Today
Fri 4 December 2020

He may have abruptly left the Government today, but the controversial chief advisor’s legacy will not simply be undone by the Prime Minister

Dominic Cummings has today quit his position at the heart of Government, according to reports by the BBC.

His departure came sooner than expected, with him yesterday announcing his plan to leave Downing Street by referring to a blog he wrote in January.

“We want to improve performance and make me much less important – and within a year largely redundant,” he had written then. The man who notoriously prides himself on recognising the importance of ‘super-forecasting’ forecasted his own demise, confirming that he would be gone by the end of 2020. By walking out today, however, it is now a redundant prediction which he seems to have chaotically abandoned.

Super-forecasting is the science of statistical analysis, seeking to predict future events and trends. It aims to rely on some kind of post-political scientific genius, rather than the traditional role of decision-makers, people and politics. In his notorious blogs, Cummings often invokes the importance of big data and artificial intelligence. But it seems that artifice has exceeded intelligence in his case.

As he was caught breaking the Coronavirus lockdown in the Spring, Cummings saw fit to amend a historic blog around the same time, inserting a new mention of the Coronavirus, as if retrofitting his prescience. It was a scam: the wool being pulled over the eyes of the public and political commentators, in the name of ineluctable science, but with the opportunistic motive to deceive.

With a joint tradition of failing to face up the truth, there is little hope that Cummings’ departure will really lead to a less abrasive, more liberal form of governance from the Prime Minister. It cannot simultaneously be argued that Johnson’s administration will now govern with calm moderation and also that Cummings has managed to successfully implement his radical brand of politics, to the extent that he is now redundant.

It seems unlikely that 2021 will see the resurrection of moderate One Nation Conservatism. A toxic strain of authoritarian populist nationalism continues to dominate Johnson’s Cabinet and the attitudes of the Vote Leave project are embedded in Government, occupying the highest offices in the land. They will not simply be erased now that Cummings and his colleague Lee Cain have called time on their escapades in No 10.

‘Sadopopulism’ – the concept of a politics without policy and with pain, through which people will feel better about themselves and their place in the world because they are promised that others will be worse off – is an ethos of this Government because it is willed by the Prime Minister.

One of Johnson’s predecessors, Sir John Major, this week said that Britain must dispel the imperial longing that underwrites its current political trajectory. The country must “reject the narrow nationalism that some have imported into our politics” and “put aside the notion of ‘British exceptionalism’. It is a fantasy baked into the minds of those who do not know how the world has changed”.

Yet, narrow-minded nationalism and British exceptionalism both seem to be part of Boris Johnson’s vision for its future – with or without his chief aide. Under Johnson, the Government is increasingly run like an uncompromising imperial state. Cummings was merely a dispensable agent of this project.

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