Like many, I was cynical when it came to this government’s potential for effectively handling the Coronavirus crisis. The PM’s track record of lying and blustering instilled little confidence, and his reliance on his most senior advisor, Dominic Cummings, did little to calm those fears.
Never before have I been so desperate to be proven wrong.
I retained a sliver of hope that the PM would cast aside his Pidgin Greek and rise up as the great Churchillian hero he had always wished to be. I still had the faintest of hopes that he could confound all of his critics and get us through it all with the minimum of fuss, and loss of life.
Drawing closer comparisons to Captain Mainwaring than Churchill, in the midst of the government’s shambolic handling of the crisis, we then get the Cummings affair.
The question is, are there any silver linings at the edges of this dark cloud hanging over us right now?
Are there any silver linings?
On Monday 25th May, Dominic Cummings sat in the Rose Garden at Number 10 to present his side of the story, and far from reassuring the Great British public, it had the opposite effect. The ins and outs of what followed next, and what continues to follow can be seen all around us.
The PM backed him, and in classic Johnsonesque style, he sent out the rest of the Cabinet in a series of humiliating and embarrassing defensive forays. The sight of Gove being ritually humiliated by Kay Burley, and then on LBC, did little to help the situation. It was, if anything, not quite as cringingly awful as watching Grant Schapps on the Andrew Marr Show attempting to follow the party line whilst trying to avoid actually saying anything.
And the country looked on aghast.
Emily Maitlis was direct in stating that Cummings “broke the rules, the country can see that and it’s shocked the government cannot.” And now the irony klaxon is bursting the nation’s eardrums as she gets reprimanded for pointing out that Cummings hadn’t been, when we all know he really should have.
And we are the ones that lose in all of this.
Undermined the Government’s strategy
It was hardly a surprise when the scientific advisers told us that the whole affair would undermine everything they had worked to achieve. Whether Cummings is right or wrong, it is actually no longer relevant. He has seriously undermined the Government’s strategy for handling COVID-19, and the consequences of that are the potential for increased infections and, inevitably, increased deaths.
And whilst all the noise circulates about Cummings, about Barnard Castle, and about who did or didn’t say what at Westminster, the UK has the highest per capita death rate in the world, and with more than 60,000 people dead, no one can hear the voices asking about our strategy for Test, Trace, Isolate.
And just how much of their focus is actually on the real crisis here, the important one, the one still killing people?
No real silver linings
And as we, the people, wait in vain for the effective implementation of Test, Trace, Isolate, opportunism raises its ugly head. Whilst Cummings is the headline, his work continues in the background, as over £1bn in state contracts are given to private companies with no scrutiny, NHS duties are quietly privatised, NHS data is sold off to US tech giants, the government murmurs an admission that there will be trade checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK after all, and the promised protection of our post-Brexit food and environment standards are quietly removed from the Agriculture Bill.
And for the rest of us there are no real silver linings. Some smiles at the bitter-sweet memes may give us some temporary solace. We may even take some pleasure in the fact that the wider public may finally be coming to terms with the fact that Johnson and Cummings really are not to be trusted, but this is scant joy in the grand scheme of things.
The world has been looking at the UK’s incompetent handling of the COVID-19 crisis with pity and shock, now they just look at us with pity.
It is we who are the losers as this game of politicking goes on.