Getting to grips with . . .

What next for Dominic Cummings as Covid contract scandal heats up?

Former No. 10 advisor forced to defend himself against claim he handed lucrative deal to associates

Court documents have revealed that Dominic Cummings awarded a government coronavirus contract without tender to a research company run by his “friends”.

Last year, the Cabinet Office insisted it was “nonsense” to suggest that Public First’s owners’ relationship with Cummings was a factor in the decision to award it a contract. However, in an email reported by The Guardian, the head of insight and evaluation at the Cabinet Office describes Public First as “mates” of Cummings, adding that they were “getting all our work with no contract”.

In a written statement, he said although he was “friends” with the company’s founding directors, he had not recommended them, adding that there had been “no time” to follow usual procurement rules as the work was “crucial” to the government’s early pandemic response.

Cummings’ return to the spotlight has reopened speculation on his next move after he left Downing Street last November.

Reports had speculated that Cummings would be offered the job to lead Britain’s first £800m defence research agency, with a source telling the Financial Times that he might “become the first head of his pet project: a new high-risk, high-reward scientific research body based on the Darpa agency in the US”.

Meanwhile, a government insider told the Daily Mail that Cummings could earn millions as a consultant advising businesses on Brexit, the Covid crisis and gaining access to Whitehall. “Dom could make a fortune as a consultant,” they said, with The Guardian agreeing that he could land “lucrative consultancy work” for hedge funds.

Or he could move into artificial intelligence (AI), with his friend Marc Warner’s company Faculty. A former colleague told The Guardian: “Dom... is still fascinated by data and the possibilities of AI. Plus, it would enhance that image of himself as a cutting-edge maverick.”

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