The continuing Covid-induced Cummings Derangement Syndrome

by Jack Walters

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016, only the most zealous of Britain’s politicos would have heard of Dominic Cummings.

The man, considered by many as the figure that spearheaded the Brexit vote, has since become one of the most controversial political aides ever to have graced Westminster. 

Last December, when Dominic Cummings helped mastermind Boris Johnson's victory, the Tories largest majority since 1987 and ensured that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, many political commentators predicted Cummings and Number 10 to turn their attention away from Europe and towards the next stain on British politics, the Blob. 

From 2011 to 2014, Cummings tried to take on the Blob that had manifested itself in the British education systems. During his time as the special adviser to the then education secretary, Michael Gove, Cummings took on a strange alliance of teachers unions and civil servants that saw the most profound educational reforms in the last decade. However, the spread of coronavirus has undoubtedly put the brakes on Cummings' political project. 

The former campaign director of the Business for Sterling group has had a personal quarrel with journalists, politicians, and to some extent the electorate during the pandemic. The Daily Mirror reported that Mr Cummings travelled over 260-miles to stay with his family in County Durham and in the aftermath protesters assembled outside of Cummings' Islington home and his name was all over the front pages of Britain's newspapers.

However, the aide reiterated at his rose garden press conference that his decision to move north was to protect his son. In London, Mr Cummings asserted that he had no suitable child care. But by moving to Durham, he would have the support of his nieces if he or his wife, The Spectator's Mary Wakefield, fell ill. In support of his chief aide, Boris Johnson added that Cummings' followed the instincts of every father and every parent.

Initially, those calling for Cummings' head were not all Remainers. Outspoken Leavers including Mark Wallace, Iain Dale and the recently elected leader of the Scottish Tories, Douglas Ross, called for Cummings' resignation. However, their criticism faded as it became increasingly apparent that the successful political strategist was not leaving his post. Moreover, the events in late April barely cross the lips of his Eurosceptic critics.

Nonetheless, no matter what Cummings said in the Downing Street's rose garden in May, many Remainers persist in resurrecting the news and directly attacking the actions of the PM's aide. Alistair Campbell, who served as Tony Blair's spin doctor, and Carole Cadwalladr, who has spent the last four years failing to prove the illegality of the Leave campaign, could not hide the visceral animosity that they hold to Cummings in their Twitter outbursts. 

But it went even further. Weeks after the incident first hit the front pages of Britain's papers The Guardian reported calls for a further investigation into Cummings' trip. At the time, I jokingly retweeted the article and added: "BREAKING NEWS: Dominic Cummings flouts lockdown rules for a second time by living in Remainers' heads rent free for weeks." I was wrong. Cummings has not lived in the heads of the FBPE crowd for weeks; it has been years.

Just last week, a study from University College, London found that 'the failure of Boris Johnson to remove him from his post - led to a sharp decline in faith in the official response to the crisis.' According to Mike Barton, the former Chief Constable of Durham's police constabulary, individuals were justifying their actions by calling it a "Cummings".

Nevertheless, this does seem contradictory when you compare it with the polls from YouGov at the time. One cannot deny that the government did have a knock in confidence and personal support for the Conservative Party fell by five percentage points. YouGov did add, however, that of the 21 percent of people that breached lockdown guidelines in late May, just one-third of them cited Dominic Cummings' actions as their primary reason. 

Labour, and notably their deputy leader Angela Rayner, are currently reissuing calls for an investigation into Cummings' movements in late April and early May. But Starmer and his colleagues must be careful what they wish for. 

But what does Labour fear? The man who shocked the world in 2016 by spearheading the Leave vote. The man who consigned the Labour Party to their worst electoral defeat since 1935. Or the man that could, in the Johnson government, be the co-architect to a new Britain?

Labour look set to continue their onslaught, however, multiple Labour members of parliament and mayors have defied the government’s coronavirus guidance for less honourable activities and while the party is becoming known for hypocrisy and flip-flopping it would still seem questionable for Starmer to pump so much time and resources, which as the Labour leak suggests is becoming increasingly divided, into a futile attempt to attack a political rival. 

If Starmer decides to cast the first stone then he will inadvertently uncover his party's blatant political hypocrisies. 

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© The New Briton 2020