It seems that the intellectual power behind the Boris Johnson throne is one Dominic Cummings, someone who only came to my attention recently. His new eminence put me in mind of a few similar people in the recent and not so recent past.
Churchill had the egregious Brendan Bracken as his adviser and amanuensis. Bracken was, as such people often are, very strange indeed. He was born into modest but not poor circumstances in Ireland, drifted around Australia, attended Sedbergh School at age 19 (though claiming to be just 15), paying the fees himself, then left after one term, having acquired what the later KGB would have called a “legend” as an Anglo-Irishman who had attended a well-known English school (he let people believe that had been there for years).
Armed with the Sedbergh “old school tie”, Bracken became a schoolmaster at Bishop’s Stortford College in 1921, but by 1922 was a magazine publisher and editor in London. He became wealthy quite rapidly. Puzzling. Here was a young man who had presumably saved some money while in Australia, and may have had a part-share in whatever his father left, but all the same Bracken’s swift rise to wealth is a puzzle. Still, there it is.
Having attached himself to Churchill, Bracken was instrumental at the vital moment when Chamberlain resigned in 1940:
” When Bracken became aware of Churchill’s agreement to nominate Lord Halifax, he convinced Churchill that the Labour Party would indeed support him as Chamberlain’s successor, and that Lord Halifax’s appointment would hand certain victory to Hitler. Bracken advised Churchill tactically to say nothing when the three met to arrange the succession. After a deafening silence during which Churchill was expected to nominate Halifax, the latter obligingly ruled himself out and Churchill was put forward as Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, having avoided any appearance of disloyalty to Chamberlain.” [Wikipedia, and see Notes, below].
Thus this odd man “from nowhere” was not only present at the pivotal moment, but can be said to have altered the course of the Second World War on the strategic level. Had Churchill not become Prime Minister, Britain would have agreed peace with the German Reich in 1940. The whole history of Europe and indeed the world was thus altered in its course by this now-forgotten man (forgotten by the public, at least).
Bracken was MP for Paddington North (1929-1945) and for Bournemouth (1945-1951). He was Churchill’s PPS from 1940, later promoted to Minister of Information (1941-1945) and was briefly First Lord of the Admiralty in 1945. He was one of the chiefs of the Political Warfare Executive. He was elevated as a viscount in 1952. He was the publisher of, inter alia, the Financial Times, The Economist and History Today.
Bracken was rumoured to have been Churchill’s illegitimate progeny, though this seems to have been a myth not discouraged by Bracken himself. The viscounty granted was hereditary, but Bracken was unmarried and without issue. He died in 1958.
Was this the story only of a remarkably talented self-made businessman and politician or was there more to it? There are hints of the then-concealed New World Order about it all. We shall probably never know.
[As with Cummings –see below— Hilton felt the need to display his “I’m an off the wall maverick genius” persona by wearing beachwear or surf dude getup to Downing Street…]
Wikipedia says of Steve Hilton the following:
“Hilton is the son of Hungarian immigrants whose original surname was Hircsák (which some sources spell “Hircksac”), who fled their home during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. They came to Britain, initially claiming asylum, and anglicised their name to Hilton. Steve Hilton’s father, István, had been goaltender for the Hungarian national ice hockey team and was considered one of the top ice hockey players in Europe in the 1930s. After arriving in Britain, his parents initially worked in catering at Heathrow Airport. They divorced when Steve was five years old leading to what he has described as a struggle and great financial hardship; his mother worked in a shoe store to earn the little money they had, and the two lived in a cold, damp basement apartment. He won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham before studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at New College, Oxford.”
“After graduating, Hilton worked at Conservative Central Office, where he came to know David Cameron and Rachel Whetstone, his future wife and Senior Vice-President of Policy and Communications for Uber. He liaised with the party’s advertising firm, Saatchi and Saatchi, and was praised by Maurice Saatchi, who remarked, “No one reminds me as much of me when young as Steve.” During this time Hilton bought the “New Labour, New Danger” demon eyes poster campaign for the Conservative’s pre-general election campaign in 1996, which won an award from the advertising industry’s Campaign magazine at the beginning of 1997. The Conservatives went on to experience their worst election defeat for more than half a century, with some journalists speculating that the poster contrasted unfavourably with Labour’s more positive campaign. In 2005, Hilton lost out to future Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove in the selection process for the Surrey Heath constituency.”
“Hilton talked of the need to “replace” the traditionally minded grassroots membership of the Conservative Party, which he saw as preventing the party from embracing a more metropolitan attitude on social issues.”
So he was at first, in the 1990s, little better than a gopher, but then he met his wife, Rachel Whetstone. Who is she? She is described in Wikipedia as having been head of communications for Uber taxis. For a number of years until 2015, she was in a similar position at Google. She has more recently joined Netflix.
“In February 2013, Whetstone was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. Whetstone has been featured on PRWeek’s Power List several times, most recently in 2016 at number 14.” [Wikipedia]
“Whetstone is married to Steve Hilton, whom she met after an affair with Lord Astor (stepfather to Samantha Cameron, wife of former Prime Minister David Cameron) in the lead-up to the 2005 election. Cameron is no longer on speaking terms with Whetstone or Hilton.” [Wikipedia]
More interestingly, Rachel Whetstone’s grandfather was one Antony Fisher, not much known to the public, though extremely influential behind the scenes:
“Sir Antony George Anson Fisher AFC (28 June 1915 – 8 July 1988), nicknamed AGAF, was a British businessman and think tank founder. He participated in the formation of various libertarian organisations during the second half of the twentieth century, including the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Network. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other institutions worldwide.”
Antony Fisher may have been at least part-Jew, and was certainly a Zionist, pro-Israel to the hilt.
Hilton was thought by many to be half-mad. He was lucky to escape with a caution and a small fine after having assaulted someone on a railway platform in England. He had been arrested after the assault and after shouting “wanker!” at staff and police. At the time, this useless creature was being paid £200,000 a year from public funds. There were other incidents of aggressive behaviour during his time at No.10.
“Andy Coulson, the former communications chief who was later jailed over phone hacking, recalled recently in the Telegraph: “I would ask, ‘So how does that work then?’ If I got an answer at all, it was along the lines of, ‘It’ll be fine – just you see.’ That was mildly irritating, as it was my team who would have to get out and sell the latest product from Steve’s dream factory.”” [The Guardian]
“Hilton’s rightwing, free-market ideas certainly infuriated Lib Dems who worked with him, as chronicled in David Laws’s book about the coalition. One Lib Dem former adviser said: “I was unfortunate enough to spend some time in Steve’s thought wigwam and it was not a pretty place. I remember him suggesting we should scrap maternity laws and invest in cloud-busting technology to improve the British weather. I certainly do not remember at any time him raising any points about the immigration policy he is now criticising.”” [The Guardian]
Hilton accomplished nothing, certainly nothing concrete, at Downing Street, and eventually decamped to the USA, where he was, laughably, taken on as some kind of visiting “professor” at Stanford:
“In March 2012, Downing Street announced that Hilton would be a “visiting scholar” at Stanford University‘s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies for a year. His last memo concerned the advocacy of severe cuts in the number of civil servants in the United Kingdom and further welfare cuts.” [Wikipedia]
At time of writing, Steve Hilton is on the American TV network, Fox News, as a talking head, and is apparently a Trump partisan.
“Had Bernie Sanders been the Democratic nominee, Hilton “probably would have supported him”. Hilton says he is not really a conservative or a liberal: “It’s hard to pin me down because I’m a bit of Bernie Sanders, a bit of Rand Paul, bit of John Kasich.” He’s pro-Trump simply because he was the candidate most likely to “shake things up”” [The Guardian]
Someone who actively likes and promotes chaos, in fact, just like Dominic Cummings [see below]
Steve Hilton, in other words, like the others examined here, is connected with cosmopolitan finance-capital and its intellectual superstructure of “think tanks” (which have proliferated over the years) and with supposed “institutes”, mostly carrying the same sort of message: internationalism, multikulti “get rich quick”-ism, destruction of tradition, race and culture, combined with State repression of those without money.
[above, Dominic Cummings: note the “I’m Too Important To Wear A Tie Or A Jacket” affectation, as with Steve “Hilton”]
While “researching” (too grand, call it “looking up a few things”) for this blog post, I saw that at least one other has trodden much of the same path as me re. “the latest self-appointed genius” at Downing Street: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/dominic-cummings-brexit-boris-johnson-vote-leave-nigel-farage-a9045766.html
As stated at the start of this blog post, I know of Cummings only what I have read. The links are either posted here below or are available easily via Google.
One thing that did interest me was the Wikipedia statement, taken from a biography of Michael Gove, that “Cummings speaks Russian and ‘is a Russophile'”. It seems that he tried to start an airline with the single route line of Samara (a large city on the Volga) to Vienna, an interesting choice of route. We are told on Wikipedia that: “After university, Cummings moved to Russia from 1994 to 1997, working on various projects. In one Russian venture, he worked for a group attempting to set up an airline connecting Samara in southern Russia to Vienna; however, the venture fell foul of the KGB, and was abandoned after only one flight.“
Well, the “KGB” bit is wrong in exact terms, because the KGB was disbanded (reorganized) in 1991. The bulk of the “internal” work of the old KGB was given to the “FSK” which later became the FSB. As to why the revamped FSK/FSB would want to interfere in the activities of a foreign or foreign-connected airline, I wonder. There are, and have been for 2-3 decades now, numerous foreign airlines operating in the former Soviet Union, flying between Russia and other states.
In the 1990s, new “babyflots” (bits of the old Aeroflot) were emerging all the time, as were ad hoc operations such as the German airline “Luftbrucke” (Air Bridge), which transported tens of thousands of “Volksdeutsche” from Kazakhstan and Siberia to new lives in the reunified Germany (those people were mostly the descendants of Germans invited to Russia by Russian tsars, notably Catherine the Great, then deported East by Stalin). Luftbrucke, if I recall aright, also flew from Samara, as also from a host of cities in Western Siberia and Kazakhstan, such as Semipalatinsk.
I find the history of Cummings interesting. He graduated from Oxford in 1994 aged 22-23, his degree being in Ancient and Modern History. The very same year he moved to Russia “where he worked on various projects” including the idea “to set up a new airline”.
I admit that I myself have never set up an airline, but I know that you cannot do it without rather a lot of money, even in the conditions of post-collapse Sovietism (I myself was briefly in Moscow in 1993 and also dealt with legal and business matters in Russia and Kazakhstan for several years).
Cummings is said to be the son of an oil rig project manager and a special needs teacher. There is no suggestion of any heavy family wealth. Cummings only left university in 1994, yet by —at latest— 1997, so 0-3 years later, was setting up an airline? In fact, how did he get into Russian-oriented business anyway, with no obvious connections or personal monies. He is able to speak Russian, though. That too raises questions.
I lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan for a year (1996-1997), meeting dozens if not hundreds (and over the years, certainly hundreds) of businessmen, lawyers etc doing work in the various ex-Soviet republics. While most of the diplomats I met spoke at least some Russian, the vast majority of businessmen and lawyers encountered knew no Russian at all really (that was true of both British and Americans). Certainly unable to undertake even simple discussions. I even met some unable to order simple food and drink.
So Cummings leaves university in the UK, where he studied ancient and modern history, somehow speaks Russian (or learns it on the ground), and is at once involved with business activities which seem to go beyond being a mere gopher for others. I have to say that I wonder whether Cummings was up to something other than just being a British graduate drifting about and getting into Russian business speculations almost by chance. Maybe the Russian security people were right to be suspicious of him, as is suggested in his Wikipedia entry.
Anyway, he is now considered to be Boris Idiot’s eminence grise, and looks it (meaning “grey”, if not particularly eminent). In fact, despite being only 47, he looks 10+ years older than me, and I am now 62. His political career is summarized here:
I have to say that I agree with his view of many of the leading political and official figures (he described Iain Dunce Duncan Smith as “incompetent”, for example).
It seems that Cummings married a lady of the North Country gentry who is or was Deputy Editor of the Spectator. They live in Islington, in what the Daily Mail is pleased to call a “£1.6 million house” (though in London, what does that mean? I lived for years in a house in Little Venice now (over)valued at £4 million! Madness). Other details about Cummings are few.
“What is clear is that this character is right now in the maelstrom of chaos and action that he loves so much. A defender quipped that he’ll be thrilled with upheaval – it’s the only way he sees people being forced into action. His friend once heard him quote Lenin: “The worse the better.” [Reaction magazine]
The Prophets of Dystopia
These “advisers” (of whom I have selected a mere few from a larger pool) and their connected “think tanks” etc are, even when some of their critique of society is justified, basically destructive. The same applies to the people themselves. Admittedly, Brendan Bracken left a less obviously destructive legacy, but then, after the huge and unnecessary war which he, from the shadows, did so much to bring about, what more need he do to be adjudged a negative force?
Look at Steve Hilton, Dominic Cummings etc. Where are their real achievements? Leaves blown away by the wind. These people may themselves have acquired riches, but only or mainly because they married wealthy wives, then used their own political attachment and profile to become highly-prized TV, radio, press and online “gurus” . They themselves have not established anything solid, whether in commerce, industry, academia, the arts, the sciences, charitable work or anywhere else. They are creatures created from the chaos and decadence in society. They prosper from the decadence and weakness of the political system in the UK and attach themselves to stupid, weak, posturing politicians vainly trying to reach to statesmanship, people such as David Cameron-Levita and Boris-Idiot. They are a symptom of dark days ahead. Social nationalism must rise up to exterminate evil and to found a better and better-organized society.
Afterthought, 10 August 2019
Is it fanciful to compare the sliding society we now have (look at the past few days…) and the prominence of these odd characters such as Hilton and Cummings, whose academic and patchy work histories are at best underwhelming, with the sliding Russia of the last few years before the Revolution(s) of 1917? Perhaps, but in late-Tsarist Russia too the government, civil service, certainly the politicians, were paralyzed, helpless to do anything positive, and so the influence grew of odd characters: tarot practitioners, mystics and occultists, fortune-tellers of all kinds, persons believed to have arcane knowledge and unorthodox ways to make politics work via persuasion and peculiar ideas and methods. The starets (he was never a monk or priest) Rasputin was only the most important of a whole host.
The rest is history.
Update, 12 August 2019
Update, 14 August 2019
A partisan journalist writes…
In fact, I agree with some of what Cummings has said:
“We should stop selecting leaders from a subset of Oxbridge egomaniacs with a humanities degree...” That is true, though I have nothing against degrees in the humanities, but the whole idea of the “generalist” (almost always armed with a degree from Oxford or Cambridge) has blighted UK political, cultural and even industrial life for 70 years, perhaps 100 years. The Soviet Union tended toward the same behaviour (the politically-OK “Man From Moscow” who could “direct” anything from a tyre factory to a Young Pioneer camp or the building of the Moscow Metro), and look what happened there (the Metro in Moscow admittedly being a —rare— success of the Soviet system).
Of course, the worst single example of the generalist might be Cummings’ present employer, Boris-idiot, who has proven that he is incapable of doing anything properly, but who can do it while quoting a bit of rote-learned Ancient Greek, or using an English word no-one else has ever heard of (he must trawl the OED for those silly words, I expect…what a complete waste of space he is!). As the journalist writes,
“All evidence goes out the window. The grandest ever Oxbridge egomaniac of them all (with not even a very good humanities degree, as it happens) is seeing only the flickering shadows on the news on the wall. It is not even day 14 and already we have beaten a hyper-accelerated march to the world of crap policy for political gain.“
The journalist continues, citing a recent Times article by Cummings:
“Elsewhere, in that same Times article, we read: “We must train aspirant leaders very differently so they have the skills and experience of managing complex projects.””
“And here he is, bringing in policies that would make Norman Tebbit look enlightened, working for a leader whose skill at “managing complex projects” so far extends to some rolling windowless sauna buses, a cable car to nowhere, and a ghost garden bridge that may or may not take you to a demented airport that has never and will never be built.“
Update, 22 August 2019
I think that I recognize the symptoms of someone who has spent too much time in Russia.
Update, 5 September 2019
Update, 8 September 2019
Seems that my blog was (again) prescient, if I say so myself: not a day or even part of a day goes by now without someone publishing something in the newspapers about Dominic Cummings (though Steve “Hilton” is old news and Brendan Bracken ancient history).
Update, 14 September 2019
It seems that David Cameron-Levita was suspicious of Cummings as long ago as 2013:
Update, 29 September 2019
“Through his system, as yet unexplained – “I will go into what I think this vision could be and how to do it another day” – he will turn a nation of average people into one of the most successful countries in the world. He will sweep away the suffocating postwar mainframes of politics, and build something capable of withstanding the unknown crises ahead. Or so he would wish. In truth, he may be little more than a survivalist in the woods, soldering wires together in the belief he is saving us all.
Is Dominic Cummings a visionary or a fool? The remarkable fact is that the Conservative Party has risked its future, and the country’s, on which one Cummings turns out to be.” [Harry Lambert, writing in The New Statesman]
Update, 8 October 2019
Update, 19 October 2019
Dominic Cummings dresses down (even more) in Downing Street on the day of the Saturday sitting of the Commons (today). Not sure whether the bimbo is Boris Johnson’s girlfriend or a lookalike.
All he lacks is a few copies of The Big Issue and a plastic cup for tips. Oh, no, wait, he’s holding the cup…
Update, 3 November 2019
I very much doubt that Dominic Cummings works or worked for Russian Intelligence…au contraire.
Update, 3 January 2020
Update, 23 March 2020
A floundering idiot working for a floundering idiot, and both pretending to be great brains…you couldn’t make it up.
Update, 24 April 2021