The Cummings and lack of goings of the past 48 hours are dividing Britain between the absolutists, the pragmatists and the people who just hate Dominic Cummings.
I suspect the number of people who know Cummings well enough to hate him is very small and comprises those people whose journalistic and political careers are thwarted by him.
The numbers who see him as an archetype of “arrogance”, “hypocrisy” etc, is much larger and these are people are fuelled by a sense of injustice that we are not all in this together , that they have done their bit and that they are being laughed at. Many of these people have genuinely suffered self-deprivation or illness and some have lost loved ones to Coronavirus.
Finally , there are the pragmatists, who seem to include most of the Conservative parliamentary party, all of the Cabinet , the Prime Minister and a very large part of the country who are more interested in just getting on with, siding with productivity within safe limits over the strict obedience to absolute standards.
Wherever you sit, your position is relative to others and the ruling you are making on Cummings results from personal prejudice. There is no absolute position since the people who made the rules, are now interpreting them differently to how we understood them and implying that there are things we cannot know about Dominic Cummings’ behaviour , because that is in the public good.
In the public good
Churchill once redefined the word “lie” as a “terminological inexactitude” so as to imply a member of the house wasn’t telling the truth. In doing so he poked fun at the system but kept his integrity.
This is probably the best response from most of us to Cummings’ road trip. No one needs to like him for it, no one needs to like Cummings – one of the most attractive things about the man is his complete disregard for most people’s opinion (see yesterday’s blog)
Our Government believes it needs Cummings and is therefore protecting him. The Government has worked out that it can take some collateral damage in this. This is not necessarily political , more based on Cummings’ genuine leadership. He appears to be the Bismarck to Johnson’s Kaiser and Johnson still appears to be working at half power (he had a genuine brush with death).
My view, as expressed yesterday, is that if you take Cummings out of 10 Downing Street, you are left with an underpowered PM and not a lot of depth in the rest of the team. We should not underestimate the reliance on Cummings at this point.
So it is probably in the public good that we put the road-trip away in a cupboard and accept that some must act at this time and we must accept that they can act differently in the public good. Which is the only way I can mentally accept the behaviour of Dominic Cummings.
It is of course the same leap of faith that allows me not to throw my laptop at the TV when I see the briefings on those who “tragically” have died, knowing that the briefings have consistently been telling us half the picture, to keep us in order.
My mother’s comment remains relevant, for her it is more important to trust authority than to believe in its absolute probity. Just as Machiavelli knew how to control the people, so the people accepted the principles of the Prince, to maintain social order. This complicity looks likely to prevail, for all the ranting in the papers, on social media and in radio and TV phone-ins.
There is little genuine comfort in being absolutely right
Without going into the doctrine of original sin, it’s worth finishing with a thought about moral absolutes. “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” is probably the most pragmatic phrase to come out of the Bible and it certainly applies here.
Anyone who claims absolute moral authority in their behaviour, bullshits me.
There is also a sense of humour failure just around the corner.
And unless you are very different than me, it feels very uncomfortable sitting on a high horse. It’s a long way down and you never know if the horse mightn’t just buck
It is great fun, in the fury of the moment, convincing yourself you are right. But as I know, when I re-read my blogs, I have often been either wrong or hypocritical or both.
So reluctantly, as I see Cummings as a bell-end much of the time, I am prepared to move on and accept that for the public good, the man needs to be excused if not exonerated.
We live in a very imperfect world and sadly , kicking Cummings out will not make it more perfect.