Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has written to Dominic Raab to express concerns over  Dominic Cummings relationship with Russia, after a whistle-blower came forward. 

 

By Tom Chesley.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has written to Dominic Raab to express concerns over  Dominic Cummings relationship with Russia, after a whistle-blower came forward. 

Dominic Cummings, served as the campaign director of Vote Leave in 2016. In July 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed him to the role of ‘special advisor to the Prime Minister’; but as of November 2019, Mr Cummings came under fire when his connections to Russia began to be questioned.

Cummings spent three years working in Russia from 1994 to 1997, after graduating from Oxford University. In the letter penned by Emily Thornberry – as reported by The Sunday Times – there is a clear concern about the “relationships” that Boris Johnson’s Chief Advisor might have developed with people involved in “…politics, intelligence and security” whilst in Russia. 

The letter, which was also sent to the heads of MI5 and MI6, as well as the head of the Intelligence and Security Committee Dominic Grieve, was written as a response to “serious concerns from an official-level whistle-blower”. Ms Thornberry goes on to question the level of security vetting that Mr Cummings was subjected to following his return from Russia. As a senior advisor to the Prime Minister, it is assumed that he has had access to the Government’s most sensitive files – and this is precisely why Emily Thornberry has raised questions regarding his vetting process.

Ms Thornberry posed a series of questions to Dominic Raab, such as: “…what was Cummings’s relationship with academics at Oxford University, and did they discuss the possibility of working to support the post-communist Russian government?”

She adds “Was Cummings questioned about the purpose of his three-year period of work in post-communist Russia between 1994 and 1997, including relationships with figures in Russian politics, intelligence and security?”

Finally, Ms Thornberry asked “was Cummings questioned about relationships with members of the group Conservative Friends of Russia?”

The letter comes at a particularly damaging time for Boris Johnson, as in the same week the Prime Minister was accused of sitting on an Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC)  report on Russian interference with UK democracy. 

The ISC report examines Russian activity including allegations of espionage, subversion and interference with elections. It has gone through the standard security clearance process and Ministers have said the report would be published “in due course”. However, it has been widely reported to mean that the report will not be published until after the General Election on December 12. This, alongside the questioning of Dominic Cummings, places an increased level of scrutiny on Number 10. 

This report is considered to be of high public interest, particularly given the scale of Russian interference in other countries’ elections – most notably the 2016 U.S Presidential election. There are further claims that Russia launched a major influence operation in 2016 in support of Brexit. With Dominic Cummings being the director of Vote Leave in 2016, the decision to quash this report until after the general election could be viewed as politically dubious

Furthermore, The Guardian also revealed that last month, Dominic Cummings was accused of conflict of interest over an NHS fund. Mr Cummings advised Babylon Health, an artificial intelligence firm working within the NHS, on its communications strategies and its senior recruitment. Mr Cummings left the role in July last year. 

However, in August this year, shortly after Boris Johnson entered No 10, Downing Street and the Department of Health announced a £250m fund to boost the use of AI in the NHS by using automated systems for diagnoses or data analysis. Although the money has yet to be allocated, Babylon is well placed to benefit as a key player in the AI field. 

The links between Dominic Cummings, Russia and the suppressed ISC report will undoubtedly present concerns about transparency between the government and the general public.

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