Why I’ve changed my mind about Dominic Cummings

I was wrong. I admit that now, though I still think I was wrong for the right reasons.

If you recall, I couldn’t get behind the hounding of Dominic Cummings because I didn’t think what he did was wrong. Looking after your child shouldn’t be something that weighs against any parent and I don’t care who that parent it or what their politics involve. I still believe that. In the context of a family living in London but with relatives on the other side of the country, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go back home, especially if it can be done without coming into contact with people.

I wrote all that up in my previous post.

Things have moved on, however, and it’s now stretched the bounds of credibility that Cummings travelled to Barnard Castle to check his eyes. It was one of those explanations that didn’t sit well at the time but, honestly, I didn’t think anybody could prove nor disprove it based on the available evidence. It felt very much like the story you’ve been advised to give by a good lawyer.

Now that I learn that the trip took place on the birthday of Cumming’s wife, then I think the evidence begins to weigh too heavily against him. We’ve moved past actions that had to do with a sick child and into that place where reasons are similar to those of other government officials forced to resign. I’ll say it again that I don’t necessarily believe that experts should be levered out of their jobs because they display human frailties but that’s the world we live in. There’s too much hypocrisy about this story to allow him any more leniency.

Also factoring into this is the effect that the story has taken on the nation as a whole. Just as I put myself into his shoes and said that I’d have done anything to care for a child of mine, I can also put myself into his shoes now and say that if I could see the damage being done to the national determination to stay safe (or stay alert), I would quit in order to detoxify the government advice.

Cummings has to go.


On the subject of the government advice, I’m firmly on that side of the argument that says that we’re moving too quickly. I’ve advocated listening to the science since the beginning. The experts I’ve listened to were right at the beginning of the crisis and I believe they are right now.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s not a lot of misinformation out there. I saw a chart today on social media, suggesting that the government was going against its own rules by opening up sport now. I searched for that chart and noticed that the original was produced by the South African government. The UK government have been clever (in a bad way) by not providing clear milestones for unlocking the economy. They saw what happened in America when the CDC issued explicit guidelines which the states (usually at Trump’s urging) ignored but then left themselves open to criticism. From what I can see, the UK alert system is vaguely worded. It talks about the strain on the NHS and nothing more. It gives the government so much freedom that it’s probably too much freedom. Horseracing is coming back next week. It’s insane when there are 8000 new cases a day and deaths still in the multiple hundred.

I heard from a teacher the other day that their school was planning to reopen, probably for about five weeks before the summer holidays begin. During that time, no more than one-quarter of two year-groups will be able to attend at any one time. In other words, individual students will be in for no more than one week and a day, during which time the teachers have been told to do no actual teaching.

I still don’t see the point. Why not call it for the year and use the ten weeks breathing space to make the necessary material adjustments to the schools? Erect barriers where barriers are needed. Change the layout of the corridors to a one-way system where possible. Turn big rooms into smaller rooms. Do whatever is needed. Doesn’t that make more sense than rushing kids back for what seem to me to be political reasons?

I’m not a person who believes in conspiracy theories. I’m cautious to avoid letting any ideological narrative drive my reading of situations. I even try damn hard not to let my loathing for certain people come into my arguments. However, this government seem to be making a shambolic mess of things. Johnson is the man we feared he’d be when he was elected. “Go to work if it’s safe to do so,” he said and then his government proceeds to act like the very worst company out there. They want parliament to resume next week, which will indeed leave older MPs very vulnerable. If it’s safe to continue parliament in its current format, why change it? Because, I suppose, of “tradition”. This is backwards thinking. Jacob Rees Mogg is a disgrace, though we also knew that already; a symptom of a broken nation where the best minds are held back by the idlers in power.

4 thoughts on “Why I’ve changed my mind about Dominic Cummings”

  1. You have no idea how pleased am am to read the 1st half of this! I could never understand how you could give him the benefit of the doubt. (Your original post even made reference to ’empethising’ with him which tbh just broke my brain!

    On the lifting of restrictions I’m inclined to agree. An interesting thought I’ve had since this started, am I the only one who wishes this had happened a year before? Yes May was terminally dull but I’d rather have her cabinet in charge than this one. Also, we now know her greatest strength was the fact he wasn’t Boris Johnson!

    1. Ha. I know but if I have a flaw (often commented upon by those close to me) it’s that beneath this grouchy exterior, I’m actually a bit too kind for my own good. I hate bullying so it sometimes makes me hesitate when I see a pile on happening. I sympathised with him because I put myself in his shoes, which meant that my sympathy was really about somebody like me (not the architect of Brexit) facing his problems. I can’t abide the man but I wasn’t going to criticise him for caring about his family. That and that alone was the reason for my defence.

      As for lockdown, I agree completely. I’d say May, Brown, Blair, Major, and perhaps even Thatcher would have all dealt with it better. (Thatcher is the tricky one. Scientist but also put the economy over people.) Cameron I’m not sure about. I wrote a bit earlier in the week about “the nightmare beyond the nightmare”, which is what happens if the virus disappears. Not going to repeat my argument from there but I worry about how anti-science this is now getting. I think the FT’s editor was spot on when she tweeted today that the government has made an economic decision but they’re too afraid to admit it. I suspect we’ve gone back to the plan of turning the tap on and off to control the amount of sick going into hospital. All I know is that we’re not stopping sheltering in place anytime soon.

  2. The thing that stood out to me from the statement was how desperate he seemed to be to get back to London, and to work so soon after being bedridden! The eyesight drive seems ridiculous too, going for a drive with his family (which he was so desperate to look after) when he wasn’t sure if he was well enough to drive yet, and emergency services are already stretched.

    1. I’m probably more sympathetic to stupid decisions in difficult moments than most people but there are simply too many of them. I also hadn’t thought of that good point you make about the contradiction: caring about his family yet taking them for a drive when his eyes are dodgy.

      There’s also another big conversation that probably needs to be made about how central he is to the running of government. The irony, of course, is that Brexit was all about taking control back from “unelected officials” yet here we are with Cummings suggesting he’s running Downing Street. Worryingly, I suspect that’s true. He might or might not also be to blame for the coronavirus fiasco but we shouldn’t be in a position where we have to ask.

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