DAN WOOTTON: Boris, Carrie and Hancock all took one hell of a battering from Dominic Cummings but the reputation he really destroyed was his own
Today will go down as one of the most unedifying moments in recent political history.
I don’t for a single second dispute that much of what the Prime Minister’s former right hand man Dominic Cummings revealed during his bombshell select committee hearing was horrifyingly true.
I’ve no doubt our political leaders, top scientists and civil servants were running around like headless chickens as people died.
And it’s hard to see the Health Secretary – and aspiring Prime Minister – Matt Hancock’s reputation ever fully recovering from the devastating – but eminently believable – claims that he put his own ego ahead of delivering life-saving policies at the height of the pandemic.
And the shaky standing of the PM’s fiancé Carrie Symonds has taken a further battering after Dom claimed she was distracting Boris from important coronavirus discussions as she fretted over a petty newspaper story about her damn dog Dilyn.
But, I’m sorry, I can’t help but think Dom’s main motivation today was more about settling scores and trying to drive Boris out of power, than helping the country learn important lessons.
In my eyes, that makes him a traitor and a turncoat – a man who was seeking personal vengeance under the cover of speaking out in the national interest.
Former number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings speaking at a committee hearing in Portcullis house in London, today
He’s the difficult genius who helped make Boris Johnson the most popular politician in a generation then dumped on him from a great height because he lost his power.
That is now the legacy of Dominic Cummings. What a modern-day political tragedy.
As the PM’s former chief adviser kept spitting bile at his former boss during today’s select committee, I couldn’t help but think back to this time just a year ago.
Boris shredded a huge amount of his hard-earned political capital in the midst of the pandemic to defend his man Dom for seemingly breaking lockdown laws.
After avoiding the sack, Dom had the power to change things – to ensure our creaking bureaucracy would never again allow tens of thousands to die as a result of a lack of preparedness for a pandemic.
Instead, he sulked all summer then eventually cut and ran, blaming everyone else and slamming the PM as some sort of incompetent fool.
Health Minister Matt Hancock outside his home in north west London, May 26, 2021
What the hell?
If he knew Boris was not up to being PM, why on earth did he campaign for him to gain power and agree to be his chief adviser?
Was it always his intention to make notes of every potentially damaging comment Boris made in private and then release them one day to achieve ultimate destruction?
Surely even the Prime Minister – in the midst of dealing with the biggest crisis of modern times – should be able to speak freely to his closest confidante without the fear of retribution?
Or did he think Boris would be a mere puppet, with Dom the real brains pulling all the strings?
Now he is acting like a bitter and twisted ex doing all he can to destroy the man he pretends to despise but is secretly still in love with.
To use his favourite word, it was Dominic who at times appeared to be ‘crackers’.
Westminster might be obsessed with his every utterance, but I believe the public will see through much of the emotional psychodrama here.
Yes, we all accept Boris didn’t take coronavirus seriously enough in January and February 2020. He then made a number of catastrophic errors. But name me one world leader who didn’t?
Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London on May 26, 2021
Cummings himself admitted that even if Bill Gates had been in Number 10, he would have struggled to contend with such an unprecedented crisis for which the country wasn’t properly prepared.
I also think there’s nothing more gross than a trusted adviser revealing conversations that clearly were meant to stay private just because he now has an axe to grind.
Whether you support him or not, just imagine for one second the emotional pressure on Boris.
After nearly dying himself, he then had to make a constant stream of harrowing life-and-death decisions.
I do not judge him for releasing his emotions, even if at times it was in an inappropriate way. Even Prime Ministers must be able to speak candidly behind closed doors. They are only human too.
Carrie Symonds, the partner of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, holds their dog Dilyn, December 2019
Boris rightly thought he could trust his right hand man. Sadly he was mistaken.
Then we come to the crux of the policy disagreement between the two former political allies turned enemies.
It turns out Cummings is an out and out lockdown zealot.
He incorrectly peddles the ridiculous notion that if Boris had immediately locked down the UK in February or earlier in March and locked the population up in their homes, dismissing all our civil liberties and basic human rights, then the pandemic would never have devastated Britain.
That’s a ludicrous argument not backed up by reality.
What about the hundreds of thousands of Brits who would have been stranded overseas?
Many of the doomsday scientific models Cummings is so reliant on have also been proven to be untrue.
For example, Sweden kept its society open with predictions of 90,000 deaths, when only 14,300 perished and many thousands were saved because the country avoided a lockdown.
If draconian lockdowns work, why have the fully opened up US states of Texas and Florida thrived, with death rates plummeting, compared to California, which stayed shut.
Another one of the main points missing in Cummings’ testimony today: Lockdowns kill.
The UK is facing a tidal wave of deaths from poverty caused by the economic devastation of shut down; from the missed cancer appointments; from the poor folk who died at home of heart attacks and strokes because they were too scared by government propaganda to check into hospitals.
He also berated Boris for taking too long to lockdown last autumn. But if he had done it earlier, as Cummings demanded, what was the plan to get out of it?
Cummings might think his revelations today damaged the PM, but I think many people will respect the fact Boris was fighting to avoid shutting down the country, with the astronomical human and economic costs that come with that decision.
I also feel taken in by Cummings. I completely accepted his reasons for breaking the lockdown rules he forced on all of us last year because I understood why he needed to do so given his personal circumstances.
And so did Boris.
But he has failed to show that same sort of humanity to the man to whom he owes so much.
Despite desperately sucking up to Rishi Sunak in today’s hearing and pointedly declining to criticise Michael Gove, Cummings is finished in British politics.
Today’s select committee hearing was a kamikaze mission to destroy the PM, but I believe it will fail.
And most ironically of all, many of the important learnings we could have taken from Dominic’s evidence will have been overshadowed by his unnecessary personal acrimony.
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