Before he was Lord of Leave, Dominic Cummings guarded ‘Europe’s worst nightclub’. We reveal secret past of... THE BREXIT ‘BOUNCER’
BREXIT mastermind Dominic Cummings developed his tough guy tendencies during a spell as a nightclub doorman.
Channel 4 viewers last week saw actor Benedict Cumberbatch re-create the moment Cummings punched a hole in a ceiling tile after a rousing speech celebrating 2016’s referendum win for the Vote Leave campaign.
Cummings, 47, the campaign’s then director, was portrayed by Sherlock star Cumberbatch in TV drama Brexit: The Uncivil War as an eccentric yet ruthless political strategist who was the most important behind-the-scenes brain helping to deliver the win.
But most viewers didn’t know about his unusual past, including his unconventional introduction to working life manning the doors outside a northeastern nightclub owned by his uncle.
Privately educated at the prestigious Durham School in the city of Durham, Cummings went on to complete his academic education at Exeter College, Oxford.
He first gained a taste of the real world on Friday and Saturday nights outside Durham’s Klute Nightclub.
He helped his uncle Phil run the club, which was once dubbed “Europe’s worst”.
One former colleague said: “He would help manage the place with his uncle but also stationed himself outside on weekends.
“He might not have looked like a doorman but he had a way with him that suggested it wasn’t worth taking him on. I never saw anyone go for him physically and there’s always a danger of that, but he never looked nervous or out of his depth.
“I knew one of the other staff who worked upstairs in the restaurant who Dominic was on orders to allow in for free – but you could see he didn’t like doing that. Maybe, in hindsight, he would have preferred a points-based entry system!”
Cummings graduated from Oxford in 1994 after reading ancient and modern history. Friends there remember him as a “complete loner” to begin with, who instantly displayed an unconventional streak. One explained: “He was... not the kind of easy-going person you’d want to make friends with on the first day of uni.
“He always wore a shiny baseball jacket that made him stick out, despite his attempts to go unnoticed. Eventually a pal befriended him and – to my initial disgust – he started coming along to nights out in the pub.
“He bonded with the blokes and inspired a sense of loyalty and comradeship that continues to this day.”
While his rowdy student peers were regularly punished for their bad behaviour by university officials, Cummings managed to avoid their ire.
So much so that contemporaries suspected a sinister explanation.
“Dom managed to go under the radar, an enigmatic figure on the fringes. So much so we thought he was being groomed for MI5 by one of the dons who had a reputation for recruiting would-be spies.”
Whether or not he had the skills to be a James Bond-style super spy remains uncertain, although coming off second best to a furry animal at a theme park suggests otherwise.
The friend added: “Once a group of us went to Alton Towers. A squirrel jumped in a bin and was trapped.
“While the rest of us dithered, Dom put his hand in to try to rescue it, only for the squirrel to savage his arm by using it as a ladder to escape!”
It was at university where he found politics to be his true passion.
The friend noted: “Dom’s real turning point came was when he was tutored by controversial Right-wing academic Norman Stone, becoming his protege.
“After that his legendary rants only got more impassioned – but I think Stone was Dom’s passport into the political world.”
After leaving university Cummings first came to prominence politically as campaign director for Business for Sterling, an organisation that successfully helped the fight to keep Britain from dropping the pound for the euro.
He later became chief of staff to former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, quitting after a few months over the slow pace of reform.
Cummings’ uncompromising attitude was on display again as special adviser to the then Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove between 2010 and 2014.
He helped upset the political establishment with a string of controversial ideas, including scrapping GCSEs before taking up the role in command of Vote Leave’s referendum strategy.
And Cummings is credited with dreaming up the slogan “Take back control” – a phrase criticised by many on the Remain side.
But, given his doorman past, “Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in” could have been an even more controversial alternative.
BOLD: Cummings, above, acted as doorman at his uncle’s club in Durham, left, and, right, Benedict Cumberbatch in the Channel 4 drama