Politics

5 classes from Dominic Cummings’ Covid Testimonial

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1 No. 10 was a Covid chaos zone

The point of Dominic Cummings’ evidence was to provide the first draft in the history of the government’s handling of the pandemic. While his personal opinions about what went wrong can be rejected, his eyewitness testimony cannot be easily shaken off. In that regard, he did not disappoint, vividly reporting the chaos on Downing Street when Covid landed in March 2020.

His description of the events of more than two key days gave the public a glimpse of how Boris Johnson is running his government or not. On the “insane day” of March 12, when the prime minister clearly had no choice but to deal with Trump’s plea for a bombing raid on Iraq, Cummings implied that his boss was allowing partner Carrie Symonds to spend valuable time in the press office Complaints about wasting a story on her dog Dilyn.

But it was the following day that was more illuminating and worrying. First, a senior health official confided that there was no plan for a pandemic. Then Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen McNamara allegedly said, “I think we are absolutely nuts, I think this country is facing disaster. I think we’re going to kill thousands of people. “These words are sure to be taken into account in any public inquiry.

Equally worrying was the picture Cummings painted of the lack of available data, scribbling on a whiteboard and iPad how many hospital stays there were, based on snippets of early information from NHS chief Simon Stevens. So was the revelation that Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill had so misunderstood Covid that he suggested that the Prime Minister go on television to tell people to have “chicken pox parties”.

2 Hancock was responsible for practically everything

In a Whitehall version of the Assassin’s Creed video game, Cummings spent a lot of time debunking Matt Hancock’s reputation. The allegations were extremely grave, from lying about PPE stocks and testing in nursing homes to his decision to announce a daily testing target of 100,000 while the Prime Minister was “on his death bed”. Yet the relentless nature of the onslaught (who cares how many times Cummings requested his release) tipped from public interest to private vengeance.

What also reinforced the impression that they were personalities was his high praise for Rishi Sunak and Dominic Raab (who were both Brexiteers while Hancock was a remainer). Cummings’ strange loss of memory over discussions about the EatOutToHelpOut scheme, as well as failure to criticize old boss Michael Gove’s decisions, indicated that Chairman Greg Clark was right when he asked if it was about “accounting for scores.” .

Cummings also failed to fully credit Hancock for his strong push for a second lockdown in the fall, while downplaying the Chancellor’s concern over the idea. The lens was so crooked that he even said Sunak’s real concern was that the Ministry of Health might impose a circuit breaker but had no plan for what happened next. The strangest thing for a man who blogged extensively about systems and processes was his actual focus on the central role of “brilliant” people, be they civil servants or ministers.

3 Boris Johnson was from his car

The vituperative attacks on Hancock felt like a side effect compared to Cummings’ cold, matter-of-fact description of Boris Johnson as “unsuitable” to be prime minister. This was the former chief adviser to the Prime Minister who said he was never really up to the job, but he was at least better than Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson changed his mind so much, from Covid to free school meals, that he “looked like a shopping cart crashing from side to side of the aisle”. Sunak was also at the end of the car, we learned.

Funnily enough, the trolley analogy was first used by former Cameron spinner Craig Oliver to describe how Johnson wrote two different Telegraph columns for and against Brexit. But Cummings’ worse accusation was that the Prime Minister was fundamentally dubious about Covid policy. Perhaps his most telling statement was this: “There is a big misunderstanding that people have because of it [Covid] almost killed him, so he must have taken it seriously. “Narrator: he hasn’t.

We heard about Johnson’s talk about injecting Covid on live TV, about his regret for not acting like the mayor of Jaws and keeping the beaches / shops / pubs open, his slick lines about “piling up the bodies let ”and so on. The virus killed“ only 80-year-olds ”(an indictment that PMQs specifically did not deny). All of them felt like jokes that quickly turned into a cold disdain for the public he was meant to serve.

Add the claim that Johnson “changes his mind ten times a day” and disappears at key moments on vacation. This is a withering verdict on any politician, let alone a prime minister in a pandemic. No wonder Johnson looked clearly shaken when Keir Starmer quoted Cummings’ key admission: “When the public needed us most, the government failed.”

4 Cummings sounded as dubious as Johnson

After learning from his rose garden press conference, Cummings at least tried to apologize for his mistakes, including failing to press the “panic button” to lock him down beforehand. Still, it felt like an odd humility that he was somehow a genius who discovered the problem but didn’t convey that genius. It reminded me of the respondents who said their only mistake was that they were a perfectionist.

Similarly, his statement that it “was completely insane that I should have been in such a high position … I’m not smart” was a ridiculous attempt to self-destruct. In the next breath, expressing frustration at not ruling the country in place of the elected prime minister, he said he was trying to “create a structure around himself … to get things going against his wishes”. However, this was a man who stuck to his ridiculous defense of the Specsavers on his trip to Barnard Castle.

Cummings’ statement that Covid needed some kind of dictator, a scientist with “royal authority,” only proved how dubious he really is. So did his references to Spider-Man memes and the film Independence Day (which the bereaved group found serious). When he kept saying he felt like he was in a movie, he came across someone who was as sad from his depths as the boss he was mocking. When asked whether he was also unsuitable for No. 10, he avoided the question like a politician. And his accusation that it was “crackers” that Johnson was in power suffered from the slight problem of his enthusiastic job of keeping him there.

5 Ruling right is really hard, isn’t it?

The lessons of Cummings’ own character may have been as telling as the lessons of the pandemic. His own credibility as a witness can already be fatally undermined by his Durham drive. But his testimony also had some clear contradictions. Criticism of Carrie Symonds’ “unethical” interference in No. 10 appointments may have sparked a hollow laugh from Sonia Khan, who was whipped by a Downing Street cop without due process.

Especially when the crisis hit, this potential iconoclast, the arch-disruptor, also revealed a distinct lack of nerve in the real world: he revealed that he didn’t push for a lockdown sooner because he was “scared” that he was going to get it is wrong. That in itself was a rare admission that running a government is really very different from running a referendum campaign. The stakes are all too real.

Cumming’s most serious charge was left for the last part of his nearly seven-hour testimony: “Tens of thousands of people died who didn’t.” The irony is that Johnson doesn’t seem to have finally learned the lesson of hard lockdowns and slow releases until January – after his chief advisor stepped down. Cummings was guilty of retaliation before the public inquiry today. With the Prime Minister dealing with the new Indian variant, his best response to criticism would be to get the current unlockdown right.

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