The still small voice of calm

George kirrin 1

The Famous Five

Yesterday was busy for me and  I didn’t have a chance to see the comments on my blog-either on twitter or on the blog during work-time.  The blog called on us to move on and let Cummings be.

Yesterday evening I did see some of things that were said on twitter and was upset by some violent language from people I like.

“But by and large our suffering has been minimal ” Feck off, Henry, and then feck off some more and write about something you know about instead of this odious drivel.

I don’t need to defend my comment, most of the people I know have not had to face the choices that Dominic Cummings made – I certainly haven’t. Our church – whose congregation is mainly BAME- has seen deaths.

But the consequences of COVID-19 for most of the people I know have been financial , emotional but not existential.

There was also some bad tempered comment on yesterday’s blog itself, chiefly  an argument between two regular contributors. I don’t want to moderate genuinely held views but let’s be kinder to each other.


The still small voice of calm

Although the majority of comment was calling for Cumming’s resignation, there are two comments from George Kirrin which are here.

The media’s Cummings story no longer stands up for me, Henry.

He didn’t go to Durham for a second time on 14 April, as reported on the front pages of both the Sunday Mirror and the Observer. He didn’t have any physical contact with Durham-based family members. The police didn’t talk to the Cummings family about the Covid lockdown guidelines but about security (presumably if/when the media posse arrived there, as they now have done). Durham police issued their own press release at 4:01pm yesterday, just when Cummings was supposed to be about to start his rose garden press conference.

Cummings didn’t carry on doing things that nearly everyone else had stopped doing — he missed the funeral of his uncle who died from Covid-19 in London on 5 April. He didn’t leave his London home for leisure reasons — he left because he was receiving threats as a result of media demonisation. He was ill, his wife was ill, and at one point his child was taken to hospital in an ambulance in Durham.

His family has had a really rough time and parts of the media have told lie after lie about him. The real scandal is not Cummings’s behaviour — it is the collapse of ethics and objectivity in leading parts of the British media.

Cummings is, however, guilty of what many of us have done when overworking – driving when impaired, putting work before family and personal health, and maybe putting work colleagues at risk of catching whatever it is we’ve got or we’ve had.

I have put the final paragraph in bold because it gives an insight into Cummings’ behaviour that rings true with me and which I haven’t seen or heard elsewhere in the debate.

As illuminating is George’s second comment

Jenny Harries and her “exceptional circumstances” on 24 March, and it’s here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000h32w

The question (about a hypothetical 2-y-o child is asked at 62 minutes in) and her exact quote is at 65 minutes, part of an answer that begins at 64’50” ….

Those who argue that Cummings’ use of “exceptional circumstances” is  exploiting a  loophole must listen to what Jenny Harries says in these four minutes.

There was some speculation before Dominic Cummings’ conference that Dominic Cummings’ child is autistic.

As far as I know , other than the child being taken to hospital, Dominic Cummings’ has made no mention of “special circumstances” for his child. The restraint employed in not responding to comments such as Pete Wharmby’s is admirable. The circumstances Mrs Cummings and their son find themselves in is tough.

Thanks to George for providing the still small voice of calm.


We are being kinder

Until this matter, I had thought there was national unity based on a common front against the pandemic. Unfortunately this unity has been broken. We have the Conservative back-benchers yet again rebelling , a junior minister resigning and we continue to see the normal questioning of Government on its COVID response being interrupted by questions about when Cummings will resign. On social media this has degenerated into  #sackthemall .

Although we are allowed to have our judgement on the performance of the Government (and the bare numbers of deaths , hospitalisations and  (lack of) testing do not speak well of it), we must be kinder.  There is no B- team ready to step up and replace the cabinet, the PM and the Spads.

The A team was elected only 6 months ago and are less than 10% into its term. When we have an election, we have to accept the result and support the Government in its endeavours. This is particularly true at this time.

One of my most left-wing of friends sent me these two direct messages on twitter last night

we can aspire to more than one thing – a decent PM AND a policy of more fairness and better public services post the mad rush to finance running the world.

and separately

Ideally the Tory party needs to boot out Johnson. I don’t suppose it will happen, but the smart guys and gals – and I do believe there are some – need to manage him and sort themselves out.

We want to be kinder ; let’s hope  we will turn a corner by better  protecting the most vulnerable in our society. To do that  we will have to spend a lot more of the nation’s wealth on  welfare and a lot less time throwing stones.

This will mean a radically different reaction to this crisis than “austerity”. It will mean that those of us who have the means to be kind, must be kind.

We are already be kinder, let’s not let this Cummings’ episode stop that.


George Kirrin 2

George Kirrin – aye!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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18 Responses to The still small voice of calm

  1. Brian G says:

    The clip quite clearly says that in the case of a 2 year old child they should work through their Local Authority hub. It’s quite clearly stated. I am not being unkind. I am responding to a bending of what the Chief Medical Officer said. I regret retaliating to Peter but not to disagreeing with you, Michelle, George and Peter. I don’t think it’s in any way acceptable to break the rules in this circumstance. I don’t believe we can just disregard someone’s actions and behaviour just because they are supposedly indispensable. The solution to someone like Mr Cummings being relieved of his post is to replace him with other capable people. If on the other hand the Government is saying that they cannot manage the situation without Mr Cummings then the solution is rather more drastic.

  2. Brian G says:

    Also George openly expresses his view of the things of which Cummings is guilty in the paragraph you have written in bold type. The last sentence is enough cause for him to resign immediately. This is in addition to the other reasons.

  3. henry tapper says:

    I would suggest that you listen to Jenny Harries words. She spells out three options, the local authority hub being the final option. You may think that his obsession with work is grounds for sacking him, but there but for the grace of God go I and a lot like me!

    • Brian G says:

      Simply not true. The Chief Medical does call the case of the 2 year old child exceptional circumstances. The first point relates to WORKING FROM Home, the second point describes if there are two parents unable to look after a vulnerable child as a special circumstance and she then gives the specific action to take which is to go through the local authority hub. Perhaps you can refer me to a different part of the recording which contains the counterarguments? At absolutely no point is the work point relevant. As he was able to drive 260 miles he was perfectly capable of looking after his child so that does not count either. You are all just making things up. Dr Harries Did NOT say anything in that section you point to that validates Cummings actions. So as I have only listened from minutes 58 through to 1hr 5 minutes is there a different section which you can point me to. I have listened to the 7 minutes several times and there is no mention of people who are worried they might get ill (rather than being ill) being a special or exceptional circumstance.

      • henry tapper says:

        Brian, I can only refer you to George Kirrin’s comment.

      • Brian G says:

        Astounded by your interpretation of something she did not say. Listen to the content of what Mr Cummings said in justifying and explaining his actions and his admissions of what he actually did. Then listen again to what Jenny Harries said. There is no relationship to what he admitted to doing and what she said. I find it astonishing but highly amusing that the comment George makes about hearing what you want to hear is directed at my comments when the mirror should instead be turned within. Your comment about whether the “noise” might make social distancing more difficult to achieve is like blaming a murder victim for putting their body in the way of a bullet. The reason the noise has not died down is because millions of people are appalled by Mr Cummings actions and behaviour in the context of the crisis in which we find ourselves. If you choose to interpret things to support his actions that’s fine. But millions of people disagree with you so there must be some credence in the opposite view. No doubt its all the media eh?

  4. Tony Watts says:

    Thoughtful piece, Henry, and while I have a different take on proceedings, I certainly agree on the need for a more polite national political discourse. The schisms in the country which manifested themselves in a rancorous Brexit debate are continuing rather than healing.

    I can see your very generous approach is founded in faith as much as anything else, and for me too there is a fundamental religious tenet here: that contrition comes before pardoning.

    By any stretch of the imagination Cummings did not stick to the lockdown rules as the rest of the country understood them. And as well as the letter of the law being important to the way society functions, so too is the spirit of it. We don’t live in a police state, but law and order are maintained by the vast majority of the population adhering to what we take to be acting decently and equitably.

    His attitude appears to be one where he feels he is right and has no need to apologise – or show contrition that his actions have upset a great many people. Had he put his hand up at that press briefing and said as much, all of this would have gone away by now.

    As it is, the Government is struggling to get on with its work and a swathe of people will say “If it’s OK for him, it’s OK for us”. And that is deeply concerning.

    • henry tapper says:

      The nightmare scenario is apathy towards social distancing leading to a flattening of the improvement followed by a second wave. Will all this noise lead to worse or better social distancing?

      • Tony Watts says:

        People who take this seriously will carry on as before – I have many friends my age and a few years up from me who will stick to the advice that could represent the difference between life and death. I do fear, however, that Pandora’s box has been well and truly opened with many younger people (for whom the risks are low) using this as a context for not bothering. I think we saw that on the beaches yesterday. And that’s why I come back to the main reason that Cummings should have partaken of a modicum of humble pie yesterday: this is about way more than one (albeit influential) man losing/not losing his job; it’s about even more hundreds and possibly thousands of lives being lost because, in the words of the social behaviour scientist on SAGE, their strategy has been trashed.

      • henry tapper says:

        We’ll have to see what happens. Some of the scientists I know are seriously worried about current behaviour and say their is already evidence of the R creeping up. I am also seriously worried about talk of locking down some estates while others roam free. There are social issues here which may be hard to manage. Whether Cummings is behind this – the sunshine or just a sense that the worst is over is impossible to judge, but the second wave is a very real and frightening possibility I agree. I don’t think that Cummings can or should shoulder the blame for political and societal failings.

  5. George Kirrin says:

    I’m put in mind of Paul Simon’s lyrics in The Boxer, Henry:

    “All lies and jests
    Still a man hears what he wants to hear
    And disregards the rest“

    As for the bit of mine you emboldened, my emphasis would be on “many of us” having done this, some more recently than others, perhaps.

  6. Brian G says:

    George I would suggest are you going to Scarborough fair? Maybe stopping off on the way

  7. Peter D Beattie says:

    Yes George none of us can honestly say we are ‘whiter than white’, we do what we need to survive!
    But none of that is a reason for someone to loose his livelyhood, for in this case that would be a ‘political matter’ that should of been dealt with by the ‘professionals’. It is not up to us to deprive someone of their job of no official standing?

  8. Brian G says:

    Re: Tony Watts saying Cummings should have eaten a modicum of humble pie…. Whilst I agree he should have done, the reason most people are annoyed is that he did what he did in the first place. For me the lack of an apology is neither here nor there, although said failure does heighten the view that he does not care about the rules. The things that Jenny Harries said on the clip you refer to DO NOT FIT OR DESCRIBE THE ACTIONS Mr Cummings took, and do not describe his situation. She refers to a situation where two parents are unable to look after a small child. Mr Cummings WAS ABLE to look after a small child, otherwise how did he drive 260 miles? And out of interest, I wonder how you justify the 60 mile round trip “eye test”, the getting out of the car for 15 minutes, and why his wife did not drive home instead? How do we justify the going back to Downing Street to potentially infect others? I just don’t understand your attitudes in justifying these actions. When answering questions he stated he was worried he would not be able to look after his child if his health deteriorated. So this was not a situation where both parents were ill. So his own health did not match the description that Jenny Harries gave, how do you not see that George, Henry and Peter? And we cannot know for certain why people are increasingly ignoring social distancing? It probably will have been influenced by the blazing sun and opportunity to travel as far as you want for leisure purposes, but maybe just maybe, the actions of Mr Cummings have led the people who don’t care about anyone but themselves to disregard other people’s safety even more than they previously were. It certainly makes it very difficult to justify fines, and measures of control to be used against the people transgressing rules when Mr Cummings broke the rules so badly himself. And he has broken the rules. And to clarify, I do not really care a jot about Mr Cummings, he is highly capable at what he does and has a very large brain. Many people who care nothing for reputation will employ him for his effectiveness. And frankly if this is not in a role of public service his behaviour does not overly matter to anyone other than the shareholders and customers of any company that takes him on. The key problem that has caused this outpouring from millions of people is that Mr Johnson, our Prime Minister, has chosen Mr Cummings’ remaining in post over and above the detrimental effect that this decision has on Public Health matters. Mr Johnson is strangely missing in action on so many occasions, and seems unable to tolerate people questioning him and seems totally unable to explain himself when repeatedly requested to do so. I will be interested to see how he answered questions posed by the Parliamentary committee earlier today.

  9. Tony Watts says:

    Hi Brian, you say you would be interested to see how Johnson answered questions in the committee yesterday. The answer is, he didn’t. He basically obfuscated throughout the whole session. If that is our PM leading the nation at a time of national crisis, we are in trouble as he won’t have convinced anyone except his loyal supporters that he has a grip on this. I actually thought he looked ill.

    • Brian G says:

      Hi Tony. Thanks for confirming my suspicions as to how Mr Johnson would respond to further questions. One should maybe give him credit for realising that to say more or to elaborate on his answers would only make him look even less aware of what is going on. On a slightly separate, I do not share Stephen Timms amazement that our Prime Minister has no idea that “having no recourse to public funds” means someone with a right to remain is ineligible for benefits. Why was Mr Timms amazed that Mr Johnson has no idea what his own government’s policies mean. Just minor details.

  10. Peter Telford says:

    Hello Henry and all … I like the thought that Cummings is Boris’s Bismarck. Reminds me of when Karl Rove was Bush’s Brain.
    Right now Cummings is Britain’s Dreyfus. Not similar in substance – Dreyfus was innocent and framed. But similar in the effect he’s having on us. A touchstone (a shibboleth?) that polarises opinion, and triggers acrimony where we wouldn’t expect it. How sad that Henry’s quite calm opinion drew such extreme responses. I’ve said to family members let’s not discuss Cummings because we’ll end up fighting.
    Tony, with respect, you’re wrong about contrition coming before pardon. That might be good theology (re the Almighty’s pardon – though even that is arguable) but it’s bad ethics (re pardon between people). What’s needed first of all is empathy in both directions.

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