Sketch: Jackson Carlaw takes a stand
Why didn’t Boris Johnson sack Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown rules? Well, for much the same reason Orville never sacked Keith Harris. And by the way, the answer to that has nothing to do with loyalty.
In fact, as the whole sorry episode stretched on, it was hard to escape the feeling that the principle reason the decision to get rid of Cummings was taking so long was that it hadn’t yet been signed off by Cummings.
Stay home. Protect the NHS. Avoid a diseased Dominic Cummings, patrolling the streets of your town.
And, with an election looming, Scottish Tories were as angry as everyone else. First Douglas Ross resigned from the Scotland Office, backed by MSP Donald Cameron, then Adam Tomkins stepped things up by actually calling for Cummings to be sacked.
The voices grew louder. Except from the leader, of course, who – three days on from the news emerging – remained silent. Eventually that became unsustainable though, and the Scottish Tory leader entered the fray, taking the brave decision to announce his stance and be dammed if anyone disagreed.
Politics is often described as a contact sport – unfortunate during a pandemic spread by contact – and Jackson Carlaw had obviously realised that you can’t please everyone. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.
So what was his take? Would he back the government and tell his party to get in line? Would he blast the hypocrisy of Number 10, passionately decrying the failings of Johnson and his team?
Well, we were about to find out. As he put it, laying his cards on the table: “This is a difficult situation for many, and people will arrive at different judgements.”
Woah!! Talk about burning your bridges. A difficult situation! For many! And different people will think different things!
It was a high risk strategy alright, with the Scottish Tory leader choosing to take a stand and stick two fingers up at anyone who didn’t like it.
But was it a good statement? Well, different people will arrive at different judgements. Though, actually, that may be the most confusing part. Because who is coming to different judgements here? Is there anyone who thinks driving 260 miles to a second home during lockdown doesn’t constitute a breach of rules? Is there anyone who thinks it’s reasonable to drive 30 miles, with your four-year-old child in the car, along with someone else who has coronavirus, because you were unsure whether or not you could see properly? If there is, they are presumably the same people who’d throw a lit flare in a boiler to test the gas was working.
So yes, people will come to different judgements: some will laugh, some will cry, and some will be unable to choose between the two. No one, however, will take Cummings’ explanation seriously. If anything, he has actually done a remarkable job of bringing the nation together.
It is the most unified we have been since Prince Andrew tried to claim he was biologically incapable of sweating.
Well, the good news is that Carlaw did eventually emerge in public, with the Scottish Tory leader telling STV News: “If I were in his [Cummings’] position, if it were me, I would be considering my position.”
If Carlaw was in his position he would consider his position. Fair enough. So the PM should sack him?
Ah, well, not quite. Well maybe. Sort of. He could, but he doesn’t have to.
“I’m not going to issue instructions to the Prime Minister”, Carlaw boldly announced. “It is absolutely a matter for the Prime Minister himself who serves him and for how long they serve, but given the furore, given the distraction we are now in, given the distraction to the Prime Minister onto this issue if I were Mr Cummings I would be considering my position.”
But you didn’t actually believe his explanation, did you?
“I thought Mr Cummings’ explanation seemed quite sincere and heartfelt.”
What? Sincere and heartfelt? Did you not watch the bit about driving a car, with a small child in it, to test he could see? Did we see the same press conference? The one where he was sitting like Skeletor had been invited for a guest appearance on Gardeners’ World? What are you saying here?
“I’m saying that I have heard his version of events.”
Well, brilliant. You heard his version of events. Case closed! But what did you actually think? Did you think he broke the rules or not? What are you actually saying about his version of events?
“Some people will have found them credible, other people…” he paused here, with his mouth having apparently gone into open revolt against the words being sent by his brain.
“I think that his position as he articulated it was an understandable one but there clearly is a concern that, irrespective of whether or not he acted legally or otherwise, people have to know that everybody is acting without fear or favour with respect to obeying the rules.”
OK, fair enough. Your call, Jackson. But have you at least told the guy running your party about this? “My view has been made clear to Downing Street.”
We can just hope Cummings bothered to listen.