Dear Dominic Cummings – true leaders care about people


Dear Dominic Cummings

I read your blog post advertising for staff at No. 10. It was similar in style to all your other blog posts – I’ve been reading for quite some time – but I have to say it was even more bombastic than usual.

We know and understand how much you want to break the current system of governance in the UK. We know how extraordinarily successful you have been in your manipulation of sentiment, marginal voters and the politicians you currently puppet so successfully.

And now you’re looking for staff members that will acquiesce to your every whim, busying themselves with unconventional methods of thinking and policy development so that you can neatly dismantle the system you have wanted to pull apart for so long.

Surprisingly, I agree that it is a system that needs changing and updating. That there are some better ways than those of an entrenched civil service tradition but, sadly, your blog indicates that any new system will be a system for the sake of it, a vanity project, a game in which you balance the win in your favour. The odds are that your new system will not be one that benefits everyday people currently struggling under the weight of a decade of Tory misrule. It will instead be a system created in your own image and likeness, peopled by the ‘cognitively diverse’ you describe in your rather lengthy job ad.

It seems that you are now accountable to no-one and intend to chew up and spit out as many staff members as possible in the race to fill Westminster with your flunkies. They may be smart, they may be able, they may – as you request – be speedy but my experience of employers who ask for misfits, mavericks and mavens is that they run them hard, bleed them dry and shape them into their own image and likeness. You write (and I quote):

We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole, weirdos from William Gibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand ‘diviner’ who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger or that Chinese-Cuban free runner from a crime family hired by the KGB. If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news.

By definition I don’t really know what I’m looking for but I want people around No10 to be on the lookout for such people.

We need to figure out how to use such people better without asking them to conform to the horrors of ‘Human Resources’ (which also obviously need a bonfire).

I think you do know what you are looking for – the excitable, the malleable and the malevolent. People who can help you dismantle a system and, once they’re done, you can ‘dispense with their services’ – after all, you’ve given fair warning in your job ad. Your call for communications practitioners (familiar with the work of Robert Cialdini) worries me even more as the current track record of No.10 has yet to demonstrate anything in the way of ethical communication and, although Cialdini warns against ‘pre-suasion’ being used unethically, I don’t think ethics is an area in which you’ll be offering support.

A few decades ago, when the political adviser was a mewling new-born concept, chaos reigned in council buildings up and down the country as the ‘spads’ (special political advisers) locked horns with non-political people employed to do a fair and balanced job in accordance with the law. The tussle across the political-operational line has continued through the years – until today of course. You have managed, perhaps by some Faustian pact, to win the joust. The spads are in charge of the asylum, the immigration, the borders and the benefits. They care about policy and power – not people. They don’t understand – or want to understand – people. When your recruitment is complete, the political theatre we can expect will ultimately horrify rather than entertain. You may be setting up the circus, but when there is no bread to be had amidst your luxury of zero opposition and years in power ahead, odds-on, expect a revolution. One that even you will have failed to predict.

Catherine Arrow