Former PM Major calls on Johnson to fire top advisor Cummings

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should fire Dominic Cummings, the advisor behind his high-stakes Brexit strategy that resulted in an dramatic purge of his own lawmakers this week, former prime minister John Major said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's ex-Prime Minister John Major appears on the Marr Show on BBC television in London, Britain, July 22, 2018. Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS

In a sign of how far Brexit has distorted British politics, Johnson’s Conservatives expelled 21 rebels on Tuesday - including the grandson of Britain’s World War Two leader Winston Churchill and two former finance ministers - for seeking to block any exit from the European Union without a deal.

Major, Conservative prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said lawmakers’ service now seemed to be worthless unless they were “parroting the views of a prime minister influenced by a political anarchist”, a reference to Cummings.

Cummings, architect of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, is Johnson’s top advisor and de facto chief of staff.

“We have seen over-mighty advisors before. It is a familiar script. It always ends badly,” Major said in a speech at a Confederation of British Industry event in Glasgow.

“I offer the prime minister some friendly advice: get rid of these advisors before they poison the political atmosphere beyond repair. And do it quickly.”

Major, who supported the referendum campaign to stay in the EU, attacked Johnson’s plan to suspend parliament for more than a month before Britain is due to leave the European Union.

“I cannot believe any previous prime minister – from Pitt, to Disraeli, to Churchill, to Thatcher – would have even contemplated such an action,” he said.

Johnson has he said wants to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 and that to do otherwise would betray the majority of voters who opted in 2016 to leave the EU. Lawmakers voted this week to force him to seek a three-month delay to Brexit.

Johnson now wants to call a general election on Oct. 15.

Asked Thursday if Brexit would happen on Oct. 31, Cummings told Reuters: “Trust the people.”

Major also criticised the government for publicly attacking critics of its Brexit strategy, whether members of the public or businesses.

“This is behaviour I never thought to see from any British government, and it must stop,” Major said.

Editing by Stephen Addison