Monday, May 25, 2020

Boris Johnson Beware! The Knives are out for Dominic Cummings

It's pretty much universal: Boris Johnson's support of Dominic Cummings is a suicide move. A petition calling for a public vote of no confidence in the PM has 107,000 signatures so far and cross-party calls for Cummings to go are burgeoning out of control. Nineteen Conservative MPs have gone on record.  International press is scathing of Johnson. So is the Church of England. Thirteen bishops have publicly expressed their outrage.

Johnson is trying to brazen it out, unwilling to accept that what worked for him over Brexit and in the GE has turned into a minefield. Even going back to post election, he has cynically tapped into the heroism of the second world war and the spirit of unity, playing at Churchill, to get voters to like him, forgive him his incompetence and faults, and do what he wants. He was successful enough to win a giant majority and then to get most to accept lockdown when Covid-19 hit us between the eyes. But he made the rookie mistake of thinking the loyalty is to him and his government.

It isn't. It's to the principle of honour. Not difficult to rouse in a country that prides itself on exceptionalism – even though it faded away long ago – and where nationalism has been heavily exploited for political purposes for four years.

Honour is a fierce animal, though and once roused, it's not easily hoodwinked. So the government's constant lies, incompetence, cover-ups, and the suffering and lives lost as a consequence, have registered; slowly at first but with increasing rapidity. Especially since Keir Starmer took over as leader of the opposition, because he is a man of honour and easily recognizable as such, even to Conservatives.

The UK is often compared to the US. Now, in backing Dominic Cummings' inexcusable lockdown flout, flying in the face of significant rebellion in his own party and even the right wing press, and following close on the heels of the latest opinion poll that showed Starmer surging ahead in popularity and respect, Johnson is playing Trump's game. It's an unwise move. This isn't America, where Republicans have allowed Trump to reduce them to a pack of zombies. Some Conservatives do have independence of mind, or at least enough to make them see the dangers of siding with Johnson, and they're more open to facing the reality that the power they gained with the last election is disintegrating at the speed of light.
No matter how much power you think you have, you can't survive in politics without friends. Dominic Cummings has made a lot of enemies in the Cabinet, MPs nursing their grudges secretively, craving an opportune moment. That moment is now.
And a petition calling for Cummings to be sacked has 419,000 signatures and counting fast. That damn hubris. It will take you down every time.

It's impossible yet to know why Boris Johnson is clinging onto his aide. Speculation is rife on social media that Cummings has something on him. Darker secrets and conspiracy theories aside, Cummings is a vindictive bully. It could be that Johnson doesn't want to get on the wrong side of him or that he's become so dependent he can't bear the idea of life without him. Hopefully his hand will be forced. To date nineteen Conservative MPs have gone on record calling for Cummings to be fired.
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is being the leader the whole country is yearning for, so the longer Boris Johnson lets the wounds inflicted by Cummings fester, the better it is for Labour.