The strategist was arrogant enough to lash out at others but the central facts of his case are damningby Rachel Sylvester / May 25, 2020 / Leave a comment
It was the American businesswoman Leona Helmsley who famously said: “only the little people pay taxes.” And the problem with the Dominic Cummings story is that it gives the impression that he and Boris Johnson think that “only the little people obey the rules.”
If anything this was compounded by the No 10 strategist’s car crash press conference in the Downing Street rose garden (a place usually reserved for prime ministers, not their advisers). There was no apology, no sincere contrition, no acceptance of an error, or recognition that by exercising his own judgment in interpreting the lockdown rules that he himself had helped draft he will have encouraged others to exercise theirs.
As ever, Cummings lashed out at others, blaming the media for whipping up this storm, but he confirmed the central allegation that—while believing himself and his wife to be infected with Covid-19—he had driven 260 miles with his family to his parents’ farm in Durham. Not only that, he admitted that while there he had taken a 60-mile round trip to a local beauty spot (stopping twice and leaving his car)—to “test” his eyesight and ability to drive, clearly not a plausible excuse.
Only a curiously self-righteous arrogance could have stopped him recognising that it sounded absurd. Only a peculiar lack of self-knowledge could have blinded him to the fact that at a time when the message being pumped out from his own office in No 10 was “Stay at Home, Save Lives” he was clearly breaching the spirit, if not the letter of the law. And of course there was an exquisite irony in the fact that the man who prides himself on standing up for the masses against the “metropolitan liberal elite” was fleeing not even to a second home but to the third property on his parents’ estate.
In politics, it’s always the case that your greatest strength is your biggest weakness. Cummings is a mercurial, engaging, restless character whose motto is the Facebook slogan “Move Fast and Break Things.” He favours creative destruction, and wants to dismantle the establishment and break down traditional institutions from the civil service to the BBC. His defining characteristic is that he is not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom.…