Before we get into the nitty gritty, about the blog that has now been written by the moderately famous blogger Dominic Cummings, I would like to make a small request of you, the reader. It shouldn’t really be necessary, but it’s so very easy to forget, because it’s so very hard to believe.
During the paragraphs that follow, I would like you to try and keep saying to yourself, over and over again, just in a little whispered voice in your head, the following words: “These are the people running the country.”
It should be easy enough, it has a certain rhythm to it, a bit like a passing train. “These are the people running the country. These are people running the country.”
If you’re able to add in “during a pandemic in which 150,000 people died” then feel free, but I appreciate it’s really not easy.
So then, the blog. Or first, a bit of pre-blog background. Two days ago, the BBC published some text messages between Brexit loving, UK abandoning vacuum cleaner magnate James Dyson and the prime minister. They involved asking the prime minister to look at some tax rules for him over the manufacture of some ventilators that were never manufactured, and the prime minister agreed to do so.
A day later, Boris Johnson is getting a lot of grief over all this, and suddenly the newspapers are full of claims that the texts have been leaked by Dominic Cummings. Kind of doesn’t matter if they have, really. What matters is what’s in them and the moderate whiff of corruption that comes off them, all of which adds to the general stench in the air right now, what with the “possible red flags” over £3.7bn worth of PPE contracts, and so on and so on.
But it will certainly do as a distraction. And then, at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, 800 short words appear on the very niche website dominiccummings.com
If you’re still whispering those words to yourself, then we shall proceed. The claim Mr Cummings makes is the following.
That a) he didn’t leak the text messages; b) he never had them to leak; c) he has been told by No 10 staff that other No 10 staff had been instructed to blame him for the leak, even though they knew it couldn’t possibly be true.
Keep whispering, we’re not done yet. These are the people running the country.
d) He has also been accused of leaking details of an imminent second lockdown, last year. Finding out who did leak that information has been the subject of an extensive internal inquiry.
e) Boris Johnson allegedly knows that the person who did leak that incredibly sensitive information was another special adviser called Henry Newman.
During a pandemic in which 150,000 people have died.
f) The actual prime minister reportedly suggested he ask the head of the civil service to stop the inquiry, because Henry Newman is his girlfriend’s best friend.
Where do you even start? Perhaps with the fact that it might very well not be true. But, you know, it also might very well be. The actual prime minister trying to cancel an inquiry into who had damaged his own government, because he didn’t want to get his girlfriend’s friend in trouble.
It is a truly mindbending accusation. It might not be true, but then again, you know, it very well might be.
It’s hard to say whether this most epic of shitshows is moving towards anything that might be considered a season finale, but certainly all of the Cummings plotlines are at present pirouetting back to the start.
He tried to undermine the Westminster media by bringing in TV press conferences, but the person hired to do so then got him sacked.
He once claimed to have set up a network of waiter spies in Westminster restaurants who would shop any government staff having lunch with a journalist. And then, what do you know, he’s named as the main leaker in Downing Street (now denied, of course).
But this one really is reverting all the way back to the beginning. It was seven years ago that he wrote in The Times that the problem with this country is that it selects its leaders exclusively from a pool of “Oxbridge egomaniacs with humanities degrees.” And here he was, with his BA in modern history from Oxford, looking on as the prime minister, the platonic ideal of all he loathes, didn’t bother going to any meetings, didn’t bother locking down until it was far too late. And here he was, having a quiet word with the authorities, allegedly trying to get his girlfriend’s mate off the hook.
In some ways, naturally, Cummings was right. The problem with the country is exactly as he diagnosed. It’s just more serious than he imagined. The price that’s been paid, almost incalculable (even if various statistical associations have indeed calculated it at more than a million years of human life lost).
That it defies belief is almost certain proof that it’s all true. That they really were, they really are, that execrable.
That they really are running the country. That 150,000 people really did die. And here they are, all they can find themselves able to do is point their fingers, and tap the keys, leak and brief and tap out blogs.