‘A very tricky situation’ Cummings explained why he took his family to Durham,” The Guardian, 26 May).

But there were some parts of the narrative that just did not make any sense: if he had sight problems, why didn’t his wife drive back to London; why didn’t  they seek the help of Mrs Cummings’ brother, who lives a few streets away in London etc)

Freelance investigative journalist, Jenny Kleeman reviewing the papers on Sky News on Monday night suggested Cummings had “reverse engineered” a  plausible narrative to fit between the publicly known facts.

Is that what he and his boss Boris were doing hunkered down for five hours in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon?
Your Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne reported on 30 March (“Dominic Cummings develops Coronavirus symptoms” Financial Times) that the Prime  Minister’s chief policy advisor “will remain at his London home for the next seven days.”

By the time this article appeared, Me Cummings was already in a house adjoining his parents home near Durham.

As I have every confidence your reporter did not make up the claimed location of Mr Cummings , he must have been briefed by an official at 10 Downing Street, Mr Cummings‘ place of work.
So, either the briefer really did not know where the prime minister main policy architect could be found, but guessed;  or deliberately misinformed your reporter.

If the latter, what was the reason for doing so?

It all gets curiouser  and curiouser, as Alice pondered in Wonderland.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Chinese involvement in UK energy infrastructure undermines energy resilience and long term energy security

Former Prime ministerial advisor, Nick Timothy rightly warns that “we must change our approach to China (“As a ruthless Chinese regime flexes its muscles, the West must stand up,” 25 May 2020;

Last week the current Prime Minister asserted to MPs in PMQs that he is pursuing “measures to protect our technological base.”


The initiative, “Project Defend,” is aimed at creating a new national resilience framework, which, it has been reported,  will address the current over-reliance on China for “medical and other strategic imports.”


One such strategic import is civil nuclear technology, on which UK is 100 per cent reliant on foreign suppliers for the critical core reactor infrastructure, with the Hinkley C nuclear plant under construction by French state generator, Electricite  de France ( EdF) using French technology, supported by French and Chinese capital investment. 


The next new nuclear plant in line for construction, at Sizewell C in Suffolk, the planning application for which was announced early morning of 27 May 2020, will have 20 per cent of its costs paid for by Chinese state company China General Nuclear.


The third new plant, at Bradwell  in Essex, Is planned to entirely built using 100 per cent Chinese/ French designed technology, mostly imported, and backed by 62 per cent Chinese funding.


It would also be operated by a primarily Chinese technical team.


Only smaller parts for these new plants will be sourced from the UK supply chain.


Four years ago, when Theresa May became Prime Minister, she immediately ordered a strategy’s review of Chinese engagement with the British nuclear  sector, after serious concerns were expressed by Mr Timothy.


The green light to Chinese nuclear was given after a secret three month internal review.


It is surely appropriate that “Project Defend “now looks again - in light of disquiet  over serious failures  in Chinese technology controls over Covid19 - at the Chinese  Government  involvement  in the key strategic sector of electricity generation, as the U.K. makes major decisions in the energy transition to achieve ‘zero carbon emissions’  by 2050.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Dom Cummings on "The most secure bio-labs routinely make errors that could cause a global pandemic & are about to re-start experiments on pathogens engineered to make them mammalian-airborne-transmissible"

Below is an interesting blog written by Dominic Cummings, chief policy advisor to the UK  Prime Minister, Boris Johnson  in March  last year on the dangers of pandemics . By academic training, Cummings, 48,  is an Oxford University graduate in  ancient and medieval history....


The most secure bio-labs routinely make errors that could cause a global pandemic & are about to re-start experiments on pathogens engineered to make them mammalian-airborne-transmissible

‘Although the institutions of our culture are so amazingly good that they have been able to manage stability in the face of rapid change for hundreds of years, the knowledge of what it takes to keep civilization stable in the face of rapidly increasing knowledge is not very widespread. In fact, severe misconceptions about several aspects of it are common among political leaders, educated people, and society at large. We’re like people on a huge, well-designed submarine, which has all sorts of lifesaving devices built in, who don’t know they’re in a submarine. They think they’re in a motorboat, and they’re going to open all the hatches because they want to have a nicer view.’ David Deutsch, the physicist who extended Alan Turing’s 1936 paper on classical computation to quantum computation. 
Experiments on viruses that could cause a global pandemic killing many millions were halted but were recently cleared to resume and will be conducted in these ‘top security’ labs.
The new Bulletin of Atomic Scientists carries research showing how the supposedly most secure bio-labs have serious security problems and clearly present an unacceptable risk of causing a disastrous pandemic:
Incidents causing potential exposures to pathogens occur frequently in the high security laboratories often known by their acronyms, BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) and BSL4. Lab incidents that lead to undetected or unreported laboratory-acquired infections can lead to the release of a disease into the community outside the lab; lab workers with such infections will leave work carrying the pathogen with them. If the agent involved were a potential pandemic pathogen, such a community release could lead to a worldwide pandemic with many fatalities. Of greatest concern is a release of a lab-created, mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, such as the airborne-transmissible H5N1 viruses created in the laboratories of Ron Fouchier in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka In Madison Wisconsin.
Such releases are fairly likely over time, as there are at least 14 labs (mostly in Asia) now carrying out this research. Whatever release probability the world is gambling with, it is clearly far too high a risk to human lives. Mammal-transmissible bird flu research poses a real danger of a worldwide pandemic that could kill human beings on a vast scale.
Human error is the main cause of potential exposures of lab workers to pathogens. Statistical data from two sources show that human error was the cause of, according to my research, 67 percent and 79.3 percent of incidents leading to potential exposures in BSL3 labs…
‘A key observation is that human error in the lab is mostly independent of pathogen type and biosafety level. Analyzing the likelihood of release from laboratories researching less virulent or transmissible pathogens therefore can serve as a reasonable surrogate for how potential pandemic pathogens are handled. (We are forced to deal with surrogate data because, thank goodness, there are little data on the release of potentially pandemic agents.) Put another way, surrogate data allows us to determine with confidence the probability of release of a potentially pandemic pathogen into the community. 
In a 2015 publication, Fouchier describes the careful design of his BSL3+ laboratory in Rotterdam and its standard operating procedures, which he contends should increase biosafety and reduce human error. Most of Fouchier’s discussion, however, addresses mechanical systems in the laboratory.
But the high percentage of human error reported here calls into question claims that state-of-the-art design of BSL3, BSL3+ (augmented BSL3), and BSL4 labs will prevent the release of dangerous pathogens. How much lab-worker training might reduce human error and undetected or unreported laboratory acquired infections remains an open question. Given the many ways by which human error can occur, it is doubtful that Fouchier’s human-error-prevention measures can eliminate release of airborne-transmissible avian flu into the community through undetected or unreported lab infections…
‘In its 2016 study for the NIH, “Risk and Benefit Analysis of Gain of Function Research,” Gryphon Scientific looked to the transportation, chemical, and nuclear sectors to define types of human error and their probabilities. As Gryphon summarized in its findings, the three types of human error are skill-based (errors involving motor skills involving little thought), rule-based (errors in following instructions or set procedures accidentally or purposely), and knowledge-based (errors stemming from a lack of knowledge or a wrong judgment call based on lack of experience). Gryphon claimed that “no comprehensive Human Reliability Analysis (HRA) study has yet been completed for a biological laboratory… . This lack of data required finding suitable proxies for accidents in other fields.”
‘But mandatory incident reporting to FSAP and NIH actually does provide sufficient data to quantify human error in BSL3 biocontainment labs…
‘Among other things, the GAO report called attention to a well-publicized incident in which a Defense Department laboratory “inadvertently sent live Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, to almost 200 laboratories worldwide over the course of 12 years. The laboratory believed that the samples had been inactivated.” The report describes yet another well-publicized incident in China in which “two researchers conducting virus research were exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus samples that were incompletely inactivated. The researchers subsequently transmitted SARS to others, leading to several infections and one death in 2004.
‘The GAO identified three recent releases of Ebola and Marburg viruses from BSL4 to lower containment labs due to incomplete inactivation.
‘A fourth release in 2014 from the CDC labs occurred when “Scientists inadvertently switched samples designated for live Ebola virus studies with samples intended for studies with inactivated material. As a result, the samples with viable Ebola virus, instead of the samples with inactivated Ebola virus, were transferred out of a BSL-4 laboratory to a laboratory with a lower safety level for additional analysis. While no one contracted Ebola virus in this instance, the consequences could have been dire for the personnel involved as there are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for this virus.”…
‘ In an analysis circulated at the 2017 meeting for the Biological Weapons Convention, a conservative estimate shows that the probability is about 20 percent for a release of a mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus into the community from at least one of 10 labs over a 10-year period of developing and researching this type of pathogen… Analysis of the FOIA NIH data gives a much higher release probability — that is, a factor five to 10 times higher
‘The avian flu virus H5N1 kills 60 percent of people who become infected from direct contact with infected birds. The mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza created in the Fouchier and Kawaoka labs should be able to infect humans through the air, and the viruses could be deadly.
A release into the community of such a pathogen could seed a pandemic with a probability of perhaps 15 percent. This estimate is from an average of two very different approaches…
‘Combining release probability with the not insignificant probability that an airborne-transmissible influenza virus could seed a pandemic, we have an alarming situation…
‘Those who support mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza experiments either believe the probability of community release is infinitesimal or the benefits in preventing a pandemic are great enough to justify the risk. For this research, it would take extraordinary benefits and significant risk reduction via extraordinary biosafety measures to correct such a massive overbalance of highly uncertain benefits to too-likely risks.
Whatever probability number we are gambling with, it is clearly far too high a risk to human lives. There are experimental approaches that do not involve live mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza which identify mutations involved in mammalian airborne transmission. These “safer experimental approaches are both more scientifically informative and more straightforward to translate into improved public health…” Asian bird flu virus research to develop live strains transmissible via aerosols among mammals (and perhaps some other potentially pandemic disease research as well), should for the present be restricted to special BSL4 laboratoriesor augmented BSL3 facilities where lab workers are not allowed to leave the facility until it is certain that they have not become infected.’
This connects to my blog last week on nuclear/AGI safety and how to turn government institutions responsible for decisions about billions of lives and trillions of dollars from hopeless to high performance. Science is ‘a blind search algorithm’. New institutions are needed that incentivise hard thinking about avoiding disasters…
As the piece above stresses and lessons from nuclear safety also show, getting the physical security right is only one hard problem. Most security failings happen because of human actions that are not envisaged when designing systems. This is why Red Teams are so vital but they cannot solve the problem of broken political institutions. Remember: Red Teams told the federal government all about the failures of airline security at the airports used by the 9/11 attackers before 9/11. Those who wrote the reports were DEMOTED and the Red Team was CLOSED: those with power did not want to hear.
The problems considered above are ‘accidents’ — what if these systems were subject to serious penetration testing by the likes of Chris Vickery? (Also consider that there is a large network of Soviet scientists that participated in the covert Soviet bio-weapons program that the West was almost completely ignorant about until post-1991. Many of these people have scattered to places unknown with who knows what.)
Pop Quiz…
A. How many MPs understand security protocols in UK facilities rated ‘most secure’?
B. Does the minister responsible? Have they ever had a meeting with experts about this? Is the responsible minister even aware of this very recent research above? Are they aware that these experiments are about to restart? When was the last time a very high level Red Team test of supposedly ‘top secret/secure’ UK facilities was conducted using teams with expertise in breaking into secure facilities by any means necessary, legal or illegal (i.e a genuine ‘free play’ exercise, not a scripted game where the Red Team is prohibited from being too ‘extreme’)? Has this happened at all in the last 10 years? How bad were the results? Were any ministers told? Have any asked? Does any minister even know who is responsible for such things? Are officials of the calibre of those who routinely preside over procurement disasters in charge (back in SW1) of the technical people working on such issues (after all, some play senior roles in Brexit negotiations)?
C. How much coverage of the above finding has appeared in newspapers like the FT?
My answers would be: A. ~0. B. Near total general failure. C. ~0.
A hypothesis that should be tested: With a) <£1million to play with, b) the ability to recruit a team from among special forces/intel services/specialist criminals/whoever, and c) no rules (so for example they could deploy honey traps on the head of security), a Red Team would break into the most secure UK bio-research facilities and acquire material that could be released publicly in order to cause deaths on the scale of millions. A serious test will also reveal that there is no serious attempt to incentivise the stars of Whitehall to work on such important issues or involve extremely able people from outside Whitehall.
As I wrote last week, it was clear years ago that a smart teen could take out any world leaders using a drone in Downing Street — they can’t even install decent CCTV and audio — but we should be much more worried about bio-facilities.

Dominic Mckenzie Cummings (born 25 November 1971)

 is a British political strategist who was appointed a Chief Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July 2019.[2][3] As Johnson's chief adviser, political commentators note that Cummings has an unprecedented level of influence upon the Prime Minister himself and Her Majesty’s Government.
From 2007 to 2014, he was a special adviser to Michael Gove, including the time that Gove served as Secretary of State for Education, before leaving when Gove was demoted to the Chief Whip’s Office by David Cameron. At the Department for Education, Cummings was suspected of leading a briefing campaign against the Home Office led by then-Home Secretary Theresa May and clashed with David Cameron, then prime minister. From 2015 to 2016, Cummings was director of the successful Vote Leave campaign, an organisation opposed to continued British membership of the European Union, that took an active part in the 2016 referendum campaign for Brexit.
In May 2020, politicans and the media called for Cummings to resign after he travelled to visit his parents' farm in Durham during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, supported Cummings saying he had acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity".

Early life

Cummings was born in Durham on 25 November 1971. His father, Robert, had a varied career, primarily as an oil rig project manager for Laing,[4] the construction firm. His mother, Morag, a university graduate, was a teacher and behavioural specialist.[5] Sir John Laws, a former Lord Justice of Appeal, was his uncle.[5]
After attending state primary school, he was privately educated at Durham School[6] and Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied under Norman Stone,[7] graduating in 1994 with a First in Ancient and Modern History.[8] One of his professors has described him to the New Statesman as "fizzing with ideas, unconvinced by any received set of views about anything". He was "something like a Robespierre – someone determined to bring down things that don’t work."[5] Also in his youth, he worked at Klute, a nightclub owned by his uncle in Durham.[9]
After university, Cummings moved to Yeltsin's post-Soviet Russia from 1994 to 1997, working on various projects at the encouragement of Stone. He worked for a group attempting to set up an airline connecting Samara in southern Russia to Vienna in Austria which was "spectacularly unsuccessful".[10] He subsequently returned to the UK.

Political career


From 1999 to 2002, Cummings was campaign director at Business for Sterling, the campaign against the UK joining the Euro.[1][8] He then became Director of Strategy for Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith for eight months in 2002, aiming to modernise the Conservative Party (of which he was not a member); however he soon left in frustration at the introduction of what he saw as half-measures, labelling Duncan Smith "incompetent".[11][12] With James Frayne, he founded the New Frontiers Foundation think-tank as its director; it launched in December 2003 and closed in March 2005.[13] Cummings was described as a "key figure" in the successful campaign against a North-East Regional Assembly in 2004,[14] after which he moved to his father's farm in County Durham.[8]
Cummings worked for Conservative politician Michael Gove from 2007 to January 2014, first in opposition and then, after Andy Coulson’s departure as a special adviser (spad) in the Department for Education (DfE). He was Gove's chief of staff,[11] an appointment blocked by Andy Coulson until his own resignation.[15][16] In this capacity, Cummings wrote an essay titled "Some thoughts on education and political priorities",[17] about transforming Britain into a "meritocratic technopolis";[11] the essay was described by Guardian journalist Patrick Wintour as "either mad, bad or brilliant – and probably a bit of all three".[16][18]
At the DfE, Cummings became known for his blunt style and "not suffering fools gladly";[8][11] he railed against the "blob", the informal alliance of senior civil servants and teachers who, in Cummings's opinion, sought to frustrate his attempts at reform.[14] Cummings was also outspoken regarding other senior politicians, describing Nick Clegg's proposals on free school meals as "Dreamed up on the back of a cigarette packet",[19] and David Davis as "thick as mince" and "lazy as a toad".[14] Patrick Wintour described the Cummings–Gove working relationship: "Gove, polite to a fault, would often feign ignorance of his adviser’s methods, but knew full well the dark arts that Cummings deployed to get his master’s way".[19] In 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron described Cummings as a "career psychopath",[20] although the two had never met.[19]
In 2012, a senior female civil servant received a payout of £25,000 in a bullying case she took against Cummings and a senior member of Michael Gove's team, when Cummings was a special adviser at the Department for Education.[21][22]
During his time as an official working for Gove, Cummings received a warning from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for use of private Gmail accounts to deal with government business, saying it should be 'actively discouraged'.[23] The ICO uncovered an email from Cummings in which he said: 'i will not answer any further emails to my official DfE account or from – i will only answer things that come from Gmail accounts from people who I know who they are' [sic].[24]
In 2014, Cummings left his job as a special adviser and noted that he might endeavour to open a free school.[15] 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.[15][25]

Campaign to leave the European Union (2015–2019)

Cummings became campaign director of Vote Leave upon the creation of the organisation in October 2015.[18] He is credited with having created the Vote Leave slogan, "Take back control", and with being the leading strategist of the campaign.[26][27] His campaign strategy was summarised as: "Do talk about immigration";[28][29] "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.[30] Cummings and Vote Leave CEO Matthew Elliott left the board in February 2016 following reported infighting.[31] The June 2016 referendum resulted in a 51.9% vote to leave the European Union. Cummings was praised alongside Elliott as being one of the masterminds of the campaign.[32] He was named as one of "Debrett's 500 2016" people of influence.[33]
He advised Babylon Health on its communications strategy and senior recruitment up to September 2018. The Labour Party opposition spokesman Jon Ashworth said the links between Cummings, the health secretary and Babylon were "increasingly murky and highly irresponsible".[34]
In March 2019, the Commons Select Committee of Privileges recommended the House issue an admonishment for contempt of Parliament after Cummings failed to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into claims of false news during the referendum campaign.[35] The resolution admonishing him was passed by resolution of the House of Commons on 2 April 2019.[36]
In July 2017, the lawyer and political commentator, David Allen Green, asked Cummings via Twitter, "Is there anything which could now happen (or not happen) which would make you now wish Leave had not won the referendum result?" Cummings replied, "Lots! I said before REF was dumb idea, other things should have been tried 1st."[37]

Senior Adviser to Boris Johnson (Since 2019)

Effigy of Cummings as Boris Johnson's puppet-master at the People's Vote march, in October 2019
On 24 July 2019, Cummings was appointed as a Senior Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.[38]
On his appointment, The Guardian reported that at a conference in 2017 Cummings had argued that: "People think, and by the way I think most people are right: 'The Tory party is run by people who basically don't care about people like me'"; and that "Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don't care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that".[39]
The Daily Telegraph reported on Cummings's past rivalry with Nigel Farage from the 2016 referendum campaign, and quoted Farage as saying that: "He has never liked me. He can't stand the ERG. I can't see him coming to any accommodation with anyone. He has huge personal enmity with the true believers in Brexit".[40]
Cummings was accused by Layla Moran of hypocrisy when, not long after his appointment, it was reported that a farm that he co-owns had received €250,000 (£235,000) in EU farming subsidies. Cummings had previously described such subsidies as "absurd", complaining that some of them were handed out to "very rich landowners to do stupid things".[41]
In November 2019, a whistleblower raised questions about Cummings' interactions during his years in Russia; The Sunday Times reported that Whitehall was keeping certain government business from Cummings.[42]
As is customary procedure, Cummings temporarily resigned his role when Parliament dissolved for the 2019 general election, along with most special advisers, but was briefly reinstated to assist the government following widespread flooding.[43]
According to Politico, Cummings played a role in the Conservative Party's victory in the election,[44] despite having passed the party's running of the election campaign to Isaac Levido. After the election, Cummings called for people interested in working in government to contact him through a private Gmail address. In a blog post, he said he wanted to recruit data scientists, software developers and economists to help improve the performance of government, making his own role "within a year largely redundant".[45] The recruitment drive was reported to have resulted in several appointments on short-term contracts, including Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, Professor Vernon Gibson and, briefly, Andrew Sabisky.[46] Sabisky resigned in February 2020 following complaints about his previously expressed