One rule for them, another rule for us
In one of the biggest indications yet of the depth of the government’s crisis, the shadowy strategist who has become so accustomed to operating behind the scenes was thrust in front of the television cameras to ‘stand naked’ before the nation’s media. Indeed, it is an indication of the lack of accountability and transparency of this government that the very man who appears at times to play the most decisive role in government policy is so rarely made to explain his own actions.
Dominic Cummings is already a widely hated figure in so much of British society, due in part to the key role he played in the loathed ‘herd immunity’ strategy. Many would have expected such a brazen flouting of his own government’s lockdown rules, while millions of others have made countless sacrifices, to have finished his career, much as it did for science advisor Neil Ferguson who was forced to resign after he was visited by his partner.
The fact that it hasn’t reveals his importance to a government which lurches from one tragic mishap to the next, now faced with growing mass rejection of its plans to open schools more widely next Monday.
So important is he that the government have been forced to fudge their own messaging at the height of the lockdown. Government communications over the last few days have, in effect, been skewered to protect one man, and they have thrown away all legitimacy in the process. It really is one rule for them, another rule for the rest of us.
This complete arrogance and disregard for public concern persisted right throughout Cummings’s press conference. He repeatedly pushed the excuse that he was in a difficult situation over childcare when he and his wife were coming down with symptoms. Are we supposed to believe that one of the top strategists of the British government couldn’t arrange alternative childcare much closer to home?
More importantly though, using his childcare commitments as leverage is unlikely to wash with huge numbers of people after the heartbreaking sacrifices they have been forced to make over the last two months. This includes single mothers with no option but to care for their kids in isolation, no matter how ill they have become; those marooned in tower blocks with no access to transport; elderly patients who have had to die alone without family by their side; and those who have had to stay from loved ones’ funerals.
The contempt in which these people are now being held is utterly unconscionable. Either we are meant to believe that they made these sacrifices needlessly, or that those at the top of society really are exempt from the rules they expect the rest of us to follow.
Some of Cummings’s other explanations would be laughable if they weren’t so offensive. If you are in any doubt as to how desperately he was scraping around for excuses, take note of his reason for going on a half-hour drive to Barnard Castle on April 12. This was apparently because his eyesight was ‘a bit funny’ and wanted to test it. I didn’t realise that getting behind the wheel was a suitable way to test one’s eyesight. Is this maybe another one of those lockdown loopholes the rest of us have missed, Dominic? Is it just pure coincidence that April 12 also happens to be the date of your wife’s birthday?
Throughout the conference, Cummings kept repeating that he wishes he had been more upfront about his decision earlier. This is just an example of hindsight being a wonderful thing. His only concern here is the backlash it has now caused for his government and himself. Even worse, it suggests that he knew on some level that his decision was deeply objectionable, but he simply didn’t care, and still doesn’t.
These contemptible responses were certainly not helped by repeated references to his family’s large estate in Durham. Basically, in one press conference, the man who has built a reputation as some kind of renegade populist in touch with the public mood has exposed himself to be pretty much the opposite. An over-privileged establishment buffoon who thinks the rules do not apply to him.
At any rate, millions already know about the cavalier attitude this government has had throughout much of this crisis, from introducing the lockdown too late, to now lifting it too early as millions of children are and workers are expected to return to dangerous schools and workplaces in the coming weeks.
This latest episode is the latest in a crisis which has fully exposed the class divisions in society, with its lack of democratic accountability, protection of profit at all costs, and its view of certain sections of the population as expendable. We must continue to organise in our unions and in the social movements to resist this appalling treatment, and against the sneering and unaccountable class rule that Dominic Cummings and co exist to defend.
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- Why class matters - explainer
- Teachers tell Johnson to follow the science - CounterBlast 31 May
- Why teachers won't go back until it's safe
- How long can the government distort facts - CounterBlast 22 April