Wed 2 December 2020

James Melville argues that the Dominic Cummings Scandal has become Boris Johnson’s ‘Black Wednesday’ moment when authority drains away even from his core support

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Being in power is above the law. I am merely stating a fact.

Otto Von Bismarck

The Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, was correct in his assessment that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings breaking the COVID-19 lockdown rules was an “insult to the sacrifices of the British people” and “treating the British public with contempt”. In shielding his chief advisor, Boris Johnson and his Conservative Government are protecting Dominic Cummings more than they have protected our care homes.

The head of the organisation which represents care homes in England has strongly criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Professor Martin Green, of Care England, said people who were most at risk of dying of COVID-19 should have been prioritised from the beginning.

PPE shortages, lack of testing, and a vulnerable population have seen care homes become a mass fatality tragedy of the COVID-19 epidemic. On 15 May 2020, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) released provisional figures on deaths involving COVID-19 in the care sector in England and Wales. From 2 March to 1 May COVID-19 was confirmed or suspected in the deaths of 12, 526 individuals living in care homes in England and Wales. 

These fatality figures from our care homes are a national tragedy. The government has failed to serve the needs of our elderly in care.

The first rule of government is to serve its own people. The second rule of government is to protect its own people. The third rule of government is to adhere to the same standards it expects of its own people. The government serves the people, not vice-versa.

During the Coronavirus crisis, the UK government has broken all of these rules. But apparently it’s all our fault. We failed to understand the government’s COVID-19 rules. Apparently we could have isolated in a cottage in Durham, a castle wood, a riverside, a petrol station and checked our eyesight by driving our cars. Instead, we stupidly ignored the rules and stayed at home.

The government are gaslighting us. When Dominic Cummings can brazenly flout his own government’s COVID-19 lockdown rules, why should the 14,000 people who broke the lockdown rules have to pay the fines for breaking the law? Every single one of the 14,000 people could refuse to pay their fines.

For all the gross ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ hypocrisy of Dominic Cummings, we mustn’t become too distracted by the story of an unelected bureaucrat who tells us what to do, but doesn’t actually do it himself.

Here’s the real story: The UK now has more COVID-19 deaths per million people than any other country over a rolling 7-day average. We must remain focused on scrutinising the Government’s negligence in creating a monumental health tragedy. 

Confidence in a government should largely come down to one thing. The public must have confidence that the government is serving the people first and the people only. When that confidence erodes, the government erodes with it.

I’m seeing many staunch Tory supporters angrily calling out the Government over the Cummings story. This might turn out to be another Black Wednesday — the moment of public epiphany when support, trust and confidence in the government died from within with many of their own voters.

The Conservative Government implemented 10 years of failed austerity, wasted over three years to deliver Brexit, and now their shambolic handling of the Coronavirus crisis has cost the lives of thousands of people. Is the moment that the penny drops that this Government simply isn’t up to the job? 

Boris Johnson likes to compare himself to Churchill. But he’s in more danger at the moment of being compared to the nodding insurance dog,than the wartime leader.

When the people serve the government more than the government serves them, society becomes a form of enslavement. Every government should remember that, and the people should never ever forget.

Instead, we should paraphrase and amend the government’s own COVID-19 warning. Stay alert. Do not trust the Government. Save lives.

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