25 May 2020: A storm erupted yesterday when it emerged that Dominic Cummings, ruthless political Svengali behind the Conservative party’s election triumph, had ignored government guidelines and travelled from London to Durham whilst suffering from the symptoms of Covid-19. The ‘guidelines’ were generally viewed as commandments rather than suggestions.
At exactly the moment (in March) when Boris was telling the nation that we all had to stay at home, and that people with symptoms should avoid any contact with anybody else, Dom and his wife and child travelled 250 miles to stay near his parents’ house.
Oddly enough, when his wife wrote an article for the Spectator magazine she failed to mention this epic journey, instead telling us all that they had spent a miserable fortnight stuck in the house, eventually setting out to find London eerily deserted like the set of a zombie apocalypse.
The public – along with politicians of all shades – were furious at this revelation, and demanded an explanation. Some people had spotted Dom’s presence up north and alerted the police, who confirmed that they had ‘spoken to an individual’ to confirm the importance of correct social distancing.
The prime minister’s office was having none of this wishy-washy letterbox-tank-top-bumboy nonsense, and went on the offensive, declaring that Cummings was concerned for the welfare of his child and that his actions were completely justified. Oddly enough, they also claimed that he had not been spoken to by the police in County Durham. (This is a bit like saying that ‘I didn’t break the window – I may have thrown the pebble, but it was the pebble that actually broke the window’)
The Prime Minister himself held the daily press briefing (usually chaired by a senior minister or medical officer) and announced that Cummings had behaved in a responsible manner and had not broken any laws, and would not be facing any disciplinary measures.
Cummings is well known as a provocative figure who enjoys radical debate – one of the advisers he recruited (Andrew Sabisky) had to be speedily dismissed after their interest in eugenics became public knowledge. But he understands how to use political messaging to manipulate the opinion of the electorate, and thus deliver shock results in referendums. And he regards everybody else – taxpayers, police officers, MPs on the Select Committee – as being ignorant and worthless.
Today’s Covid statistics – US, 1.67 million cases, 98 thousand deaths.
UK, 260 thousand cases, 36 thousand deaths.
Later: In a remarkable development, Dominic Cummings has given a press conference – this is normally done by cabinet ministers or heads of state, not by unelected advisers. It seems to have been another demonstration of his limitless contempt for convention and authority. Instead of expressing contrition or regret, he cheerfully informed us that yes, he had driven up to Durham (without stopping for fuel) and then decided to go for a drive in Castle Barnard (because he couldn’t see properly) and he considers his behaviour to be entirely reasonable. The story has more plot holes than a Bruce Willis film, but everybody seems quite happy with it. Apart from those individuals who had to stay under lockdown, unable to comfort ill friends or relatives at the very end of their lives.
I only did what I considered to be right;
But a faceless man thinks that he alone can charge
Me with committing a sin; don’t you believe
Me? Surely only someone with a heart of stone
Would punish me for being kind, you must be aware
That destiny will always be to me a heavy load.
My mind holds a gun that I’m ready to load
With silver bullets that show I’m on the side of right
While enemies hide in echo-chambers, still aware
That I’ll be waiting for them when they charge
Through the waiting trees with leaves of stone
To strike against the fool who wants them to believe.
You can’t expect the public to believe
These lame excuses, shimmering ideas, a load
Of finely-graduated legalistic puns. They’ll stone
You when they find out just how right
They were, and how many lies the man in charge
Dumped on the state to keep us unaware.
The testament of parallax remains aware
While anxious friends and relatives outside the gate believe
The prisoner is hypnotised, a bold electric charge
Will drive his nerves and heart to overload
Until they crack; although we’re doing what we think is right
The content of the message is defeated by its tone.
He wears his learning like a precious stone
Designed to dazzle and distract the people who might be aware
Of where they are. Galvanised young men demand the right
To climb inside the chambers they believe
Will keep them safe and let each one shed his load
Until at last the catalyst takes charge.
We’ll never understand why he was left in charge
Of all the living circuit-boards and stone
Chrysanthemums that overlapped and magnetised the load
While turning galaxies embraced the pole, aware
That to succeed you only need to make a fool believe
That he who has the power has the right.
‘Roll away the stone’, the virus said; ‘Let’s get it right!’
And so the load, despairing of the man in charge
Became aware that he can never share the tenets we believe.