Every day you think it can’t get any worse – and it does. We now know that Dominic Cummings, the UK’s de facto prime minister, officially called the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, deliberately flouted the lockdown and drove 260 miles from London to Durham with his wife and child. It seems that he made this round trip 3 times, once when his wife had coronavirus. This was at the height of the virus epidemic in London.
Social media is full of comments from people who couldn’t visit sick parents in hospital or attend funerals. It is also full of comments from people who were in the same situation as Cummings (or likely worse as they don’t earn £95,000 per year) and had to manage at home in isolation.
How many thousands more would have died if everyone else had done this too?
Johnson’s press conference yesterday reached a new low. This was quite an achievement given the waffle and evasion we have heard every day from other ministers – there was another car-crash interview with Gavin Williamson on Radio 4 his morning.
Johnson would have a lot more credibility if he had stated that Cummings made a serious mistake. The excuse that he was taking his son to stay with family in Durham doesn’t make sense. Surely he could have got help in London. It has been reported that his sister-in-law lives in London and that his chief aide lives very close to him. How could they not have dropped some shopping outside the Cummings house?
Bishops are condemning Johnson and Cummings on twitter. MPs are reporting receiving thousands of e-mails from angry and upset constituents, plenty of whom voted Conservative. Civil servants in Whitehall, the people who keep the country going, say that this is the worst government they have ever known. The Civil Service tweet
“Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”
went viral last night with tens of thousands of re-tweets.
Some of the academic behavioural scientists, who have been advising the government on how to get people to go against their natural instincts in order to save lives and protect the NHS, have publicly stated that their advice has been trashed.
Plenty of people are speculating as to why Johnson will not get rid of Cummings, guessing that Cummings knows too much about Johnson and his private life and will spill the beans if he is fired. Also, Johnson must surely know that he lacks the skills to function as PM without Cummings pulling the strings.
Cummings is not known for telling the truth. He is the architect of the Vote Leave lies about Turkey joining the EU and the UK sending £350m per week to the EU. His election slogan “Get Brexit Done” was a nonsense, as there was bound to be years of wrangling over trade deals when the UK would be in a very weak position. Even arch-Brexiteers Steve Baker and Peter Bone have come out with criticism of him.
Meanwhile the Murdoch press continues to support Johnson and to pressure him to get the country back to work and kids back to school.
Other countries have shown that relaxing the lockdown is only feasible if contact tracing really works, but the much-heralded contact tracing app has now vanished from the news. Instead thousands of human contact tracers are being recruited by an outsourcing company which is no doubt charging the government plenty for its services. I hear rumours that muddle and confusion are surrounding this as well with calls not being returned and little training provided.
Under the radar, bits of the Brexit trade deal move along. Parliament recently voted not to support British farming, apparently preferring to import low quality food from the US. If this continues I cannot see how there will not be shortages of food and medicines next year – and prices rises as well.
Parliament also voted to make it very difficult for people to come to the UK to work in vital low-paid jobs such as those in care homes where there are acute staff shortages. It was only after a public outcry that the government finally removed the NHS surcharge (soon to be £624 per year per person) for some immigrants, but it remains in place for many.
This morning a snap YouGov poll showed 52% saying that Cummings should go. The government acted on a majority of 52% in 2016. It should do so now.
36,000 people have died. Government incompetence must take the blame for this. Ministers repeatedly say that they are following the science. If so, why have large chunks of the papers published by the scientific advisers been blacked out for publication? Scientists advise but it is politicians who make the final decision.
This government has a majority of 80 in Parliament. It is less than 6 months since the election. I absolutely dread to think what might happen in the next 4 years. Please can somebody end this nightmare and help us to return to sanity.