By John Simms
The government’s all-out defence of Dominic Cummings shows an alarming dependence on a “career psychopath”.
It has been a revelatory 24 hours for UK politics. The government sending out the big guns to defend an unelected official, caught in flagrant, repeated breach of the lockdown rules we have all been enduring. Neil Ferguson, the government scientist went almost immediately, his breach of the “deadly serious” lockdown rules described as “extraordinary” by health secretary Matt Hancock. Cummings however was “entirely right” in his decision to drive the length of the country with his infected wife and child. Besides the evident hypocrisy, the wagon corral being hastily formed around Cummings shows just how dependent on him the government are.
Unelected and unliked
Unelected and unliked, Cummings is a political magician. In the last four years he has transformed the political landscape in the uk, many would agree for the worse. A former senior adviser to Michael “Et tu Brute?” Gove, described as a “career psychopath” by David Cameron, his win at all costs ethos has scored stunning successes.
His hallmark is a race to the bottom style of campaigning. A combination of emotive sloganeering and highly-focused brazen lies designed to engage voters regardless of the long-term implications. No stunt too low, no lie too embarrassing, once we’ve won it doesn’t matter anymore is Cummings’ ethos. “Who cares about good looks?” he said yesterday. Why care what the media think as long as the public buys the lies? This has proved revolutionary and his opponents have been unable or perhaps morally unwilling to follow suit.
Cummings, a Banksy of bullshit, was allowed to ride roughshod over campaigning norms in 2019, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. Far beyond the standard pre-election hyperbole, there were edited videos of Keir Starmer, fake twitter fact-checking accounts and a campaign of targeting Facebook ads which took advantage of the social media giant’s weak stance on inaccurate political ads. The campaign bore all the hallmarks of Dominic Cummings and his depressingly accurate notion that disengaged voters will take simple lies over complex truths.
Division and bitterness
Sadly this magic formula has come at a high price. The lies and scapegoating have left a general public riven by division and bitterness and a ruling party bereft of leadership and experience. Relying on lies to win leads to a future of impossibility, fantastical promises and a government intrinsically tangled in the falsehoods with which they campaigned. Being forced to dwell in the unreality bubble of Brexit at all costs has meant a haemorrhaging of experience and leadership from the party. The last good men they had left have fallen on their swords or been purged. We are left with a mixture of spineless careerists and what was once considered the lunatic fringe of the party.
Backing Cummings at this juncture, after all the public have been through, the public amdonishment of other Government advisers and with Cummings widely disliked amongst MPs and civil servants is astonishing. Boris must know the backlash that will follow and how this will resonate with the public, even many who usually support him. He must know it will undermine lockdown rules and potentially endanger the public.
In the face of such clear downsides to backing Cummings, one can only surmise that Johnson sees such value in retaining Cummings that it makes it worth it for him. Cummings is his magician, the goose who lays golden eggs. Boris has so little faith in himself and his own cabinet that he must defend him at all costs. This debacle has revealed a serious truth, a government so reliant on his ruthlessness and dishonesty that they feel they can’t go on without him no matter what the cost.