Nadhim Zahawi is an Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and is MP for Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Since the general election, and the resounding vindication of Boris Johnson at the hands of the electorate, there have been those who have been desperately looking for his weakness.
As we face a full-term Parliament, with a strong majority, our opponents have been searching for some way to fight back. It appears that many have now decided that Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s adviser, is that chink in his armour.
The first thing I should do is note that I don’t know Dominic Cummings, and I’ve had very few dealings with him. This isn’t a case of a ‘close friend’ or ‘ally’ coming to his defence. I’m not in a position to play that role and nor, from what I have heard of Cummings, do I think he is the sort of person that relishes others coming to defend him.
Instead, what I think we need to address here is what the criticisms of his actions say about our politics and about what we, as a society, need from our Government.
Because what is clear about Cummings is that he is solely focused on delivering for the people we supposedly serve – and surely that is what we should all want a bit more of?
My previous Ministerial role was at the Department for Education, the site of the great revolutionary work of the Coalition years under Michael Gove, and with Cummings as his lieutenant.
The Gove reforms were always the subject of great disapproval, resistance and sometimes outrage. There was lots of talk about how these changes were being ‘forced’, that there wasn’t enough consultation and that it all ran counter to previously established thought within the sector.
However, now the dust has settled on those more tumultuous times, I found, during my service in that Department last year, that it was very clear that those reforms are working. It is true that noses were put out of joint, and controversies were started.
But the end result was more children are in good and outstanding schools, taking exams that are more rigorous and that better prepare kids for the outside world, and receiving qualifications that mean something.
Those changes have undoubtedly changed so many lives for the better, and surely that is what we should be primarily focus on?
There is always another option when you’re in Government – or anywhere else in politics. You can ultimately just leave things as they are. You can make sympathetic noises about the disadvantages of the system, but then tinker around the edges, trying not to cause too much fuss, and backing down at the first sign of trouble.
It’s all too easy to try and keep everyone happy, and ruffle as few feathers as possible. But there’s no value in being a ferry captain who keeps all their crew happy, while the passengers don’t get where they need to be because it was simpler to stay in the harbour.
If we truly believe that there are wrongs to be righted in this country, whether it’s students who needed a better education system, care leavers who are being let down by the state that is duty bound to help them succeed, or just those voters who felt Parliament was deaf to their voices for far too long – then we better get on with right-ing them.
Every second of this Government has to be about delivery, and effective action. If we only prize harmony, and doing things how they’ve always been done, then we will fail.
And this is where the Labour Party does indeed fail. Their politicians queue up for votes by patronising their electorate, telling them yes, we know how bad things are – but then criticising any attempts at change, for fear of upsetting another group in favour of the status quo.
They will always favour the option that keeps every member of their wider liberal hive mind happy, and most certainly can’t be criticised by anyone concerned with political correctness. But now is the time for what works, not what’s woke.
That is why Dominic Cummings is criticised, because causing outcry, and going against the grain, has become one of the greatest sins in the modern age. That might just be changing though – and it’ll need to, if it gets in the way getting things done.