Staff at Ceilidh Place restaurant in Ullapool get opportunity to grill former PM's aide Dominic Cummings over Brexit in after-hours debate
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DOMINIC Cummings gave staff at a Wester Ross hotel an extraordinary after-hours ‘question time’ debate on Brexit after dining at its popular restaurant.
Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor, a leading architect of the UK leaving the European Union, offered to meet workers at Ullapool’s Ceilidh Place after several expressed unhappiness at having to serve him.
Mr Cummings, the PM’s ex-strategist turned antagonist, arrived on Tuesday last week to dine with family members while on holiday.
Owner Jock Urquhart was absent that evening but was approached the following evening by disgruntled staff when Mr Cummings (49) and his party returned.
Mr Urquhart made it clear that the Ceilidh Place did not discriminate against customers on the grounds of political belief.
In December 2019, the owner of the popular eatery, bookshop and hotel blamed attitudes stoked by Brexit for disturbing xenophobic comments aimed at a French waiter by two elderly customers.
There was a groundswell of support for both the member of staff and for Mr Urquhart’s robust stance in the aftermath.
To appease some of his unhappy staff last week, Mr Urquhart said he would personally serve Mr Cummings while quietly explaining the situation to the Vote Leave mastermind.
It was then that Mr Cummings made his surprising offer to meet staff and discuss the source of their animosity.
He returned alone for a third evening meal on Thursday last week, arriving at 8.20pm for a grilling from Mr Urquhart and several staff in a snug at the rear of the premises.
What followed was over three hours of a “very forthright exchange of opinions”, with the political figure listening “with interest” to views and concerns.
While nobody involved changed opinion, Mr Urquhart said there was “a grudging mutual respect” by the end of the debate.
Mr Urquhart (44), who took over running of the Ceilidh Place, from mum Jean, said: “I can confirm that Mr Cummings was in Ullapool and did attend the Ceilidh Place on a number of occasions. Some members of our staff had a political ambivalence towards him and were keen not to serve him.
“However, on an organisational level, the Ceilidh Place felt that refusal of service on the grounds of political belief is a dangerous slippery slope.
“Anyone who didn’t want to interact with Mr Cummings was given the right not to do so and he was looked after by a member of the senior management team.
“Mr Cummings was aware of this animosity, but he chose to dine with us and offered to spend some of his own time in a robust and frank exchange of views with those members of staff less enamoured with his presence.
“That meeting took place later in the week and it was a very interesting experience for all concerned.”
After leaving Downing Street, Mr Cummings has criticised the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the PM’s leadership.