Boris Johnson

Cummings affair vindicates Johnson’s critics and destroys the government’s moral authority

BY Ben Kelly | tweet thescepticisle   /  26 May 2020

Why sacrifice your trusted advisor when you could instead sacrifice the integrity and moral authority of the whole government during a global pandemic? After all, what really matters is that the next election is a long time away so everyone will have forgotten about the dismal display of elitism, abject dishonesty and politically motivated recklessness. That appears to be Number 10’s thinking.

Truly all the worst fears that Boris’ critics had about his judgement, his integrity and his ability are now coming true with the Cummings affair.

The government has insisted for months that strict compliance with its draconian rules was necessary to contain Covid-19.  It justified the biggest clamp down on civil liberties since the War because the pandemic is an emergency. The situation was so dangerous that formal rules and strict enforcement were necessary and  relying on the public using their own common sense and instinct was too risky.

Faced with a chief advisor who had broken these rules, Boris Johnson had two options. Back Dominic Cummings to the hilt and keep his friend and advisor in post or undermine the entire lockdown and risk an increase in non-compliance. He made his choice. In doing so he confirmed he has taken us all for idiots. Did he think the culture war would give him cover again? Because that’s yet another misjudgement by this popinjay of a PM who I have finally run out of patience with.

So many things about this scandal could’ve been handled better, but the worst part of it is to see the Cabinet close ranks, issue copy and pasted statements, acting like puppets. Boris picked his Cabinet based on loyalty and obedience, so I guess this is how it pays off for him. Unfortunately, it leaves us with a pitiful government of toadies and inadequates.

We’ve had months of slogans, stark warnings, constant emphasis on the importance of obeying the rules. The Health Secretary even told us they were an “instruction” not a “request”. Then Ministers and loyal MPs had the gall to reinterpret the rules so that they could insist that Dominic Cummings did nothing wrong. The lockdown rules went from unequivocal to ambiguous overnight, all to protect one man. Quite remarkable.

To be told that I can’t do some perfectly reasonable things I am ordinarily allowed to do but with extra caution by a government that has spent the last few days reinterpreting its own rules so that an unelected advisor’s excuses could be deemed compliant is pretty bloody rich. Lots of feel the same, including people who are generally uninterested in politics and have no prejudices against the government or the Conservative party.

As it’s now perfectly obvious this government has no shame, I expect government ministers will switch without flinching to instructing us what we can and can’t do despite losing moral authority and betraying the trust of the nation. They will issue orders and spend hours of airwave time sticking up for Dominic Cummings, but they won’t explain when we might be able to see family or friends or expand our social circle.

The “people’s government’ is now woefully out of touch.

With the pandemic spreading fear and panic across the nation, it has been easy for the government to shape the nation into an obedient, fearful, paranoid people under house arrest. We have learned a little about what it’s like to be servile citizens of an authoritarian state. For our own good.

But no more. People don’t put up with it after days of being told that Dominic Cummings was acting responsibly when he drove thirty miles to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday because he was testing his eyesight.

You can be fined for visiting your mum in the garden for a chat, but our prime minister told us it’s fine that his advisor drove 250 miles to Durham and, while there, drove 30 miles to Barnard Castle.

The lockdown is breaking down all over the country and in the light of the Cummings farce this will now accelerate. The police, so lamentably rapid in their transformation into a state militia enforcing inflexible and unreasonable rules zealously and often inaccurately, will now find their own moral authority on shaky ground.

Those people who have been mulling over allowing their friend or relative in their garden for a brief time while maintaining social distancing and taking precautions may now think that using their own judgement and instinct is perfectly reasonable. Why would they do what this duplicitous, incompetent government tells them to?

Even when the lockdown is lifted properly, we will be mere prisoners on parole wondering when we will be forced back into our domestic cells because of another wave of infection. Meanwhile, the same hucksters that have spent the last week lying to us and taking us for fools will instruct us that we must stay away from most other human beings until they tell us otherwise. Don’t be surprised if the British people tell them where to go and make their own decisions.


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