DOMINIC Cummings is a baddie. But what kind?

There is plenty of consensus across Europe that Boris Johnson’s special adviser is somehow responsible for the disaster of Brexit. But the continent’s commentators just can not agree on exactly how to portray him.

Is he a clown, a cartoon bad guy rubbing his hands together with a “bwahaha” as his plotting comes to nothing?

Or is Mr Cummings an evil genius, a Machiavellian power behind the throne helping to wrench apart the entire post-war European order?

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This week Mr Cummings made the cover of The New European. His face, reimagined as a caricature of The Mekon, the comic book enemy of Dan Dare, somehow managed to combine both of his images, comedic and tragic.

There is a reason there is so little agreement on Mr Cummings. Because the 47-year-old represents something new, something different in British politics. But the chattering classes, the writing classes, have not yet quite managed to put their fingers on what that is. Journalist James Ball, writing in The New European, stressed the importance of Mr Cumming’s interest in OODA loops, they processing of “observe–orient–decide–act” adopted by fighter pilots in the Korean War.

Yes, politics in an era of rolling news and Twitter is like getting into a dogfight with a MiG over Pyongyang: you don’t have much time to think.

Mr Ball wrote: “The usually sedate corridors of Westminster needs to feel like a whorl of urgent, pressing chaos, with ever-more chaos on the horizon if you do the wrong thing... Nothing is predictable, everyone is confused, nothing makes sense, and – HAH! – how’s your OODA loop working now?”

Mr Cummings is not just disrupting and disorientating his political enemies. He is also doing the same to political observers. And so we get the astonishing variety of descriptions of the former Vote Leave strategist in the UK and other parts of Europe.

France’s Le Journal du Dimanche calls him “the pirate of Downing Street”. Swashbuckling! Over at Le Point Mr Cummings is “farouche”. Shy? Wild? The Catholic daily La Croix reckons he is an “éminence grise”. Surely not? Mr Cummings might be a champion behind-the-scenes operator but he certainly is not yet eminent.

Italian magazine Formiche called Mr Cummings “BoJo’s Bannon”, a reference to the alt-right campaigner Steve Bannon who ended up advising US President Donald Trump in the White House.

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The New York Times called Mr Cummings the Rasputin of Boris Johnson. This was picked up by everybody from TV station Euronews to newsprint commentators in almost every capital. Is Mr Cummings really like Rasputin, the dishevelled and unwashed “mad monk” who seemed to mesmerise the Russian royal family in their last years in power.

Rasputin, as Mr Cummings, a Russophile, knows only too well, ended up stabbed, tied up and thrown into St Petersburg’s Neva River by moderate conservatives trying to save the monarchy.

There are those who think Mr Cummings has little time for moderate Conservatives, indeed that he was behind the whip being removed from 21 Tory rebels, including former cabinet ministers.

For Andy Maciver, a former Tory spin doctor, Mr Cummings is a “disrupter”.

He is different because he is not “emotionally attached to the party, of which he is not a member.

His job is to win Mr Johnson the election, beyond that he does not care. For Mr Maciver, Mr Cummings is like an American hired political strategist.

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That’s new. Is Mr Cummings a spin doctor? Lobby journalists, used to off-the-record briefings based on trust, are losing patience. Or some are. The Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne tweeted: “Is Downing Street... happy with the repeated use of unnamed Downing Street sources to spread false news?”

Kevin Pringle sees danger in a slash-and-burn media policy. The former spokesman for Alex Salmond and the SNP said: “Deliberately spreading misinformation that is disproved within days or even hours isn’t just wrong in itself, it’s also very quickly self-defeating.

“It might work in the short-term, but journalists will stop trusting anything you say – even when it’s true – and will soon go elsewhere to try to find out what’s going on.”

Even before he found his way in to No 10, Mr Cummings had been immortalised by Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit: An Uncivil War. Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin chief, speaking on LBC, summed up: “I think he’s got something weird going on in his head. He doesn’t think he’s a political aide, he thinks he’s a movie star.”