Sketch: Dominic Cummings comes clean about Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is “unfit” for the job of Prime Minister, the man responsible for installing Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has told MPs.
Dominic Cummings suggested the system had “gone extremely, extremely badly wrong” when the choice at the last election was between Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn – despite the fact Cummings effectively orchestrated Johnson’s election.
Why the change of heart? Could it be because he no longer had any sway in government, that his influence was somewhat diminished after the PM was handed a stonking majority? No, don’t be so cynical. The former besties had simply had a fallout over the pandemic. Johnson had become mad with power and little Dom was just doing his best to stop that.
Speaking to Westminster’s Science and Technology Committee, Cummings accused his former boss of “bad policy and bad decision making”. He only stayed on as chief adviser because he was “desperate to try and push through action to stop as many people dying as I could.” Our knight in shining armor. I mean the results speak for themselves.
“Arguably I should have resigned in March and arguably I should have resigned in May. And I should definitely have resigned in September.” Heroically he clung on to save the UK (and keep collecting a salary).
But the final straw, the gamechanger for Cummings, was when the PM’s girlfriend got involved. She was “desperate to get rid of” him, apparently. Perhaps that had something to do with his attempts to “create a whole new office system” in No 10. She has quite particular thoughts on interior design, after all.
Cummings went on to accuse Johnson of not taking the pandemic seriously, at one point saying the PM had proposed getting “Chris Whitty to inject [him] with coronavirus live on TV so everyone realises that it is nothing to be frightened of”.
Eventually the government realised coronavirus might be a problem. On 14 March 2020, Cummings and data scientist Ben Warner stormed into the PM’s office. “This is like a scene from Independence Day, with Jeff Goldblum saying, ‘The aliens are here, and your whole plan is broken, and you need a new plan’,” Cummings described. “The whole thing just seemed like a kind of out-of-control movie,” he added.
Johnson was encouraged to lock down the country – but he apparently regrets that. Cummings said the PM continues to be “cross with me and others for what he regarded as basically pushing him into that first lockdown”.
Johnson kept insisting he “should have been the mayor in Jaws”, a man who famously kept the beaches of Amity Island open despite warnings of a deadly shark on the loose. Absolutely no comparison can be drawn from that at all, of course.
An obsession with thrillers seems to be a theme for this government. Matt Hancock used Contagion – a film in which a deadly bat-borne virus kills 26 million people worldwide – as inspiration for how to handle a pandemic. Maybe this is one of the “15 or 20 things” Cummings believes the health secretary should have been fired for. That and the fact Hancock allegedly started interfering with the establishment of test and trace because he had promised 100,000 tests per day while Johnson was off sick with COVID.
“The whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways, completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say, ‘Look at me and my 100k target!’” said Cummings.
But it wasn’t until a few months later that Cummings decided he wasn’t willing to work with Hancock anymore. In that meeting, he tried to give the PM some wise counsel: “You are more frightened of me having the power to stop the chaos, than you are of the chaos.”
To which the PM apparently replied: “You’re right: I am more frightened of you having the power to stop the chaos than I am of the chaos. Chaos isn’t that bad. Chaos means that everyone has to look to me to see who is in charge.” Truly a quote from a super villain.
What would Cummings have done differently if he had the power? “In my opinion, you would have had a kind of dictator in charge of this,” he said. Yet later, he admitted the PM “wasn’t taking any advice; he was just making his own decision that he was going to ignore the advice.” Sounds like a dictator to me – just not the kind he prefers, the ones which respond to the pulling of strings.
And so he came before the committee that day in a bid to stop his former protégé and now arch nemesis from doing more damage. Not convinced, Tory MP Aaron Bell asked: “Are you here today to help us learn lessons, or are you here to help settle scores for yourself?”
“I was invited to come and try to explain the truth about what happened,” Cummings replied. A villain… redeemed?