BBC News

Dominic Cummings 'turns up with PM in Beanotown'

By Justin Parkinson
BBC News

Published
image copyrightPA Media
image captionDominic Cummings faces post-prang badinage from Beanotown's finest

Like millions of people, he's currently working from home - but being out of sight doesn't mean Dominic Cummings is out of mind. Or the media.

But coverage of the prime minister's (soon to be ex-) chief adviser is taking on a surreal tone.

This week's Beano comic includes a pull-out section called Bean-OLD, designed to cheer up adults in the midst of the pandemic - and who better to help in that than Mr Cummings, the former Vote Leave impresario who quit his government role last week?

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  • Jacob Rees-Mogg 'copying Beano character'

One strip - commissioned before his resignation - features him (sort of) reprising his famous lockdown road trip from London to County Durham earlier this year.

This time he has Boris Johnson in the back seat - alongside Wilbur Brown, the square-jawed mayor of Beanotown, who could be said to bear a slight resemblance to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

The Beano makes play of Mr Cummings's discomfort at the furore that followed his journey and his subsequent drive to Barnard Castle, which he insisted had been an attempt to test his eyesight before the longer return south.

image copyrightPA Media

In the comic, corrupt Mayor Brown's plot to steal Beanotown's Christmas presents goes wrong, just as Mr Johnson arrives by parachute.

With Mr Brown's glasses broken by a Christmas pudding kicked in his face by footballer Marcus Rashford, Mr Cummings - who has already been lurking in the vicinity - agrees to act as the mayor's getaway driver.

Their intended destination is Barnard Castle.

image copyrightReuters
image captionDominic Cummings gave his side of things in a press conference in May

But, after a prang in the wintry road conditions around Beanotown, wise-cracking policeman Sgt Slipper tells him: "I'm sorry, sir, but I'll have to give you a ticket for driving without glasses."

Mr Cummings, in a white shirt like the one he wore in May when he explained his actions to the media, replies: "But I have contacts..."

Giving the reader a withering look, the officer says: "I don't care who you know, you're still getting a ticket. This isn't the first car crash you've been involved in this year - I remember your press conference from the Downing Street Rose Garden!"

Mr Rashford and fellow prominent campaigners Captain Sir Tom Moore and Greta Thunberg are among those who join forces with Beano anti-hero Dennis the Menace's father to try to foil Mr Brown's plot.

Mike Stirling, editorial director of Beano Studios, told the BBC: "Wilbur Brown is the real baddie in this this, not the others."

"Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson were a kind of buddy gang - a bit like Dennis the Menace and [sidekick dog] Gnasher," he added. "They came as a pair for a long while, and that's what we're trying to create here.

"Dominic wants to make sure the optics for the PM's visit to Beanotown are the best they can be."

image copyrightThe Beano
image captionJacob Rees-Mogg denied copying Walter the Softy

This is not the first time the Beano has forayed into political satire in its 82-year history.

In 2018 it sent Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg a cease-and-desist letter, ordering him to stop "copying" the sartorial style and "snootiness" of Walter the Softy, the son of Mayor Brown and nemesis of Dennis the Menace.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who has since become leader of the House of Commons, denied snootiness and refused to change his appearance, arguing that "compared to me, Walter is Mr Muscle".

image copyrightPhotoshot
image captionDavid Miliband's banana pose led to comparisons with a Beano superhero

In 2008, the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband was photographed at the Labour Party conference holding a banana, which caused some opponents to dub him Bananaman, a reference to another Beano character.

The comic's publisher, DC Thomson, included Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson in the latest edition after focus groups with children - who are expected to pass the adult pullout to their parents - found they had a high level of awareness of both men.

The tone when dealing with Mr Cummings is gentle compared with much of that in the mainstream media in recent months.

And there could be a happy ending for him following "extraordinary times" for himself and the country, Mr Stirling suggested.

"Maybe he'll work for Wilbur Brown as a spin doctor," he said. "It might make an ongoing strip for the Beano."

Related Topics

  • Boris Johnson
  • Dominic Cummings
  • The Beano