About two months ago, chief government adviser Dominic Cummings travelled 264 miles from London to his parents’ home in northeast England while Britain was under strict lockdown rules. At the time, many European countries (including the UK) were fining people for leaving their homes for nonessential travel. If you are wondering how other European political figures complied with these requirements, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not travel to see his dying mother until the night she passed away (not of coronavirus).
On March 27, the day Boris Johnson tested positive for coronavirus, Cummings’s wife told him that she had coronavirus symptoms. So, that night they travelled to his parents’ farm to get childcare support for their young child. (Cummings had younger relatives at the farm that could help out. He says that his family stayed in a cottage 164 feet away from his elderly parents.) Cummings has refused to apologize for traveling and has asserted that what he did was completely within the rules. The guidelines at the time did say, “If you have children, keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible."
More troubling, however, is that during Cummings’s sojourn in the northeast, he was spotted at Barnard Castle, 30 miles away from the farm. Cummings says that he drove there to determine if his eyes were good enough for the drive back to London. Do not worry, dear reader, your eyesight is not deceiving you here. Dominic Cummings says that he drove 60 miles round trip aware that his eyes might not have been good enough to drive. Yesterday, Conservative politician Michael Gove defended Cummings by saying that he, too, has driven on occasion to test his eyesight.
There are also incongruencies between the stories of Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield. Wakefield said that Cummings could not get out of bed for ten days after contracting coronavirus on March 28. Cummings, however, has said that he drove on April 3rd to get his son from the hospital.
Things do not look good for Cummings. 55% of Conservative voters and 32 Tory MPs want him to resign. The right-wing tabloids are turning on him as well, with The Daily Mail calling for Cummings to be fired on its front page. However, it’s possible that Boris Johnson will try to wait out the public resentment. Luckily for him, he does not have to call another election until 2024.
Who Is This Guy Anyways?
At this point, I am sure you are wondering why Boris Johnson thinks this guy is so important that he has not yet fired him. The truth is that Boris thinks that Cummings is a “genius.” Additionally, as part of what Cummings has called his “terrorist demands,” Johnson gave him control of all of the special advisers that work for the various cabinet ministers. Consequently, many crucial government officials are more loyal to Cummings than Johnson, so if Cummings leaves, more will likely follow.
Cummings is held in such high regard by Johnson because he spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum a few years ago. You may have seen Benedict Cumberbatch play him on HBO’s Brexit. More recently, he helped lead the Conservatives to a large victory in the general election this past December.
As far as his personality goes, Cummings is known as a polarizing, anti-establishment figure, despite attending Oxford and coming from a comfortable background. Today, he is married to a woman whose father owns a castle.
Despite his rapport with Johnson, Cummings isn’t exactly known for his congeniality. In 2014, David Cameron described him as a “career psychopath.” When he wasn’t working for the government in 2017, Cummings remarked, “[Conservative] MPs largely do not care about these poorer people.” Last year, he was found in contempt of Parliament for not showing up to an inquiry into the legality of actions of Vote Leave in 2016. POLITICO has quoted one government official as saying, “I found him very impressive. But also slightly scary. He’s quite intimidating.”
Cummings also watches children’s TV shows. When a journalist asked him about an instance where Boris overruled his advice, he responded, “The night time is the right time to fight crime – I can’t think of a rhyme.” This was a reference to PJ Masks, a program for five year olds.
Cummings’s blog allows further insight into his character. There, he says that a government official once called him “a mutant virus.” Additionally, on April 14, 2020, he edited a post from March 2019 to include the word “coronavirus.” During his press conference this past Monday, Cummings asserted, “only last year I wrote explicitly about the danger of coronaviruses.”
On the blog, he has also uploaded an essay (at more than 200 pages single spaced, it’s really more of a book) that associates the following Thucydidean quote with knowing how to use intelligence. “A man harms his foes thus: those things that they most dread he discovers, carefully investigates, then inflicts upon them.” (See page 97, h/t BBC.)
So, take from this piece what you will about Cummings. I am just glad that his eyesight is okay.
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