I don't know why the Conservatives are bothering about a leadership election. They should just ask Dominic Cummings, since his kompromat will likely decide who leads the Tories. Just cut out the middle men.

Mr Cummings claims to be in possession of devastating intelligence about the sex lives of unnamed leadership candidates. “It would be very Westminster,” he tweeted, “for Boris to get the bullet cos of lies over sex/groping ... only to be replaced by someone actually sh***ing their spad."

A “spad" is a special adviser – a non-civil servant brought into deal with the media and policy. Mr Cummings corrected himself later by saying that more than one prominent leadership candidate is having inappropriate sexual relations with a member of staff. They know who they are.

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This is already the nastiest leadership election anyone can remember, and it has hardly started yet. Not so much wacky races as mud wrestling in a sewer. “Mucky memos” are circulating the fetid watering holes of Westminster including, we are told, allegations of drugs and prostitutes, bondage, sado-masochism. Tory sources have told The Times that pictures are available too.

These may not be in his possession, but the disgraced former PM’s senior advisor, Dom Cummings, is the kompromat king. He was responsible for blowing the whole Partygate scandal sky-high after he mentioned in his newsletter the infamous “bring your own booze” party organised during lockdown by Martyn Reynolds, the top civil servant in No 10.

The National Wales: The eight Tory leadership candidates (UK Parliament/PA)The eight Tory leadership candidates (UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Cummings went on to provide a running commentary on the downfall of “The Shopping Trolley”, as he called Boris Johnson, nudging the hacks towards other infractions of the law. It didn't take long before tales of birthday parties, ABBA sing-alongs and shopping bags of booze emerged into the public domain as journalists and civil service sources got to work.

He is not content now that the Shopping Trolley has ended up in the canal. He has already intervened in the Tory leadership race, saying: “At least three current candidates would be worse than Boris ... at least one is is more insane than Truss.” Mr Cummings claims that the Foreign Secretary is “mad as a box of snakes” so it is intriguing to speculate who could be more insane.

Could it be Penny Mordaunt, the Trade Minister who famously included multiple references to the word “c**k” in a Commons speech? The Attorney General, Suella Braverman, described as “f***ing useless” by a Cabinet colleague? 

Now you may ask: why am I giving so much credence to speculation, rumours and gossip from a disgraced former member of a disgraced former Prime Minister's staff? Didn’t Mr Cummings break lockdown laws himself with his famous trip to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”? Why should we bother with the muck he is now spreading across Whitehall? Well, there is a very good reason, which is that he knows where the bodies are buried and as he exhumes them he is already deciding who can and cannot serve.

Mr Cummings has said that “all candidates should have to declare in full a dom/non-dom [tax-exempt] status including partner's holdings of them in any offshore trusts”. He went on that it was "totally unacceptable to have another PM where voters don't know these facts [about tax avoidance] and they are open to blackmail”. Presumably not by Mr Cummings.

The National Wales: Chancellor Nahdim ZahawiChancellor Nahdim Zahawi

The Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, who has called for 20 per cent cuts in state spending, has already had to deny that he is under investigation over his financial affairs. He has promised that he'll make his future tax returns public, but seems unwilling to reveal his past financial arrangements.

The former Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has equivocated, to put it mildly, over his own tax status in previous years and is reported to have enjoyed non-dom tax status when he was an MP working in the Treasury. Both their campaigns have stalled in the past days.

Of course, Akshata Murty, the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak's billionaire wife, was also revealed to have enjoyed non-domicile status, meaning she didn't have to pay millions in UK taxes. She now does. Mr Sunak himself was found to have been in possession of a Green Card allowing him to work in the United States. However, these embarrassing revelations almost certainly did not come from Mr Cummings. He thinks highly of the former Chancellor.

Other shadowy figures, seeking to emulate Mr Cummings, have evidently been trying to destroy the former Chancellor's leadership bid. A member of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel's, staff was revealed to have been forwarding an attack memo targeting Mr Sunak for imposing the highest burden of taxes since 1950 and yet wasting billions on fraudulent Covid loans. Further stories emerged that Mr Sunak has no working-class friends, wears £300 trainers and is “a treacherous b******d”.

So why has politics turned so decidedly nasty? Well, one reason might be that we are only now hearing more of the unsavoury stuff that goes on in Westminster. Ask any former minister and they'll tell you they were constantly amazed, while in office, that the press failed to spot many scandals. One that is often cited is the former Tory PM John Major's extra-marital relationship with Edwina Currie. Mr Major went on to make speeches lecturing the nation on “family values”. Had his affair been known, he might have shared Mr Johnson's fate.

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There used to be a buffer between politicians' personal lives and the public domain. That has largely gone in the era of social media. With Twitter and other outlets, disaffected individuals like Mr Cummings can spread stories that would probably not have been reported fully in the past. The press would have worried about defamation actions. But since Mr Cummings has first-hand knowledge, he can spread the poison with impunity.

Politicians are fatally drawn to Twitter, which they should leave well alone. Only last week, Ms Mordaunt was inveigled into a Twitter spat about trans rights which was could mean that much of her leadership campaign will be about her definition of a woman.

But social media isn't going away, and neither is Mr Cummings. Politics will never be the same again.

This column originally appeared in our sister title, The Herald.