Any fond hopes that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson might have had that he could draw a line under the Dominic Cummings affair have been well and truly dashed. Even the Daily Mail has come out in an angry tirade against the Prime Minister. That’s the Daily Mail which has hitherto been a cheerleader for the populist English nationalist right wing Brexitiness in which our Part Time Prime Minister specialises. That’s like thon shouty woman on the North Korean news saying, “See that Kim Jong-un. He’s a bit of a prick, isn’t he.”
So far twenty Conservative MPs have come out to condemn Dominic Cummings, a number which seems likely to grow, given that there’s been a rare outbreak of unanimity across the UK. Almost everyone hates Dominic and thinks he needs to go. When even the Guardian and the Daily Mail are saying the same thing, when the Church of England has condemned him, when the former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has called upon him to resign because he’s brought the civil service into disrepute, there’s a serious political problem that’s not about to go away any time soon.
By Monday it was being reported that the police are to investigate Dominic Cummings’ movements. The police commissioner for Durham has asked the local police force to investigate the reports that the Gollum of Number 10 was seen in the area a number of times during lockdown.
The public is seething with anger, about how Cummings broke the lockdown, about how he felt he was above the rules that the rest of us have to adhere to, about how the Government has lied and gaslighted in order to defend him. But most of all because this Government has effectively trashed its own policy on dealing with a covid-19 outbreak creating even greater confusion and incoherence than it already had. And this is a Government which has led the UK into suffering the greatest death toll in all of Europe, so it’s not exactly like they were doing well to begin with.
The anger at Dominic Cummings and his casual entitlement is a displaced anger at the deaths, the suffering, the loneliness, the sacrifices, the worry, the job losses, the uncertainty that the British Government has magnified and made far worse than it needed to be. Cummings is the straw of arrogance that broke the back of public faith and its willingness to trust the British Government as the world stared into the abyss of the pandemic.
Given the magnitude of the crisis, many were prepared to overlook their misgivings about being led by the mendacious spivs of Brexit. That could only last as long as the public were prepared to believe that the British Government was doing the right thing by the UK. However as the death toll mounted, as Boris Johnson continued to treat his job as a part time ego trip, as the evidence of lack of preparedness and incompetence started to mount, eventually something was going to happen to cystalise public anger. That event was the arrogance and entitlement of Dominic Cummings and his casual disregard for the rules. In one dishevelled figure, contemptuous, arrogant, entitled, hypocritical, and privileged, he has come to symbolise all that is wrong with the British state in general and this Government in particular.
Yet Number 10 is desperate to defend Cummings because without him Johnson stands exposed as a hollow fool, a showboating narcissist who has all the depth of the scum that lies on top of a puddle. He is the Rasputin to Johnson’s Romanov, the gas for Johnson’s gaslighting. Cummings is the brains, the scriptwriter, the puppet master pulling the strings. Johnson’s just an empty ego filled with nothing but ambition and self-regard. Cummings is his vehicle for the attention and adulation that he so obviously craves. Without Cummings, Johnson goes nowhere. Without Cummings Johnson has nothing but a shambling schtick that’s as transparent as his ambition.
Things are so bad that Number 10 has been forced to put Cummings himself up for interview with the press. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to see a Government advisor holding a press conference. I want to see a P45. The move raises as many questions as it purports to lay to rest. On whose authority will Cummings be speaking? How will he be held to account if he is less than honest? The Government’s very own code of conduct for advisors says, “Special advisers must not take public part in political controversy… They must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks, and would not normally speak in public for their Minister or the Department.” https://twitter.com/cathynewman/status/1264890116075597824 Yet again the rules are being rewritten to suit the Tories.
As the move was announced, Cummings was expected to tell the press hacks that he has full confidence in the Prime Minister and will not be asking for Johnson’s resignation. He’ll then expect a grovelling apology from the media for ever daring to call him into question. Dominic Cummings is not a man who does contrition.
But this is no longer a story about Dominic Cummings. The entire machinery of the British Government is now being called into question. The Health Secretary’s defence of Cummings contradicted his own instructions. The Attorney General declared that instinct beats law. Cabinet ministers regularly appear in public and lie repeatedly to our faces. Even the Civil Service has tweeted for help.
Above all it now about the judgement and ability of the Prime Minister. We have a Prime Minister who when confronted with evidence that his senior advisor broke lockdown restrictions rewrote those restrictions retrospectively so that they no longer applied to the advisor. He lied, deceived, and refused to answer questions.
Far from apologising, or even acknowledging that there was an issue to address, he doubled down and actually praised Cummings for acting according to a father’s instincts. Like Johnson would know. Surely the first instinct of a father is to know how many children he has. But hey, never mind about the rules and regulations, as long as you act according to your instincts that’s just fine with this Prime Minister. Perhaps now the Scottish Government can just declare independence without bothering about all that nonsense with a Section 30 order or a referendum. They could say they were just acting on instinct, because what we’ve seen tells us that the instincts of the British Government are rotten to the core.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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