Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.
My first takeaway from yesterday’s media frenzy was about Boris Johnson – and not Dominic Cummings. Johnson is often painted as someone who cares only for political expediency and self-interest. In defending Cummings at yesterday’s press briefing, when it would have been easier to sack him, he has shown the opposite to be true. It’s fantastic to have a robust Prime Minister who doesn’t collapse like a house of cards at the first bit of metropolitan hysteria.
My second takeaway was that, were I Cummings, and I happened to be peering out of my window to see the press pack outside, a group of left-wing activists and a large LED screen driven onto the street by the pro-Remain group “Led By Donkeys”, I reckon I’d feel vindicated for the decision I had made to escape home to Durham whilst my wife was suffering from the Coronavirus.
My third takeaway was that it really doesn’t take much to figure out why the public are switching away from our mainstream broadcasting outlets. They used their questions to the Prime Minister at yesterday’s press conference to ask the same tired lines about rules broken that never were.
Comparisons were made with the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood – but this really isn’t the same thing. There is a world of difference in ensuring the childcare needs of the family in extraordinary circumstances, and heading out to enjoy the comforts of your second home whilst pontificating about the dangers of doing so.
When Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Health Minister, broke lockdown rules by having a picnic with his family, no resignation was called for. Indeed, the rules were changed by the Welsh Government quickly afterwards. I doubt whether activists turned up with LED screens outside of his home, thereby flouting lockdown rules themselves. You see, with Cummings, it’s more personal than it is political – particularly given that Cummings did not actually break the rules.
Both parents in the Cummings case were struck down with Covid–19, not to mention the fact that one of their bosses had been in intensive care with a severe case of the virus. As has been made clear by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, there can be exemptions when two parents, both with symptoms, move a vulnerable person (in this case, a child) to provide for contingency care arrangements. This is the rule that Cummings and Mary Wakefield, his wife, followed. There is no rule on distance for this; reasonableness is the only criterion.
It has become increasingly clear that all this is less about what Cummings did and entirely about who Cummings is. To a lazy and entitled political class in this country, he was the first man to finally give them a good kicking at the ballot box. They don’t care about the small child or the law in question.
This shouldn’t be a matter of political capital; it should be a matter of defending truth and fact. No crime was committed. No law was broken. Those arguing that they long to see their parents are missing the point – we all do. In my own case, I recently lost an aunt, and have been trying to figure out if I can travel back home, to County Durham as it happens, to attend her funeral.
Maybe some people are more fortunate than Cummings, and happen to live in north London surrounded by other like-minded, probably Remain-backing mates that they’d trust to leave their children with for this amount of time. But Cummings did not.
Some on the Tory benches – unsurprisingly, most of them with a historic axe to grind – have called for Cummings to be sacked. Damian Collins was one of those who decided to stick the boot in: “Dominic Cummings has a track record of believing that the rules don’t apply to him,” he told the press.
Collins would do well to remember that, whilst Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Select Committee, he fell hook, line and sinker for Carole Cadwalladr’s conspiracy theories. I reckon a period of silence from him and a focus on his constituency is in order for once, instead of trying to settle old scores.
The way Cummings has been hounded by a baying mob of the media and political activists camped outside of his house with a small child inside of it, only seems to further validate his decision to do the best for his family and take them to isolate and recover away from the prying eyes of neighbours and media on his doorstep.
Could the Government’s messaging then have been clearer? Yes. Could the Government’s messaging be clearer now, both in terms of the whole Cummings affair, and more broadly as it attempts to convince a frightened public that relaxing the lockdown is the right and necessary thing to do? Yes.
But leaving all that to one side, at the heart of all this is a human story about two concerned parents making the best plans they could, within the rules, to ensure that the care would be there for their vulnerable young toddler if they suddenly found themselves unable to provide it. We should not begrudge them that.