The ’24 hour meme machines’ and ‘classic Dom’ Cummings: The backroom team behind Boris’s win

Boris Johnson’s blockbuster election victory was not the work of one man, there was a whole team of advisers and specialists behind the Prime Minister’s historic win.

The Tories put into place a tight-knit team featuring a mixture of old-school campaigners and younger upstarts skilled in the dark arts of social media. 

The result was the electoral equivalent of a bludgeon that repeatedly spat out its core message: a vote for us is a vote to get Brexit done and get on with your lives. 

And many of them were on hand to watch Mr Johnson address the nation this afternoon outside Number 10. 

Here, we look at some of those pulling levers behind the scenes in Downing Street: 

No 10 staff watching the PM’s speech: 1. Lucia Hodgson 2. Rob Oxley 3. Edward Lister 4. Dominic Cummings 5. Lee Cain

In the speech on the steps of No10, Boris Johnson said he was determined to 'repay the trust' of the wave of former Labour supporters who handed him a huge new mandate

In the speech on the steps of No10, Boris Johnson said he was determined to ‘repay the trust’ of the wave of former Labour supporters who handed him a huge new mandate

Dominic Cummings


Boris Johnson’s shadowy Svengali and the mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign. 

A ruthless operator unafraid to take on his opponents he has lashed out at both Remainers and Brexiteers in the past, when they have threatened to derail Brexit. 

Mr Cummings led the Vote Leave campaign to victory in the 2016 referendum, before being asked to join Mr Johnson’s new administration in Downing Street.

He was been credited with masterminding the Prime Minister’s scorched earth approach to Brexit negotiations, which resulted in a viable deal.

The strategist also grabbed headlines when he sacked an adviser to chancellor Sajid Javid who he suspected of leaking government information.

Today he poured scorn on ‘educated Remainer campaigner types’ who failed to read the mood of the country.

Later, Mr Cummings turned a disparaging comment about himself on its head as he celebrated the emphatic General Election victory.

‘ClassicDom,’ Mr Cummings tweeted, referencing the moniker often attributed to the controversial political strategist by his critics. 

Isaac Levido 

He is little known outside Westminster, but 35-year-old Australian Isaac Levido will win the lion’s share of the credit for Boris Johnson’s election triumph.

Softly spoken and sporting a black beard, Mr Levido was director of politics and campaigning in Conservative Campaign Headquarters – and the undisputed chief of the Tory campaign.

After the results of the exit poll were revealed, staff at the party’s Westminster HQ chanted ‘Oh, Isaac Levido’ – mocking the tribute to Jeremy Corbyn which used to be sung by Labour supporters.

A senior Tory source said: ‘Isaac showed real leadership throughout the campaign – he never panicked, lifted spirits on difficult days and had a laser focus on the end result.

‘He quickly gained the trust of everyone around him and deserves all the plaudits for an extremely well-run and disciplined campaign.’ Under Mr Levido’s plans the Tories targeted 50 swing seats and sought to defend another 50, under plans to secure a ‘functional’ majority.

He is a former deputy to controversial Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, who masterminded David Cameron‘s coalition-busting win four years ago.

But he also went on to work on Zac Goldsmith’s failed London mayoral campaign in 2016 and Theresa May‘s disastrous general election campaign the following year.

More recently Mr Levido worked for Australian’s Liberal Party which surprisingly won an election earlier this year.  

Sean Topham and Ben Guerin 

The Antipodean social media experts were hired to drive the Tories’ online election campaign amid fears that dire winter weather could scupper traditional methods of targeting voters.

Kiwis Topham, 28, and Guerin, 24, have been brought in by director of politics and campaigning Isaac Levido to toughen up the Conservatives’ social media efforts after a dire performance in 2017.

The twenty-something pair, who run agency TG in London, formerly worked for the Tories’ Australian counterpart the Liberal Party, whose leader Scott Morrison surprisingly won an election earlier this year. 

While there they were known for making ‘boomer memes’ – content deliberately crafted to look simplistic and basic. They targeted groups like older people online.

They also used content from popular television programmes like Game of Thrones to grab attention. 

The intentionally clunky design of the memes meant they were shared widely on Facebook, which because of the way the platform works helped their harder political messages reach bigger audiences. 

Ed Lister

Eddie Lister (pictured) is the oldest member of Boris Johnson's team

Eddie Lister (pictured) is the oldest member of Boris Johnson’s team  

At 69, he’s the oldest member of Team Boris, and will operate as chief of staff but without the title.

His reputation as ‘Steady Eddie’ is being tested to the limit in Government. 

He is seen as the calming foil to the more excitable and blunt force instrument that is Dominic Cummings. 

For 19 years he was leader of flagship Tory Wandsworth Council, consistently delivering the lowest council tax in the country.

In 2011, he became Johnson’s chief of staff at City Hall and masterminded his re-election as mayor in 2012.

Sir Edward is the working-class grit in the Old Etonian oyster – he went to a state school in Lambeth and never went to university. 

His wife Eileen is a former teacher. They had three children, but one of his sons, Andrew, died in Thailand in 2011.     

Lee Cain 

Mr Cain has worked with Mr Johnson for years

Mr Cain has worked with Mr Johnson for years

Lee Cain is a former Fleet Street journalist who again has a long record of association with Mr Johnson.

The 37-year-old worked as an adviser to several cabinet ministers before working with the Tory leadership favourite and Michael Gove as head of broadcast for the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum in 2016.

In 2016 he was also hired by Andrea Leadsom as a special adviser. 

He followed Mr Johnson to the Foreign Office when he was appointed Foreign Secretary by Theresa May and followed him into exile when he quit in July last year.

A common sight in Parliament spinning for his boss with political journalists he is an experienced backroom plotter and has been slated as a potential director of communications in Downing Street. 

He was known by many political figures as he had previously patrolled the corridors of the Palace of Westminster.

Mr Cain had previously held roles at both The Mail On Sunday, as well as The Sun. 

The Lancastrian has also been described by some as ‘Johnson’s man on earth’, and could also be in the running for communications chief at Number 10 if Johnson scoops the top job.

However, insiders say he is unlikely to follow Johnson into Number 10, but if he gets there, he will consider it a ‘job done’.  

Mr Booth-Smith is a special adviser to James Brokenshire

Mr Booth-Smith is a special adviser to James Brokenshire

Liam Booth-Smith 

A former think-tank boss and special adviser to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire. 

In the past he has had some un-Tory views on housing, including telling homeowners they may have to accept a fall in prices to solve the crisis among young people, saying: ‘Homeowners have to accept new homes will be built in their area. Their home may lose value, it may rise in value, but that value will be fictional if no-one has the financial capacity to buy it.’

He has also advised against lifting the public sector pay cap and suggested greater devolution in areas like industrial regeneration and tax.

In terms of education, Mr Booth-Smith attended Newcastle-under-Lyme School from 1997-2002.

He then went on to secondary school at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form college before winning a place at Loughborough University where he studied a BA Hons degree in Politics and Social Policy.

After finishing his degree he went on to work at the New Local Government Network as a networks co-coordinator. After over a year there he spent seven months at City and Guilds before returning and eventually becoming head of communications.

He then held roles as head of research and communications at iMPOWER, before becoming a chief executive at think tank Localis. 

It was after a two-year stint here that he went on to be a special adviser to the secretary of state, minister for housing, communities and local government. 

He has also previously penned columns and articles for national media organisations and had frequently appeared on the Sky News paper review show. 

Rob Oxley 

 The Downing Street press secretary, was appointed to his role on 24 July this year after jobs with Priti Patel, Michael Fallon and the Vote Leave campaign.

He previously worked for James Starkie, who was a former advisor to Michael Gove and Dominic Raab.

Most recently he worked with online food delivery retailer Deliveroo, but he has also served as an advisor for Home Secretary Priti Patel and ex-defence secretary Michael Fallon.

Alongside his Team Boris colleague Lee Cain, he was a press officer for the Vote Leave campaign, masterminded by Dominic Cummings.

He hit the headlines earlier this week after he swore on live TV as the PM  started an early milkround in Yorkshire.

The GMB’s roving reporter Jonathan Swain confronted Boris as he put milk crates in a van and said: ‘Morning Prime Minister will you come on Good Morning Britain? Will you deliver on your promise to speak to Piers and Susanna?’.

A tired-looking Mr Oxley loudly muttered: ‘For f***s sake’ as his boss ignored the calls and wandered into a large walk-in fridge.  

Lucia Hodgson 

The deputy press secretary is a former  special adviser to Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

Prior to that she was a speechwriter for Defra,  the Department for Education and  Department for Communities and Local Government.

With her background she will be able to help Mr Johnson with his public speaking, which often goes off on tangents with Classical references and the occasional waft of Latin.

She is reportedly being lined up to be Mr Johnson’s deputy press secretary in Downing Street. 

In 2009 Ms Hodgson studied a Master’s degree in Political Communication at the University of Glasgow.

She then became a speech writer in 2013. In 2015 she released a podcast entitled ‘Speech writing from Westminster to Whitehall’.

In 2016 she also appeared on the BBC to offer advise to those who would be participating in TV debates during the European referendum. In it she included her top tips such as taking a breath.

She also said that even if you are a ‘charismatic speaker’, that you may need more than this to win over audiences and will have to be prepared. She also said if ‘you have been playing fast and loose with the truth then you will be found out’.

Her other tips were to make sure ‘numbers were checked’ and to ‘keep calm’, stating that there was ‘no finer way to lose and an argument than losing your cool’.      

Ben Gascoigne 

Ben Gascoigne has spent years working for Mr Johsnon

Ben Gascoigne has spent years working for Mr Johsnon

Another long-term Boris Johnson aide. Was a special adviser when h was foreign secretary and worked for him during his tenure as mayor of London. 

Before that he worked for the Conservative Party, including the elections which took Boris Johsnon into City Hall and  the 2015 General Election campaign with saw the Tories achieve an overall majority, having previously been in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Earlier this year he became a director of City public relations and marketing firm Grayling UK and is working as a policy adviser.

He was employed to further strengthen the company’s senior political counsel and reinforce its reputation as an ‘industry leader’.

He previously worked for elections guru Lynton Crosby’s firm CrosbyTextor as a political consultant. 

In 2001 Gascoigne studied a Bacherlor’s degree in Politics at the University of Hull before going on to work at The Greater London Authority for six years.  

Shelley Williams-Walker 

Former Foreign Office communications officer Shelley Williams-Walker

Former Foreign Office communications officer Shelley Williams-Walker

Having previously worked with the foreign secretary at the Foreign Office, Shelley Williams-Walker has been brought in to the team to lead its operations team.

Along with Lucia Hodgson is one of the few women in the higher echelons of Team Boris. 

She has managed to stay relatively out of the public eye since being appointed to the operations team and hasn’t posted on social media networking sites such as Twitter since February.

She had previously however posted links to news articles of Johnson laying flowers at the scene of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s murder in 2017 and seemed to have been in attendance with him during the campaign trail for the general election in 2017.