Yes, that really IS scruffy Dominic Cummings in a tie in this photo

Yes, that really IS scruffy Dominic Cummings in a tie: Photograph taken at his very posh private school shows a different side to Boris Johnson’s jogging bottoms-wearing rebel aide

  • A photograph of Dominic Cummings as a Durham schoolboy has emerged 
  • Mr Cummings sports a neat haircut, blazer and a carefully knotted tie
  • The smart look is a very different style to what Boris Johnson’s Tory aide has now
  • Old school peers have described Mr Cummings as unpopular and contemptuous

With his crumpled shirts and quilted gilets, Dominic Cummings always cuts a determinedly scruffy figure striding through Downing Street.

But as newly unearthed pictures show, there was once a time when the Prime Minister’s shaven-headed svengali sported a neat haircut, blazer and, rather improbably, a carefully knotted tie. But then again, he was still a schoolboy…

Less surprising about his time at the private Durham School between 1985 and 1990 is what fellow pupils made of him. 

A photo of Dominic Cummings as a schoolboy (pictured) has emerged, with him sporting a neat haircut, blazer and, rather improbably, a carefully knotted tie

Divisive, argumentative and ‘contemptuous’ of his peers was the consensus of his contemporaries, as they give the first insight into the early life that shaped the Machiavellian tactician behind Vote Leave and Boris Johnson’s Election victory last year.

In part, recall friends, his political outlook was influenced by the 1985 miners’ strike. Cummings, now 48, was president of the school debating society and supported Margaret Thatcher. 

‘Being pro-Thatcher in Durham could be dangerous. You had to be careful who you were talking to,’ said one former pupil. ‘Tensions were palpable in Durham, which is surrounded by coal mining villages. There was a febrile atmosphere.

Cummings (pictured middle) was president of the school debating society and supported Margaret Thatcher

‘But he would have an understanding of what people think because, if you live in that part of the world, you can’t live in a middle-class bubble.’

Others recalled that his now-infamous lockdown visit to Barnard Castle ‘to test his eyesight’ was by no means his first. In happier times it was the scene of an ‘outstanding’ batting performance for his cricket team against a rival school. 

‘He had his eye in that day,’ joked one of his then team-mates.

To some classmates he was known as ‘Feargal’ because of his perceived resemblance to Feargal Sharkey, the 1980s pop star. 

‘Dominic wouldn’t have liked it,’ said a friend. ‘I don’t think he appreciated any jokes about himself, he didn’t have a self-deprecating humour.’

Gaunt then as now, others nicknamed him ‘Skeletor’ after He-Man’s cartoon nemesis.

Ralph Woodward, who was in the same year as Cummings, said: ‘I don’t think it would be fair to say he was popular. 

‘He could be argumentative and wouldn’t back down. He could be a bit intellectually dismissive of others.

‘I can’t think of him having particularly close friends. Certainly he was never part of a gang of mates, other than being on the cricket team. He was never the most jovial of people.’

He said that Cummings, a day boy, enjoyed playing chess, reading Len Deighton spy novels and won the school history prize. 

One school friend described him as unpopular at school while another said he always had a contemptuous look on him 

He would go on to read history at Oxford. ‘I guess he was clever – I don’t think he was one of the really big-hitting intellectuals but he was very thoughtful, read a lot, so I suppose he had an intellectual approach,’ said Mr Woodward.

Another former pupil, who asked not to be named, described Cummings as ‘cat-like’ in his indifference to making friends. 

‘The guy was a bit of a loner, never one of the crowd,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t say he was particularly remarkable. He was aloof and had that look on his face as if to say, “I know better, I’m tolerating you.” That contemptuous look. He had a slight swagger about him.’

Civil servants, Remainers and MPs will know the look.

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