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Screenshot of Dominic Cummings giving testimony to the Commons Health, Science and Technology select committee

Screenshot of Dominic Cummings giving testimony to the Commons Health, Science and Technology select committee

The Prime Minister’s former chief advisor has confirmed what most of the country has known for months, writes Sean Ledwith

Dominic Cummings’ devastating revelations to the Commons Health, Science and Technology select committee today have peeled back the lid on the rotten core of the Johnson government. The former chief advisor in Number 10 bluntly stated that the Prime Minister is not fit for office and that “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die” as a direct result of incompetence and prevarication at the most senior level of government.

Cummings paints a jaw-dropping picture from the inside of an utterly dysfunctional executive which failed the British public on a colossal scale during the biggest threat the country has faced since WW2. In Cummings’ searing words, as the crisis unfolded early last year:

“When the public needed us most the government failed…lots of people were literally skiing.”

Hubris

Johnson cynically exploited the nefarious public relations strategies of Cummings to win the Brexit vote in 2016 and then to rise to the premiership three years later. Johnson then relied on Cummings’ insidious input in his battle with dissident MPs from his own party in autumn 2019 to drive through the proroguing of Parliament and to slander Jeremy Corbyn in the election later that year.

As the pandemic devastated the country this time last year, Johnson absurdly backed Cummings after the latter’s lockdown-flouting trip to County Durham. The two men belatedly parted company as the second wave began to emerge last October. Now Cummings has decided revenge is best served cold with today’s excoriating evidence.

Johnson was repeatedly warned by parliamentary colleagues before hiring Cummings in 2016 that the man was rottweiler-like and always ends up biting his own master but such was the all-consuming ambition of the former to get the top job that he was prepared to brush aside the doubters. Now Johnson is facing the consequences of his amoral quest for power and Cummings’ revelations will hopefully form part of the reckoning for the worst PM of our times.

Nemesis

Cummings’ testimony amounts to a damning indictment of an unscrupulous and unprincipled politician whose chicanery and lies have been tolerated by the Tory Party for years because he offered them electoral success. Johnson’s carefully crafted image as a blimpish buffoon might have won him supporters among the country’s deluded elite but Cummings confirms the mass of the population has now paid a heavy price for the promotion of such incompetence. The grotesque failures of the leadership tasked with steering the state in the face of an unprecedented existential threat are barely believable.

Suicidal stupidity

As the deadly virus approached the UK in early 2020, the Prime Minister dismissed it as the “new swine flu” and bizarrely suggested the Chief Medical Officer inject him live on TV with the virus “so everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of”. The PM’s national security advisor came up with an idea that surpasses even that for suicidal stupidity:

“Prime Minister, you should go on TV tomorrow and explain the herd immunity plan and that it is like the old chicken pox parties. We need people to get this disease because that’s how we get herd immunity by September.”

Perhaps the most surreal moment came with Cummings’ depiction of one day in Number 10 in March last year when a perfect storm of absurdity and incompetence threatened to overwhelm the entire operations of government:

“That morning The Times had run a story about the PM, his girlfriend and their dog. She was angry and we had to deal with that…Part of the building was arguing about whether we were going to bomb Iraq, part was arguing about whether we were going to quarantine or not, and the Prime Minister’s girlfriend was going crackers about something completely trivial.”

The writers of the TV political satire The Thick Of It would surely have rejected this scenario as too surreal even for them! Aside from the comic ineptitude on display here, however, we should remember how devastating this type of revelation must be for the thousands of families up and down the country grieving for lost relatives and friends. Their deepest fears are confirmed that with alternative leadership their loved ones might still be alive.

Complete nonsense

Cummings also rightly draws attention to the repeated failures of Health Secretary Matt Hancock regarding lack of PPE, woeful testing provision and the appalling policy of returning sick patients to care homes at the peak of the crisis:

“Now all the Government rhetoric of ‘we put a shield around care homes and blah blah, was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.”

Tory spin doctors will no doubt go on the offensive over the next few days to discredit Cummings. We should not lose sight of his past collusion with the disastrous policies he has exposed today. He pointedly failed to acknowledge the calamitous consequences of his infamous Barnard Castle trip in terms of undermining public faith in the lockdown.

However, Cummings has provided valuable ammunition for exposing the corruption and venality of the Tory Party that has inflicted so much unnecessary suffering on the UK population. The former chief advisor vividly describes Johnson as being like “a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. This is undoubtedly true but the same can be said for the entire ruling class that has allowed such a sociopathic personality to rise to power.

Demand a new normal at the People's Assembly National Demonstration on 26 June

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History and Sociology at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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