As a Tory Party member, and as a somewhat older member of a prominent youth Conservative initiative, you might expect me to hold the view that the mighty Dominic Cummings is an irreplaceable marvel. That he’s a maverick, who is merely in this world before his time, encapsulating what so many who came before him failed to hone: The Will Of The People.
But no. I do not believe this. I actually hold the belief that Dominic Cummings is a career agitator. He’s a man who has harboured very strong opinions on the political classes for a large period of his life, but who, when given the opportunity, will attach himself to any political movement which seeks to most closely align to his “Domstopia”.
I don’t personally think that Dominic Cummings is the marvel those on right side of the political aisle make him out to be. He certainly isn’t a man who understands people better than anybody else, or holds the power within his mind to cause shock and upheaval within the political establishment. This I’ve held as a firm belief since 2016, but was confirmed quite in totality when I managed to sit through the god-awful “Brexit – The Uncivil War” docudrama about the man only a few short weeks ago.
I voted leave, but Cummings’ supposedly remarkable tagline “take back control” had me raising my eyebrows. But what does it mean? I can’t help but think it means nothing at all. Its design and purpose is for as many people, of as wide a diversity of opinions possible, to attach their own meaning. That umbrella of ideologies range from far right racists who believe everything is down to their jaded view of migrants, all the way to those on the far left who would have you believe isolation and a “lexit”, Corbynist iron curtain for true socialism, is the way forward – and there are so many ideologies in-between.
This isn’t proof of Dominic Cummings being some kind of political guru, or a mind-reader of a population that somehow had been failed by its ruling elite. Despite the actor Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Cummings like some kind of Wizard, poring over his whiteboard desperately trying to come up with a tag-line to encapsulate the masses, it’s really just marketing 101 for a mass political campaign – and I daresay any decent marketing firm, or even a reader of a Dale Carnegie book, could come up with similar. Dominic Cummings was simply there at the right time, with the right line, but was the wrong man.
Which brings us neatly to our current debacle – or “Cummings&Goings”, as it has now affectionately been named by the Twitterati (quite beautifully I may add – what a sign that the British public itself can create tag-lines all of their own, not just Dominic Cummings!). The grey areas on this topic are vast. I am not a lawyer, but personally at the time of writing this, I am of the opinion that Mr Cummings has not acted illegally – nor that he has broken any moral code. But the clear gulf between his interpretation of the rules, and the interpretation many others had, is of deep concern.
It concerns me not because of what I think of either side in that argument, but because of the sledgehammer effect the government’s support of Mr Cummings is having on the Conservative Party. The Party sat on a 72% approval rating for their handling of the current pandemic just 6 short weeks ago. This dropped to 42% around ten days ago. I daresay it has fallen even further, be it deservedly or otherwise.
Boris Johnson has seen his approval ratings drop by 20 points over only a few days. Is that a record? Suddenly a man with an eighty-seat majority sees himself languishing in that polling swamp known as “the negative”. Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer has remained Napoleonic on his views of this farce, opting to observe from the periphery, delaying orders for his party to attack in any meaningful way and allowing the Tories to simply shoot themselves in the foot, reload, repeat. And, then, because that wasn’t enough, to drive a challenger tank over it for good measure!
The Conservative Party in its entirety is not to blame for this. Young Douglas Ross, a Scottish Conservative MP who turned an SNP majority of over 9000 into a 16.5% swing, has now resigned his junior cabinet position as he feels the restraints of collective responsibility eradicate his chances to maintain cordial relations with his constituents and to represent their views.
Steve Baker, Brexit MP extraordinaire, has publicly stated he feels Mr Cummings should resign – and by my count currently, another 37 Conservative MPs have joined the new “traitorous” ranks of Baker & Ross. And heck, if anyone thinks Steve Baker is a traitor to the Conservative or Brexit cause, they clearly need to take a step back and have a rethink.
Those who now look upon these MPs – elected in part because they were ardent Brexit supporters who aimed to serve the people – as traitors and schemers, really do need to wake up and smell the coffee. This is Westminster, and this is what running the country in difficult circumstances looks like. Is it really a stretch to see how day-after-day of media headlines on a controversial, unelected chief advisor, may cause a rift in the party and eventually undermine its electability down the road?
Have we conveniently forgotten David Cameron? A centre-right but somewhat liberal, fair Prime Minister who made the mistake of giving the public what they wanted – a referendum vote – but then left his lofty position owing to getting it wrong with 52% of them? We now have a Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who is giving the public the exact opposite of what the vast majority want (80% of those surveyed in a Daily Mail poll, as of yesterday morning, call for Cummings to resign) and is sitting comfortably in Number Ten, presumably thinking that he has four years left to ride this particular scandal out.
But he surely doesn’t have four years, if he keeps this up. The opinion polls of the Party, the wider public, and his own MPs – who were as devoted to the cause championed and apparently masterminded by Mr Cummings as anyone – are telling a very different story to the one coming out of Downing Street. How bad does it have to get?
To echo David Cameron, I’d ask Mr Cummings whether it’s really in the Tory Party’s interest for him to remain as an advisor. Can we afford to lose this much political capital over one man? And it definitely isn’t in our national interest either. I would have thought the solution is simple: “FOR HEAVENS SAKE MAN, GO!!”