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End of the road?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Dominic Cummings’ career is hanging by a thread. Hanging being potentially the operative word, with all the grisly ritual of public executions. The Prime Minister is desperate to save the mastermind who delivered Brexit for him. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, his own party may yet take the matter out of his hands. ‘Thought’s the slave of life and life’s time’s fool. And time, that takes survey of all the world, must have a stop.’ Gasping out those words after being mortally wounded in a swordfight, Shakespeare’s character Harry Hotspur knew he was a goner. And the Prime Minister’s chief aide is under no illusions. For all his defiant bravado he knows he might be as well. The official line is his position is secure. And Tories on the government payroll, from Boris Johnson downwards, have been circling him with protective wagons. But the birds of prey are also circling, overhead, sensing the imminent presence of a tasty human carcass. Vultures, Cummings would doubtless contemptuously call them. But that’s part of his problem. He’s made insulting journalists into an art form. And, because he’s so good at it, it’s hard to answer him back. Meaning there’s a mountain of grievance piled up within the ranks of the nation’s opinion formers. And if revenge is a dish best served cold this one’s straight out of the freezer. Or, to go back to the birdie analogy, it could be a case of chickens coming home to roost. The case for the prosecution is simple. Having played a major part in formulating the anti-coronavirus lockdown rules, Cummings broke them. Not once, but several times. There are different versions of the story, but essentially they boil down to him driving hundreds of miles to see his parents. Then, though the claim’s disputed, going out for a couple of daytrips. All this when everyone was supposed to be staying at home. The case for the defence is also pretty straightforward. He and his wife were unwell, maybe suffering from Covid-19, and urgently needed help with looking after their little boy. Oh, and incidentally, the rules at the time did allow this. Sort of. So much for the wigs and the silks. There’s also the Court of Public Opinion. Here, the charge sheet is brutal. While millions of us have made untold sacrifices on the premise of ‘doing the right thing’, this bloke’s been doing whatever the hell he fancied. It’s the elite versus the people thing. Them and us and all that. When other top bods have broken the eleventh commandment, that’s to say got caught, they paid with the post they’d been holding. So why should he be any different? It boils down to how good it looks. And, to more and more Tory MP’s, good is exactly what it does not look. In the normal course of events, if a minister is in the soup he or she will try to brazen it out in the hope that the media agenda will move on, meaning the heat will be off. News is, after all, not what happens but what is reported. Indomitable Dom and his bestie Bojo are calculating that the hectic pace of events in the coronavirus crisis means this’ll be no more than a five-minute wonder. On the face of it, a reasonable assumption. Against that, it’s rather a nice change for a public bored with the endless litany of depressing statistics, conflicting science and troubling inconvenience to get stuck into someone else’s problem for once. Back in the day the village of Tyburn, up the road from Marble Arch, was the standard execution location. There, enterprising locals used to organise spectator stands for the thousands who flocked to watch, and charge them for the privilege of getting a good view. Looking on the bright side of death, so to speak. You can but imagine the thoughts going through the heads of the condemned. While they still had them, that is, in the case of King Charles The First. Before stepping out to his special scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall he put on an extra shirt. It was jolly parky and he couldn’t bear the thought of people thinking he was shivering because he was scared. Hardly a king thing, being frit. Dominic Cummings is also one for keeping up appearances, apart from in his dress sense, obvs. But, stuck as he is in the stocks, there’s one song he isn’t singing just now. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Because A: he isn’t, and B: well you can’t, can you?

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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