Dominic Cummings has moved No10 aides into a new ‘mission control’ as part of a drive to sharpen up government.
The maverick aide – who ditched his has trademark scruffy style for a smart suit as the new political term started yesterday – has introduced a Nasa-style set-up in the Cabinet Office.
The open-plan space is being used by a tight-knit circle of advisers, with socially-distanced desks grouped into policy areas overseen by Mr Cummings and data guru Ben Warner.
Big screens are also being deployed to display detailed metrics about progress with policies and the coronavirus crisis – in keeping with the former Vote Leave head’s determination to make government more data-driven.
Dominic Cummings ditched his has trademark scruffy style for a smart suit as the new political term started yesterday (left), in stark contrast to his usual work attire, which typically involves a T-shirt and jogging bottoms or jeans (pictured right last month)
Boris Johnson held his first Cabinet meeting yesterday following the summer holidays
No10 permanent secretary Simon Case was unveiled as the new head of the civil service yesterday – the youngest holder of the post in living memory – with a mandate to force through changes.
In June there were reports Mr Cummings told political aides a ‘hard rain is coming’ in Whitehall, suggesting the Cabinet Office needed radical overhaul.
A series of mandarins have departed during the drive for change.
While out of government, Mr Cummings wrote extensive blogs detailing his fondness for ‘red teams’ explicitly tasked with finding reasons why policies should not be pursued, and his criticism of the Whitehall infrastructure.
That included saying the Cabinet room was not fit for purpose because it does not have any ‘tools’ for modern times – with even the clock not always working.
The former Vote Leave chief, who worked for Michael Gove at the Department for Education, previously described the civil service machine as ‘Kafkaesque’, and wrote of support for ministers: ‘The whole structure of ‘submissions’ and ‘red boxes’ is hopeless. It is extremely bureaucratic and slow…
‘The whole approach reinforces the abject failure of the senior civil service to think about high performance project management.’
Mr Cummings – who took time off for an undisclosed medical operation recently – donned a smart suit for the first Cabinet meeting called by Boris Johnson after the summer holidays.
It was a stark contrast to his usual work attire, which typically involves a T-shirt and jogging bottoms or jeans.
The upgrade came as the PM spelled out his desire to get the country back towards ‘normality’ despite the coronavirus crisis.
The government is facing a barrage of problems, with children returning to school for the first time since lockdown this week.
Meanwhile, there is mounting Tory unrest about the handling of the pandemic and the struggle to get workers back in offices, to avert the collapse of town and city centres.
The public finances have been left in tatters by the huge bailouts, but there is fury at briefings suggesting Chancellor Rishi Sunak could raise taxes in the Budget this Autumn.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson in Whitehall yesterday as the new political term got under way