When Boris Johnson walked through the front door of Number 10 Downing Street on July 26 2019, the British political system was in a state of Brexit-induced paralysis. But in a small room upstairs, arguably the second-most powerful man in Britain was already issuing new instructions to demoralised staffers: “Don’t be shit.”

A disheveled figure with a soft voice and the appearance of an eccentric scientist, Dominic Cummings explained to his political team — largely inherited from a broken Theresa May — that from now on, Number 10 would be run like Nasa, with him at mission control. There was one single objective: delivering Brexit. 

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