Dominic Cummings Latest: Adviser might have breached rules, say police

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Odds shorten on Boris Johnson's chief adviser keeping his job after police left room for interpretation following their investigation, reports Max Liu...

"The price on Cummings losing his job before 1 June shortened to odds-on for the first time on Sunday morning, amid frenetic betting activity, after Tories joined opposition MPs in calling for Cummings to go..."

Updated - Thursday 28 May, 2pm

Dominic Cummings is 1/10 to still be in his job on 1 June after police concluded "there might have been a minor breach of the regulations" when the prime minister's chief adviser made a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle near Durham during lockdown.

Cummings was 3/1 to lose his job this morning but, following Durham police's rather vague statement, the odds on him going are 5/1 at the time of writing. Johnson has strongly backed his adviser so far and yesterday told the nation to "move on" from the Cummings allegations.

Betfair Sportsbook have opened a new market on Boris Johnson's cabinet where you can bet on who'll be the next minister to leave. These have been lively in the past with long odds backers rewarded when Johnson himself quit Theresa May's government a couple of years ago.

In the current market, Home Secretary Priti Patel is 3/1 favourite followed by the PM himself at 8/1.

Updated - Tuesday 26 May, 1pm

Dominic Cummings is 4/9 to still be in his job as the prime minister's chief adviser by 1 June even after a Conservative minister resigned in protest at Boris Johnson's handling of the affair.

Cummings has been under fire since Friday night and, as reported below, went on odds-on to lose his job on Sunday morning after new allegations were published about his trip to Durham during lockdown.

On Sunday afternoon Johnson refused to sack him and on Monday Cummings made an extraordinary live televised statement and took questions from journalists. He said he didn't regret his actions which have left many members of the public furious.

Cummings and Johnson are digging in which is why the price on the adviser leaving his job in the next few days is out to 13/8. This morning, however, Douglas Ross became the first minister to resign from the government in protest, leaving his post as Under Secretary of State for Scotland.

The number of Tory MPs to go public with their outrage is climbing and members of the cabinet are believed to be angry that Cummings was able to make his public address on Monday. So far, however, Ross is the only minister to resign. It is clear that this story is still developing and the odds may well change again in line with events.

In the last hour YouGov published a poll showing 59% of the public think Cummings should lose his job. Polling was conducted after Cummings had made his public statement which indicates that it didn't go down well:

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Sunday 24 May, 12:00

Dominic Cummings is odds-on with Betfair Sportsbook to lose his job after more allegations were made on Saturday night about the prime minister's chief adviser breaking lockdown to travel from London to Durham.

Boris Johnson resisted calls to sack his adviser but, amid mounting pressure, the price on Cummings losing his job before 1 June shortened to odds-on for the first time on Sunday morning. There was frenetic betting activity after Tories joined opposition MPs in calling for Cummings to go.

On Saturday Cummings said he wouldn't be resigning and senior members of the government - including Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab - defended his driving to Durham in March with his wife and child, and backed him to keep his job.

But the second wave of allegations, which were published by the Guardian on Saturday night and said Cummings was seen in Durham in April, undermined the arguments made by his allies. On Sunday morning seven Conservative MPs said Cummings should resign:

Cummings has been an instrumental figure in British politics in recent years, first in the campaign to persuade people to vote Leave in the in-out referendum on EU membership in 2016, then in the Conservatives' election victory last year. But he remains divisive and was heavily criticised for his role in the government's "herd immunity" approach to the pandemic.

Now reports of him breaking lockdown have prompted fury across the political spectrum from people who see his actions as arrogant, hypocritical and irresponsible.

Yesterday a snap poll showed most people thought Cummings should go and those numbers are likely to have increased after the second story broke on Saturday evening:

Will Cummings controversy damage Johnson government?

The odds on Cummings' job prospects are fluctuating on Sportsbook, so that's where the betting activity is right now. Longer term, however, the Exchange market on the next general election indicates that bettors are feeling circumspect about the impact of the allegations.

It helps that the next general election is [1.54] to happen in 2024 which should allow time for memories to fade. On the other hand, the sense of outrage about Cummings this weekend may have penetrated through to people who voted Tory in December and, once a government has a reputation for dishonesty, it can be hard to shake.

A hung parliament is the most likely outcome on the Exchange's next election market at [2.66], with the Tories [2.92] and Labour [3.3]. New opposition leader Keir Starmer has made a decent start, routing Johnson at PMQs for a second successive week on Wednesday and forcing the government into a u-turn on the NHS surcharge for migrant health workers.

If Cummings goes - and, as the odds indicate, it's now looking more likely than it was 24 hours ago - then Johnson could lack direction in office and be exposed when the official inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic eventually arrives.

Alastair Campbell, who occupied a similarly divisive role in Tony Blair's administration and has been a vocal critic of Cummings this weekend, used to say that when you became the story you were finished. By contrast, Cummings relishes the limelight and revels in creating distractions from policy. But Blair was never as assured in office after Campbell left - and neither was David Cameron after Steve Hilton departed - and the same could prove to be true for Johnson once Cummings goes.

Political operators who consider themselves untouchable can look unassailable for a time, but they don't survive forever. Eventually, they overreach and are brought down. Cummings looks likely to get his comeuppance sooner rather than latter.

Max Liu,

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