During the very short period of time in which Dominic Cummings was the most senior strategic adviser in 10 Downing Street, roughly 100,000 people died prematurely from Covid-19. That kind of unquantifiable grief places a certain amount of sensitivity upon such things as who knew what by when and what they didn’t do.
Few governments have ever taken decisions with quite such a weight of life and death laid down upon them. It hardly needs to be repeated that in such circumstances, a degree of solemnity might be required.
It is not, for example, a particularly auspicious moment to go on Twitter and brag about having the “only copy” of a “crucial” government document pertaining to Covid decision making, and invite people to vote on whether you should submit it to the authorities investigating the subject as requested or, and I do not make this up, convert it into cryptocurrency and sell it to the highest bidder (with the proceeds going to charity).
Mercifully, before this auction could take place, Mr Cummings, or @Dominic2306 as he is now known, would have to abort his plan. Well, not abort, amend. It had all been “botched” he explained, because he is an “idiot”. When he said, should I hand it over or sell it on the blockchain in a way that I understand and you don’t because I am much much cleverer than you, what he meant was, actually, I was always going to do both. Any suggestion I wasn’t going to hand the document over is completely false, and that definitely has nothing to do with someone telling me that selling off secret government documents in a weird cryptocurrency auction is highly likely to be illegal.
Still, who cares? Dominic Cummings is back on Twitter, tripping the light fantastic, dancing the electric boogaloo across the alternative branches of history as only he can. Not content with Monday’s delights, when an eight-part thread spread over four hours would explain how only he knew that the kind of nationwide lockdown he very publicly ignored was the answer, on Tuesday he really did appear to up the ante yet further.
Cummings is now back in his element, by which we mean basement, doing what he does best. And what he does best is put words on the internet, explaining how everybody else is stupid and everything would be so much better if he was in charge, except now he does so with a certainty mesmerisingly untroubled by what would be the in no way awkward fact that he was in charge, and everything was stupefyingly worse.
All the classic tropes were there. How Whitehall had got everything wrong, and would continue do so again. How the vaccine programme shouldn’t be measured against the success of other vaccine programmes but against General Groves and the Manhattan Project that produced the first nuclear weapons.
(Hard to quantify, this one, but to the best of my knowledge, General Groves was not sacked from the Manhattan Project after losing an internal power struggle with Roosevelt’s girlfriend after having his leg humped by said girlfriend’s rescue dog. Perhaps also worth noting that history might have been somewhat different if the Manhattan Project had merely involved throwing pretend hand grenades over your shoulder upon leaving a room.)
All of this, of course, is a hyper-extended drum roll for Cummings’s evidence to a House of Commons select committee, which is expected to make life very difficult for Boris Johnson.
It is occasionally speculated that, as politicians go, Johnson is blessed with considerable luck and this appears to be no exception. Skilled barristers who know their clients are bang to rights have little option but to seek to obscure the truth by discrediting the witnesses.
That Mr Cummings, for reasons only he is clever enough to be able to understand, is choosing to do discredit himself, through a daily sequence of ever more unhinged tweets, is more than the prime minister might ever dared to have hoped for.