Dominic Cummings broke lockdown but does it matter?
Spoiler Alert: Probably almost none of it matters, just the snobbery involved – but that’s huge.
Dominic Cummings broke lockdown. His wife had Coronavirus/symptoms, he might have had it too, so he decided to ignore government rules about saving lives by staying home. Instead he dangerously drove to his family’s estate with their own private forest and even visited a castle to see if he would crash the car with his family still inside it.
Public officials have resigned over less shocking breaches of lockdown but Dominic Cummings isn’t just a public official. He runs the country for Boris Johnson. So instead of the sack there has been an unprecedented effort by the British government to try to save a mere advisor’s job.
As such, this story should have changed little in politics. Yet the disastrous handling of it changes everything.
What Has Changed?
Popularity matters – especially to populist nationalists like the present Tory Party. In particular they need anti-establishment sentiment on their side – hence this highly establishment government of aristocrats endlessly derides working class opponents as “the elite”.
Since CummingsGate broke, polling from Savanta ComRes has shown support for Boris Johnson collapse. It had been falling anyway due to his predictable (and predicted here by Political Motivation) disastrous handling of Coronavirus. But this story has hit support harder and faster. It has even upset naturally supportive voters.
This is because normal parents have heroically stayed away from their own children’s funerals and have coped admirably alone with child raising in an epidemic while still doing what’s needed to save lives. So to find out that posh Tories in the same position don’t have to bother because their position is “exceptional” (as we keep being told) wounds people – particularly people who believed in the anti-establishment feeling Johnson gave them.
So it Matters Then?
Immediately-speaking this still changes nothing. There is no election due for another four years so unpopularity no longer has an impending practical outcome other than being sacked. Since bosses rarely sack themselves, it seems unlikely that Cummings is goings (tee hee).
Instead we have the unedifying spectacle of Ministers and MPs ordered to tweet their formulaic “I deem his explanation reasonable. Time to move on” support for Dominic Cummings. Trouble is, there is a hint of the real impact of this scandal in those tweets.
The Snobbery Matters
The public anger matters not because it can change things now, but because it will last. This is because our aristocrat government is being incredibly snobbish at us.
Take the Ministers and MPs telling the public they are satisfied with Cummings’ explanation and thus it is time to move on. This screams “Now stop being a nuisance, plebs” from people who think only their opinion matters.
Likewise, repeatedly describing the highly common circumstances of parents maybe getting ill as “exceptional” is a big mistake. It asserts to the public – who know how exceptional it isn’t – that Tories really mean it’s exceptional because his astocratic family is more important than ours.
For a bunch of aristocrats who hold power only by pretending not to be the same old establishment toffs who think they’re better than us – this is a disaster with lasting implications that may reframe all political divides.