On Tuesday 31 March, Dominic Cummings drove his family from London to Durham whilst infected with COVID-19. At the time, the government’s coronavirus policy was stern: “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.” Social media responded vociferously on Friday evening after reports suggested that the Prime Minister’s top aid had breached lockdown rules.
Amid fog and melodrama, the facts regarding Cummings’ northward excursion are difficult to ascertain. Cummings’ story is fairly simple: he drove his family to Durham because he feared that neither he, nor Mary Wakefield – his wife – would be able to care for their child while maligned by the coronavirus.
With no one to care for Cummings’ toddler in London, the mastermind behind Vote Leave’s success did what every self-respecting father would: he drove 260 miles to Durham. It was a safeguarding issue; it was the right thing to do. That – unsurprisingly – is the line that has been briefed to Conservatives up and down the country.
By 17:00 on Saturday evening, the government’s coronavirus messaging was in tatters. The Tory cabinet had responded at breakneck speed to save Boris Johnson’s puppet-master. It’s a travesty that the government failed to respond to the pandemic at the same rate. They have failed us.
It is impossible to claim that Cummings hasn’t broken the rules that he helped to craft
In the government’s daily briefing, it was Grant Shapps’ turn to face the music. I know what you’re thinking: “did the government really send the Transport Secretary to avert a crisis at the heart of its administration?”
Of course they did, and it was the slow-motion car crash many had come to anticipate. Shapps extinguished the government’s entire agenda in one line: “follow the measures as much as possible, and then it’s for the individual [to decide],” he told the public.
In the space of 24 hours, Britain went from “lockdown” – if we can even call it that – to “it’s up to the individual.” In and of itself, that capitulation would be an embarrassment for any self-respecting government. It would be an embarrassing U-turn for your local parish council.
In the aftermath of Shapp’s disastrous brush with the Robbie Savage-less press pack on Saturday evening, Pippa Crerar dropped her second exclusive in as many days. Cummings hadn’t trekked to the north once: he’d done it twice.
It was the ultimate humiliation. The cabinet had spent the day surgically removing their spines in order to bat for the Prime Minister’s right-hand man. The Attorney General condoned breaking the law. The cabinet, the holders of the highest offices in the land, have been made to look like utter fools. Spineless idiots.
The lying, the manipulation, the alleged criminality of the Brexit campaign has allowed those that govern us to betray the offices they hold
Perhaps, if they pulled on their forelocks hard enough, the cabinet could defend the indefensible if the offence had only been committed once. But Cummings has been caught red-handed twice.
The government faces a dumpster fire. There is no plausible way out. It is impossible to claim that Cummings hasn’t broken the rules that he helped to craft. Rules that prevented working-class Brits from seeing their dying relatives.
In ordinary times, Cummings would have tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister on Saturday morning. He could’ve taken the afternoon off to watch Bayer Leverkusen thrash Borussia Monchengladbach – a joyous occasion for all to see.
The United Kingdom hasn’t, however, been in “ordinary times” for what feels like a lifetime. Cummings lowered the bar for political elites in 2016. The lying, the manipulation, the alleged criminality of the Brexit campaign has allowed those that govern us to betray the offices they hold.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it appeared to me that our politics had changed. After Mr Cummings took to his personal blog to advertise prospective job roles for “weirdos”, I realised what a state this country was in.
Unless I’m told otherwise, I will be staying alert for further lies and deception from the heart of his government
This government, and those that proceeded it, have torn up the rulebook. By proroguing parliament, the government said that it had no respect for parliamentary precedent. By failing to relieve Dominic Cummings of his duties, the government had said that it has no respect for its own guidelines.
At a time when we needed everyone to pull together, the mastermind of Brexit has torn this county to pieces. Populism has soured our country to its soul. Take, for example, the claim made by Leavers in the referendum that Turkey was on the cusp of joining the EU. It was utter codswallop; they plastered it on billboards anyway.
The day in which it became acceptable for a senior government advisor to break the government’s rules is the day that this country lost its soul. I am aghast at the velocity at which Johnson’s jingoistic government has been brought to its knees by the SPAD that masterminded its ascendancy to the throne.
“Mr Prime Minister, in the wake of Mr Cummings’ recent travels, who – or what – should the British public “stay alert” to?”
That is the question that I would be asking Boris Johnson. Unless I’m told otherwise, I will be staying alert for further lies and deception from the heart of his government. Stop the world, I want to get off the ride – it’s broken.