The latest British drama surrounding Dominic Cummings is a tricky one to explain, not least apparently for Cummings himself. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser may ride out the immediate crisis, with help from his boss, but both men will pay a price.
A visitor from another country might wonder at all the fuss. In the pantheon of government scandals, has there been anything quite like it? All the signs of a full-blown political crisis are present: the media feeding frenzy, the public outcry, the calls for resignation, an outraged bishop and a minister’s protest resignation. The episode has acted as a catalyst for public discontent over Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis; his polling is plummeting.
And yet, there was no crime, no victim, no illicit affair with a foreign spy, no elaborate cover-up, no break-in, no scurrilous leak, no abuse of office, nor peddling of influence. Rather, we have a very important, and perennially controversial, adviser to the leader of the country, who packed his sick wife and four-year-old son into their car and drove 400 kilometres north of London to County Durham to be closer to family through the illness that would affect them both.
During an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street rose garden on Monday, Cummings explained his thinking. What if he and his wife were made so weak by their suspected COVID-19 infection that they couldn’t look after their son? He added that there had been threats against him and his house was constantly being photographed and filmed. His parents’ property had space where he could isolate without endangering anyone. He tried to take every precaution.