From where I sit, the UK’s pandemic lockdown was just as messy as America’s lockdown. The American federal government – the Trump administration – is in a permanent state of chaos, and with that vacuum of leadership it was left to states and localities to make their own decisions about locking down. States on the East and West Coasts were locked down by March 15-17. Other states followed within the next week. The UK didn’t lockdown until March 23, but once they finally did it, they did it “right” – nothing half-assed, they just locked down everything. And it was during that strict lockdown that Boris Johnson’s right-hand man Dominic Cummings f–ked up royally. Cummings was the architect of Brexit, and he’s been called the virtual co-prime minister alongside BoJo. Cummings also had the coronavirus around the same time as BoJo. Only Cummings decided to travel 260 miles across England while he was suffering with symptoms of the virus:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a torrent of calls on Saturday to dismiss his most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, after reports that Mr. Cummings had visited relatives in northern England while he was ill with the coronavirus — a violation of Britain’s lockdown rules. Mr. Johnson appeared determined to stand by Mr. Cummings, an enigmatic figure who helped mastermind his election victory last year and the Brexit campaign that resulted in Britain’s departure from the European Union.
But the reports that Mr. Cummings had driven to his parents’ house in Durham in April when the government was urging people to stay home — particularly those with symptoms of the virus — set off a political tempest, with critics accusing him of flouting the rules that apply to everybody else.
“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” said a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, who added that he had “breached the lockdown rules.” Confronted by reporters outside his home on Saturday, Mr. Cummings said, “I behaved reasonably and legally.” Asked whether his decision had been “a good look,” he replied: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It is not about what you guys think.”
Over the weekend, there was a growing chorus of journalists, politicos and average British citizens demanding that BoJo fire Cummings. Initially, BoJo told the media that Cummings had “no alternative” than drive 260 miles while sick with the virus against government guidelines. BoJo said Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity…I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.” There’s also some question about whether Cummings even informed Johnson that he was leaving London to make this jaunt, and no one has answered the question about whether Cummings actually traveled an additional 30 miles to visit another town while he was still sick or infectious. Then, just as everything was getting extra crazy, Cummings thought it would be a good idea to hold a press conference. He’s only an aide!
Boris Johnson’s embattled chief aide has refused to apologize for driving across England during lockdown, amid a scandal over his movements that has overshadowed the UK government’s coronavirus response.
“I don’t regret what I did,” Dominic Cummings told reporters on Monday after Downing Street took the extraordinary step of putting the special adviser in front of the media to respond to the saga. Cummings was repeatedly pressed to say sorry to the British people for traveling 260 miles across England and staying at a house on his parents’ property, at a time when the public was being urged not to leave their homes. But he said that he thought making the journey was “the best thing to do,” and blamed media reports for creating “a very bad atmosphere” around his London home. And he insisted that another drive he made to the town of Barnard Castle, several miles from his parents’ home, was so that he could test his eyesight and make sure he was healthy enough to then drive back to London — an explanation that was immediately questioned by opposition politicians.
A central charge of the government’s critics, which include several lawmakers within Johnson’s Conservative party, is that Cummings was allowed to interpret the rules as he saw fit when the public was not given the same leeway. They have argued that his actions undermine the government’s lockdown, and violate Johnson’s repeated message that people must stay at home to “save lives and protect the NHS.” But Cummings claimed that “the rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children there can be exceptional circumstances.” The guidance urges people to self-isolate in one place if sick with symptoms, and stresses that parents of young children should “keep following this advice to the best of your ability,” adding: “However, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.”
So Cummings won’t apologize, won’t offer his resignation and Boris isn’t going to fire him. And all of the outrage about this is just being hyped by the media. Got it. I mean… how did this dude get so powerful? I would have thought that post-Brexit, he wouldn’t be able to get hired for anything.
Photos courtesy of Getty.